Writing a Review Request
As authors, we all want to find those willing readers who will actually leave a detailed, thoughtful review. We also dream of having a captive audience waiting to preorder and purchase every book we release. Anyone who has published a book or two knows the reality: these things aren’t likely to happen without a lot of effort on the front side of things. It often takes the publication of many books before that readership grows to a consistent level, and that takes time.
During the early stages as an author, one of the best networks you can cultivate and grow is with other authors. After all, almost every writer out there is also a reader, and most writers in your genre are also going to be readers in your genre. These are the people who can be there to cheer you on and champion your book, who might go out of their way to actually leave a review when they finish reading the book because they have experienced the struggle to gather those reviews. But the catch with that is they aren’t likely to review your new book if you haven’t already voluntarily been reviewing their books. Take it from me, reading and reviewing books is an arduous, thankless task at times. And even by reviewing their books, there is no promise they’ll have the time to read or review your books in return. Even if they cannot offer up reviews, there are still so many great benefits to the networking and friendship with these authors that it will all be worth your while to make those connections.
That leaves us still puzzling over a dilemma: how does an author go about finding willing reviewers? The short answer is that, no matter the option you choose, there will be a lot of time and work spent looking for those reviewers and that your success rate may be small.
For instance, my recent novella was published in April. I spent a fair portion of time during May going through the Indie Book Review list. It is an excellent resource with hundreds of bloggers listed who read and review books that are either self-published or published by small presses. There are readers out there that prefer to read and promote the smaller brands and expose their review readers to new names. But the task of going through that database is tough:
- There are bloggers who will be listed but have been inactive for some time.
- There are bloggers who will have genres listed that are NOT listed when you get to their website and view their Review Policy.
- There are bloggers who will have special formatting and/or special items they would like included in your request.
- There are bloggers who will be closed for submissions for an undisclosed period of time.
- There are bloggers who will invite you to send requests but will never respond.
- There are bloggers who will be willing to review your book but may take up to 6 months to read and review the book.
- There are bloggers whose review policy and/or contact information may be difficult to find or missing.
Those are a lot of variables! Yet there is value in still going through the work. As of this writing, I’ve had more than half a dozen reviews posted as a result of that work put in with at least another half dozen who have promised reviews still to post. Having been a book blogger myself, something I still do from time to time, I can tell you that 3-6 months is a typical turnaround time that you should expect when querying for reviews. Here are three things that I have found to be helpful when asking to get a book blogger to review your book:
- Take the time to find, and read through, their Review Policy. This is likely the most up-to-date set of requirements they have out there for the books they want. Maybe they had been open to genres X, Y, and Z but are now only open to Y and Z because they have so many of X to read. Nothing is more frustrating, as a book reviewer, than getting a request to read a book that is clearly not within the range of what I’m looking for. Make sure that the book you’re requesting them to review fits their genre, and making a reference to their Review Policy (such as “I noticed, from your Review Policy, that you are seeking Fantasy books…”. That little touch helps to reinforce that you took the time to find that part of their blog and read through what they are looking for.
- Personalize your requests. This involves more than just adding their name, or even the name of their blog. If there is a book I’m on the fence about, I’ll almost always agree if they demonstrate a knowledge of my blog, the books I’ve previously reviewed, or any other demonstration that the email was personalized rather than a hasty copy & paste. It takes more time, yes, but it is more likely to net you a few more “yes” answers. In an industry where getting to even 25 reviews on Amazon can be considered quite the feat, every reviewer you can get to say “yes” makes a difference.
- Demonstrate interaction. Perhaps the best thing you can do is, before sending the request, take the time to follow and interact with the blogger. Like their Facebook Page. Follow them on Twitter. Comment on a recent post or two and subscribe to their blog. Retweet a few of their tweets. These will help you stand out in their mind as a part of their audience, which could help them remember you as they are reading your review request. Odds are, if they’re right for your book’s audience then they are also discussing some of those books you’ll want to be aware of and read as well. This also opens the door for the above tip, giving you more things you can include as part of your personalization of the email. Being able to reference something they tweeted or shared recently will reinforce that you are not just blasting out a generic email to every book blogger out there.
There is no quick and simple answer for getting reviews. But it is an important part of the journey as a writer. More reviews, in theory, will lead to more people seeing your book and thus more copies will sell. It is important to dedicate some time to finding willing reviewers and turning a potential “maybe” into a “yes” when you request a review. Just not so much time that you end up not writing that next book.