It’s been four years and three days since I posted the first book review on this blog. Back then, I didn’t consider myself a book blogger—I didn’t know book bloggers even existed at that point, to be honest. More than six weeks would go by before I posted my first official review as a book blogger, though it would take far longer than that to lock in a blog name (I’ve changed it a few times since 2015), and longer still to settle into a reviewing style that felt comfortable for me.
In those early days, I was eager to receive review requests, and it wasn’t long before they started trickling in. I was approached through the blog, and every social media site tied to it—and I accepted everything. I didn’t know how to say “no” back then. Even on the rare occasions I tried to let an author down gently by saying I was fully booked for the next month, I would end up (reluctantly) agreeing to read and review their book at a later date. And we won’t discuss my review policy, because I wasn’t savvy enough to have one. I had a lot to learn, and the most important lesson of them all was the need for boundaries.
Back then, I felt that declining review requests was akin to sounding the death knell for my little blog. I had to accept them all, or my blog would cease to exist. I was such a babe in the (book blogging) woods in those days! Stumbling across another blogger’s review policy was a revelation to me: this was my book blog, and I had the right to do things on my terms. Several fledgling review policy and review request incarnations later, I’ve finally set the terms that work best for me.
Review policies only work if authors seeking reviews read and respect them, however. Many bloggers discuss the frustrations they feel when authors don’t follow review guidelines, and I know of several who simply refuse to consider review requests, because their review guidelines were constantly ignored.
I’ve had ongoing issues with review requests as well. I’m constantly approached by authors who clearly haven’t read my review policy. I get review requests every single day that include so much extraneous information—despite a precise, easy-to-understand request form—it’s almost impossible to find the necessary details of the book (and by the time I do, I’m no longer interested in considering it for review). Bearing all that in mind, I’ve decided to write a list of the do’s and don’ts of approaching book bloggers with review requests.
DO Read The Review Policy
Authors, this is where you begin. You need to read the review policy first, always. Review policies have all the information you need to help you decide whether or not your book has a shot of being reviewed there. Policies typically inform you of the following things:
- If review requests are currently being accepted
- A list of genres the blogger will (and will not) read
- Preferred and/or acceptable reading formats
- Whether they will (or won’t) accept self-published books for review
- Details about their specific reviewing methods, etc.
DON’T Ignore Their Review Policy Guidelines
If the book you need reviews for doesn’t fit the listed genres, and the blogger doesn’t state a willingness to consider genres not listed, your best bet is to find another blogger. You’re wasting your time (and the blogger’s) by asking them to review books they’ve made clear they aren’t interested in. At best, your request will be deleted. At worst, you’ve just irritated the blogger, and they tell all their blogger friends about it… making others less inclined to consider your book for review.
DO Be Considerate And Respectful When You Make Your Approach
I’ve been fortunate to work with several indie authors who were considerate and respectful to me from the moment they approached me with review requests. The exchange of messages necessitated by my acceptance of those requests were such pleasant experiences that it left me willing to work with them again in the future—and those same authors went on to be featured on my blog again in the form of giveaways, book excerpts, interviews, and guest posts.
Making the effort to be considerate and respectful to bloggers right from the start is truly the best way to connect with them. If a blogger feels respected, they are more likely to want to work with you, and help you connect with other bloggers who might be interested in your book, as well. Word of mouth is crucial when it comes to making those connections, and you want to give bloggers a reason to speak well of you.
DON’T Be Pushy And Demanding
The last thing any blogger wants to deal with is an author who is pushy and demanding right from the start. You can’t ask someone to read and review your book, and think you can then set the terms for how and when it will be done. It’s no different than asking someone for a favor, then telling them how they’re going to fulfill your request, before they’ve even agreed to do something for you. The only thing that sort of behavior earns you is a refusal, so don’t do it.
DO Submit Review Requests They Way You’re Instructed To Do It
Once you’re certain your book fits into an acceptable genre for a blog, you want to make certain you submit your review request the proper way. What is the proper way? The way the blogger tells you to do it. While some bloggers have forms on their blog for you to fill out, others ask that you email them with specific details about the book, and other information. You don’t want to risk annoying your potential reviewer right off the bat by submitting your request in the wrong way, because it could be the #1 reason they delete it.
So make a good impression. Submit your review request the way you’re instructed to do it. It’s the best way to show you’re being respectful of the blogger’s wishes, and want to work with them on their terms. (This may seem like a no-brainer, but trust me—it’s not. 98% of the review requests I receive aren’t properly submitted.) Word does get around about respectful authors that are pleasing to work with, so it’s a great way to build a good reputation with bloggers.
DON’T Submit Review Requests On YOUR Terms
I’m a member of a book blogger group on Facebook, and I can’t tell you how many times blogger complain about the way they’re approached for reviews. The root of the problem is always the same: authors fishing for reviews sending out the same request to every blogger they come across, hoping one of them will bite. No one wants to receive a message addressed to “Blogger” (or worse, a name that isn’t their own). Each one of us has different requirements regarding the information we want upfront. Getting requests that give the title and description of the book, and nothing else, just isn’t going to work with bloggers who have been around for a while.
Another no-no is messaging a blogger on social media, and saying, “Hey, I need reviews for my book <title>. You can buy it on Amazon <link>.” (I’ve received dozens of these “requests”.) Seriously? You’ve told me exactly nothing about your book, but you want me buy it and review it? Don’t approach me about a review by telling me to buy your book, because that simply isn’t going to happen. If you want bloggers to review your book, your best bet is to send them a complimentary digital copy.
And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with “getting free books”, either. Book bloggers are flooded with review requests. It takes many hours spread out of several days to read the books, and then we have to write the reviews for them. Speaking solely for myself, it’s not uncommon to spend a minimum of four hours (or more) to write a single review. No one earns their cut of a single sale when I read complimentary copies of their books, but I feel they are well-compensated for it in terms of the time I’ve spent reading and reviewing that book, and helping to spread the word about it. Reviewing is a labor of love for most of us—we aren’t getting paid for our reviews, and we spent massive amounts of time promoting the books we love. Sending out complimentary copies of your book is a small price to pay for all the free marketing you receive in return, so don’t expect any of us to buy your book to obtain the reviews you want.
DO Be Prepared For Honest Reviews
I have no doubt all authors hope to receive glowing reviews of their books, but the reality is that some people simply aren’t going to like it. All the book bloggers I know and have followed for years have one thing in common: their reviews are always honest. Whether they liked a book or not, they will tell why they feel the way they do about it. If you aren’t prepared to receive anything less than a gushing, 5 star review, you’re bound to be disappointed sooner or later.
DON’T Try To Dictate What An “Acceptable” Review Would Be
I don’t bother with being part of an author’s authorized review team, but I’ve heard of them. The Facebook group I mentioned earlier talks about them constantly, so I’ve heard how restrictive being part of the “team” can be. Some authors require Amazon reviews (even though many bloggers are unable to post reviews there due to being banned for a variety of reasons). Others dictate that no review should be posted if the rating given is below four stars (seriously?), along with other posting and sharing requirements come release day. So much for honest reviews, right? Some authors apparently find it preferable to stack the deck in their favor, instead, and everything about it is just WRONG.
Don’t even try to do this. I don’t know why any blogger with an ounce of self-respect and integrity would agree to it, but rest assured that the majority of them won’t, because it marks them forever as an untrustworthy reviewer, and no one will care what they have to say about anything. And don’t make the mistake of trying to bully a blogger into changing their review, or giving you a more acceptable (to you) rating. I’ve seen authors make the mistake of getting on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook to bash a reviewer for writing a review the author couldn’t deal with, and it never ends favorably for the author throwing the temper tantrum. Without fail, it costs them readers because they refuse to support an author who behaves badly when the word gets out—and it always gets out. If you can’t accept the possibility of critical reviews, you’re obviously in the wrong line of work.
DO Provide Your Reviewers With Photos, Author Bio, Etc.
Of everything involved in writing reviews, the thing I hate the most is having to search for author bios, photos, and website links. My reviews have a certain format, with a graphic at the top that consists of the book cover and an image of the author, a link to the author’s website (or primary social media site’s profile) and an “About the Author” section at the bottom featuring the author’s bio. That relies on being able to find an author photo, bio, and link, however. It’s far more time-consuming than you think it would be, particularly when you end up finding absolutely nothing, no matter how hard you try. To save your reviewer a massive headache, offer to provide these things to them, along with purchase links, of course. Believe me, they will appreciate it!
Speaking of author bios…
DON’T Neglect To Have A Professional Author Bio
It never ceases to amaze me how many authors (both indie and well-known) don’t have a professional author bio. That not to say that they have no bio at all (though it is the case for some), just that they don’t have a professional author bio. Instead, they have something that basically tells the story of how they knew they wanted to be a writer since childhood, and how their dream became a reality when <long story about fortuitous events that made them go for it>. As much as I enjoy those stories, the last thing I want is to add an author bio that rivals my review in length.
According to freelancewriting.com, there are six rules for writing a professional author bio. Rules 1, 2, and 5 are the ones I ask authors to focus on when inputting their bios on my review request form.
I hope this list will be a helpful guideline for any author who happens to see it, and will enable them to always put their best foot forward as they seek out potential reviewers of their books. I also hope it inspires book bloggers to give some thought to how they prefer to be approached for review requests, and that they will then make those preferences known in their own review policies… or to write a review policy if they don’t have one yet.
This list is, of course, focused on the things I feel are most important. Other bloggers undoubtedly have their own thoughts on what a list like this should contain.