Today, before I jump back into posting regular reviews and 50/50 Friday's (I'm still here, Carrie!!), I'm going to be starting a new series all about what I've learned through my three years as a blogger and some advice. And yes, I'm very bad at celebrating my blogoversary because I always forget about it when it comes around or I'm not prepared enough to organize a giveaway or something of the sort.
This guide is centered mainly for authors (especially authors who have never blogged and therefore need some pointers on etiquette). I'll be writing guides on review writing, blog design, etc etc soon! Keep in mind that this has just been my experience!
Now this may seem slightly obvious, but having a finished novel in your hands is an important piece. What type of finished novel depends on what type of review you're hoping to get. There are generally three types (arguably four):
1. The beta review. Beta reviews aren't generally seen by the public or published anywhere. They're for you, as an author, to better your manuscript. You'll send a copy to the reviewer and they'll read through it and provide feedback (perhaps on specific things if you send a list of queries on the different aspects or specific aspects to focus on). Beta reviewers aren't the usual type of reviewer and they'll generally have a section on their blog that addresses whether they are a beta reader. (this is where the alpha review comes in. Alpha reviews come before beta reviews (intuitively) in which your manuscript is in a rougher state and they typically address larger issues of plot structure whereas beta reviewers look for smaller instances).
2. The ARC review. These reviews are written with the ARC in mind. An ARC is a relatively finished form of a novel (barring some spelling errors) that are read and reviewed before the book is released to the public. These are used to create buzz before a release to drive revenue.
3. The regular, average-Joe review. Ever been on Goodreads or practically every book blog ever? These reviews make up the majority as they're simply a review of the book in it's final (barring republications) form. They are also written and published after the release date and provide good feedback for the author and good advice on whether or not to read a book for the blog's readers.
Be sure to have your novel in one of these stages before reaching out to the appropriate reviewer.
It's also important to ensure your manuscript is in a format that is convenient for the reviewer to read. Most reviewers either read on kindles, Nooks, tablets, phones, or physical copies. That being said, if you send a copy in a PDF format the reviewer may have to convert it using a conversion software (I use calibre) which may screw up the formatting that you so painstakingly put together. While we're not exactly reviewing the format of the book, it may hinder the reading process and result in a less-than-enjoyable reading experience. Mobi formats work best with kindles and epubs work with Nooks.
When in doubt, just as the reviewer! I promise, we don't bite :) Some reviewers actually do prefer PDF's while some prefer mobi or epub.
One format to avoid is a Word document. Some people don't have Word so they couldn't open it to begin with (this happened to me once which created a bit of a situation) and even if they can open it, it severely restricts how they can read it which reduces the convenience factor and may lengthen the amount of time it takes to read the book.
Overall: Have your manuscript in a legible and understandable state for the type of reviewer you're seeking and ensure you know how to change the format to ensure ease of reading for the reviewer.
The next step is to find a reviewer to read this wonderful book of yours!
If you're not really deeply involved in the bookish world already, I'd suggest starting with Goodreads. This is how a lot of bloggers and reviewers get started (including me!) so it's a nice centralized location to find some other bookish people with some relative experience with books.
Make a page on Goodreads if you haven't already and make sure to add a listing for your book (be sure to add a blurb and cover) so you'll have a link to send when you contact your first reviewer. Goodreads is a source of reliability for a lot of bloggers (myself included) and when your book isn't listed (with perhaps the exception of beta and and some ARC reads) it sends the signal that the novel isn't a serious endeavor for you and it won't be the best quality.
After you've done this, start perusing the groups on Goodreads! Make some genuine connections with other authors and bloggers through discussion before you send inquiries.
When you found a few people who seem like good fits, double check their profiles to see what their genre preferences are. If someone pretty much only reads fantasy, don't ask them to read your contemporary novel unless it's got some fantasy in it. Most reviewers are incredibly busy as reviewing isn't their job so take care to be respectful of their preferences.
Also check their profile for their social media links, especially a blog link. If there's a blog link listed, go to their blog and check their Review Policy. Every reviewer I've ever known has a page on their blog dedicated to this topic. It will list things like whether or not they're open for reviews, their genre preferences, their format preferences, and where to contact them. READ THIS! It's there for a reason: to prevent both bloggers and authors from wasting their time on a bad fit. If you send an inquiry to a reviewer that shows you haven't read their Review Policy, they will most likely simply delete your inquiry and move on.
Overall: Peruse Goodreads or your specific niche of the blogoverse to find a reviewer that fits.
So you've found a blogger/reviewer! Excellent! Now how to approach said person is another battle entirely. Just keep common courtesy in mind, however, and it'll be a breeze.
First, and most importantly, be sure to read the reviewer's review policy. Nearly every blogger has a tab for their policy on their blog and many Goodreads reviewers will say something about it in their bio. If you're part of a R&R group on Goodreads, the moderators should have guidelines posted. In the review policy, you can double check that the reviewer reviews your type of book (meaning genre, target age group, etc). This is extremely important! If a blogger says they don't review fantasy, it's probably because it isn't their cup of tea (they've probably tried multiple books before so don't go thinking you can change their mind because you likely won't) and won't be too pleased with a review request for a fantasy novel in their inbox. We write our review policies for the convenience of both the author and ourselves! It saves everyone time.
Most reviewers also state whether or not they're open for reviews at that time. There are so many books in the world and we don't have all the time in the world! For the vast majority of bloggers I've met, blogging is a hobby, not a second job. We don't get paid for our time so sometimes our actual jobs take priority so we can keep on living!
Second, find their contact information. This will also likely be on a blogger's review policy page and as for Goodreads, you can simply message them. For most bloggers, they'll provide an email for you to send your inquiry to.
Third, you have to write your actual query! Quite a few bloggers (most that I know, actually) include what you should put in your query on their review policy page (this is a great resource if you haven't noticed already!). Some bloggers (and most Goodreads reviewers) won't say anything of the sort, however, so you'll have to use your best judgement. When in doubt, include the following:
- Full title of the novel
- Author name
- Whether the novel is part of a series or not
- The cover
- The blurb
- The genres it fits best into
Most importantly, be sure your query is tailored to the reviewer! I know it's so much easier to send a form email to a whole bcc chain but we can tell. Seriously. Personalizing the email tells a reviewer that you care about their opinion and respect their time. Personally, I almost never even respond to form emails. I've gotten several addressed to 'Blue Eye Books' which isn't a person? So I don't even know? Most reviewers have a name associated with their platform (or some kind of pseudonym) so use that rather than the site name.
Overall: Just be sure to read the reviewer's review policy and personalize the inquiry and you'll be golden!
This is the part that no one likes. The waiting. Don't be discouraged if the reviewer doesn't get back to you right away (or, in the unusual occurrence, not at all). Most likely they're just busy and haven't had time to determine their current schedule or availability. Right now, I have about a dozen authors I need to get back to who emailed me over the summer and I didn't have my life together AT ALL and consequently didn't have any time to reply. The vast majority of reviewers will get back to you, whether they're able to review your book or not. Just remember to be courteous and don't give up! The network of bloggers right now is growing and they're sure to be someone out there who will give your novel an honest read and review!
Remember that we bloggers love you authors because you give us new material to squeal about to all of our blogger friends. Finding hidden gems is the best part of reviewing indie books (and sometimes traditionally published books) in my opinion.
Overall: Be patient and don't let one refusal get you down! Writing is hard work and advertising can sometimes be even harder but if you stick with it, you'll succeed!
And that's it! Go forth and prosper!
To all my author friends, hopefully this helps you a bit in the navigation of the bookish world. To my blogger friends, do you have any advice for authors looking for reviewers? Any horror stories? Any fabulous authors you'd want a million of? Do you also appreciate bear memes? Let me know!