By Bethany Brown
As we all know—authors, publishers, marketing professionals and book coaches—reviews matter. Any time you can get your book reviewed; participate in an online interview, podcast or webinar; write a guest post or article or even provide an excerpt on a well-trafficked site, it’s good for you and your book. Like with any marketing outreach, there are do’s and don’ts for how to approach book bloggers and book reviewers. Last month, we looked at several do’s. This month, let’s look at some don’ts
Here are some tips on avoiding an immediate “no” or even radio silence when pitching your book.
Write (Don’t Call) – To come up with your pitch list, you’ve likely done your research. You’ve compiled a list of bloggers that you know have an interest in your book topic or genre. Be thoughtful about how you contact a blogger or reviewer. Generally, a phone call is a bad idea—especially when I site specifically lists contact information or “how to contact us/me” listing only an email address. Be respectful of the blogger or media outlet/reviewer. Contact them using only their preferred method of contact. If they say “no phone calls,” respect that. Nothing is likely to irritate a blogger or reviewer more than disregarding their stated contact preference.
Target (Don’t Mass Mail) – It’s true that you can buy a list of reviewers and contact information. Some of those lists actually include mailing information. However, keep in mind that many bloggers and book reviewers work out of their homes. Sharing home addresses or mailing a book unsolicited to a home address is considered very bad practice. Once you’ve pitched the book, politely ask the reviewer what address you should use to send them the book. Use only that address—and use it only to send the blogger requested materials.
Embed (Don’t Attach) – Nobody in today’s day and age wants to open an attachment from an email address or person they don’t know. Nothing will get your query deleted faster than sending an email with attachments. You can embed your book cover and/or author photo in your email. If you send attachments without being specifically asked, your email is likely to get deleted without ever being opened.
Include Your Book Title in Your Subject Line (But not “just” the title) – Your subject line must include the title of your book. This is an easy one for authors to overlook. I get it—trying to be smart and gimmicky may make sense but the goal is to get your email and pitch opened. Getting too creative with your subject line may make your query come across as spam. Straight, simple and to the point generally works best. Something along the lines of “Review Request: Book Title” is short and sweet and lets the blogger know exactly what you’re looking for—and what the title of your book is.
Sell Yourself (Don’t forget to include your bio) – This is particularly important for nonfiction authors, but also appropriate for novelists. If you are pitching influencers in your nonfiction category, it’s vital to include a short bio with your pitch. This lets the blogger know that you’re an expert in your field and you know what you’re talking about. Credentials matter. For fiction, it personalizes you and is also an opportunity for you to list prior books/novels you have written. Remember to really be strategic about the information you’re sharing in that bio—bloggers and reviewers may lift it directly from your email to run with your review.
Follow Up (Don’t forget) – This one is important and we touched last month on how to do it professionally without pestering. Emails get lost in the shuffle. Books get lost in the mail. Books can also get lost in an overwhelming pile of books to read. Don’t just mail the book out and hope for the best. It’s perfectly appropriate to follow up with a blogger or reviewer. If you don’t, and the book has been misplaced, you are waiting on pins and needles for a review that will never come. Follow up can be simple and straight to the point—don’t forget to put your book title in the subject line. A simple note that asks the blogger to confirm receipt and thanks them for their time and consideration is great. If the book has gotten misplaced, you can get another one out to the reviewer right away.
Be Respectful of a Blogger’s Time (Don’t make demands or create false deadlines) – Book bloggers, category-specific bloggers, media outlets and book reviewers are getting pitched hundreds of books a week. And that can be on the low side. If a blogger or reviewer requests a copy of your book, remember that it can take weeks or even months for them to review it. While, for you, that review may be the most important thing in the world, it’s frequently just another book in a pile until a blogger or reviewer has the time to read (and hopefully review) it. Demanding that a reviewer review your book immediately is likely to get you an immediate “no.”
Have a Comprehensive List of Bloggers and Reviewers to Pitch (Don’t be too limited) – We are frequently asked how many bloggers or reviewers an author should pitch their book to. Our answer: hundreds. And no, that’s not a typo. There is no chance that one hundred percent of the bloggers you pitch will be interested in you or your book. Outside influences, such as schedules, number of books to be reviewed, family issues, interest level, and sheer volume of work and lack of time can affect whether a blogger will respond to your email—let alone request a copy of your book for review. Plan on pitching 100+ bloggers to get a decent number of requests and/or books out the door in the hands of readers.
Outreach to book bloggers and reviewers takes time—and your time is valuable. However, it’s well worth it for you to invest that time up front compiling a strong list of potential reviewers, identifying appropriate contact information, writing a strong pitch and putting a follow up plan in place is key to helping you maximize your chance of success.
BETHANY BROWN is the President of The Cadence Group, a design, editorial, marketing and book coaching provider to the publishing industry. With a background in traditional publishing by way of Adams Media and Sourcebooks and close to a decade of working directly with authors and small presses, Bethany understands the challenges (and benefits!) facing self-publishers and indie presses today. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband Steve and her dog Popeye.