Let Us Now Praise Book Bloggers
You’ve seen their reviews on Twitter and Instagram. Their websites have wallpaper befitting their preferred genres — unicorns for YA fantasy, Celtic crosses for gothic fiction. Many have quirky, “bloggy” features like Short Story Mondays or First Line Fridays, while others do cover reveals for authors they like. Nearly all book bloggers use starred ratings with the most squee-worthy tomes getting five. The worst rating they give is DNF for “Did Not Finish.”
Some of my favorite bloggers are Books from Dusk Till Dawn, Between the Lines Book Blog, Chat About Books, and Jessica’s Reading Room. Their admins are friendly and always try to be helpful, although they may take weeks to reply. If they’re too busy to review you, they might do a short feature about your book or perhaps an author Q & A. I always make sure to like or share their posts because, truth be told, they gave me favorable reviews and I hope they’ll review me again.
It’s worth noting that a typical blog has hundreds of subscribers. Many are networked with other bloggers who mutually share their posts on social media. These reviews get shared dozens of times on Twitter accounts with thousands of followers each. If reach is your priority, bloggers can provide the necessary boost. Sure, their judgements lack the cachet of The New York Times or NPR. But they review and interview small press and self-published authors which makes them especially useful to those at the beginning of their writing career.
So why do they blog? Most say in their introductions that they launched their sites to remember certain books and recommend quality reads to friends. But you’d be right to guess they also enjoy basking in the rosy glow of benevolent power, like Glinda the Good Witch of the North. However, each has a bit of the Wicked Witch of the West, as we’ll see below.
I should note that some bloggers offer paid publicity services or editing. Others participate in blog tours, another paid service, which involve various bloggers assigned the role of cover revealer, interviewer, reviewer, etc. But I steer clear of these in favor of the simple, heartfelt, sometimes awkwardly written reviews which, I’ll reiterate, cost nothing. Bloggers love discovering new authors and if they enjoy your book, they’ll shout it from the rooftops. And oh, the gushing I’ve seen. I hope it wouldn’t make you too uncomfortable if they fangirled you. Or fanboyed. Believe me, your publisher would be thrilled at such lavish praise. And we want to make our publishers happy, right?
But beware the bad witch. When pitching a blogger, it’s important to read their guidelines carefully. A common one is “Closed to queries.” Obey that or else. Another is “Don’t pitch me with (genre).” And it makes sense. If romance is your jam, or fantasy, you wouldn’t want a western shoved in your face. Genre rules exist because bloggers are constantly behind with their TBR (to be read) pile and have little time for exceptions. In all honesty, I broke this rule once with Julie, the admin at A Little Book Problem. I gambled that she might want to review a vampire novel before Halloween. Her review of Fiona’s Guardians addresses my breach of conduct:
I am not a massive reader of horror. In fact, it specifically says in my review policy that I don’t review horror. How, then, did Dan persuade me to read his book? I’m not quite sure, he is obviously a silver-tongued charmer that has a way with words, and this book confirms this is true.
I got lucky. She gave me four stars which I gratefully accepted. But I don’t recommend you do this unless you can survive retaliation. So, find a blogger who’s a good fit and be friendly but concise in your query, giving them just enough to hook them. If they agree to review you, ask for an approximate date and don’t email again except to say thank you.
While they read, I hope your words have the intended effect — making them laugh, cry, or immersing them in new worlds. If so, you will become their new favorite author. Congratulations, you’ve received proper validation — enjoy this moment! And be sure to share their review on all your platforms. After all, you’re partners now, each with something to gain from “spreading the love.” If, however, your words disappoint and you get fewer stars than expected, do not slam them on social media. The bloggers I know consider an attack on one an attack on all, and they will go Wicked on you. More than once, I witnessed this and was convinced the offender would die in obscurity, never again inhaling the oxygen of free publicity. Don’t be that guy. Thank them anyway and move on. They will understand if you don’t share the review. Hopefully another blogger will think differently and give your book the praise it deserves.
You might be stuck on my insistence about not paying reviewers. No doubt, you’ve seen advertisements for paid reviews and might be considering this option. Some of these ads are from publications that once commanded respect, but I’m not sure they do anymore. Sure, times are tough, and we all have bills to pay, but shouldn’t reviews be sacrosanct? I’d expect the same for expert opinions about a new car or bottle of wine. Once money changes hands, how can the person rendering judgement maintain an aura of impartiality?
Having said all this, I’d be a bit more trusting if a paid reviewer disclosed in the review that they accepted a fee. Compare this to the transparency of my blogger friends who disclose — again, in their review — if they received a free copy of the book they’re reviewing. Disclosure sets a high bar, and I’m still waiting for paid reviewers to do this. Until that happens, I’ll look at other reviews before making a purchase.
Don’t our books deserve more? Vote with your Send button. Pitch only reviewers that don’t charge and share their unimpeachable verdicts across the universe. Those who charge fees will eventually get the message that they need to be transparent or give up fees altogether. The gold standard should a sentence like the one Julie at A Little Book Problem inserted into her review of my novel:
Happy publication day, Dan, and my thanks for the digital copy of your book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.