Saturday 21 April 2012

Saturday Special: Tips for Self-Published Authors on Getting Reviews

I occasionally review self-published books on this site, such as my recent review of the wonderful Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer. Not often - perhaps one a month, and I'd say I get an average of 2 requests a week - but I do so at times. This doesn't make me unique amongst bloggers by any means, but my gut feeling would be that it puts me in a minority. So, I figured I should share some tips on how best to approach review requests. I've seen a couple of posts about it from authors, just wanted to give you a blogger's perspective.

Note: 80% of people who approach me to review their books follow at least most of these rules. None of them are set in stone, there's not meant to be any criticism implied of people who have approached me, whether or not I've accepted them - just hopefully some half-decent advice.

1. Only send review requests to bloggers who might be interested in your book. This would seem obvious, but I've had one or two really strange ones in the past. Personally, as my blog name suggests, most of the books I read are YA. I'll accept MG at times, but I'm unlikely to be interested in adult fiction or non-fiction. (Caveat: if someone had written a romantic comedy book similar to Ali McNamara's wonderful From Notting Hill... With Love Actually and e-mailed me a review request mentioning they'd read my review of that and/or author interview with her, for example, I'd be seriously interested because it would show they've actually read the blog and think I'd be a good fit to review the book.)

2. Tying into that one above, personalise your requests. If you're expecting me to take the time to read your book, take at least a couple of minutes to type in "Hi Jim", "Dear YA Yeah Yeah", or something similar and send the e-mail to me personally rather than BCC'ing me in on an e-mail to another book blogger. Following any guidelines such as how to title your review request is essential. (I get dozens of e-mails on a slow day; I need to be able to find the one you sent me quickly to respond to it, so having a standard subject line makes it easy for me to search.) Saying something which shows me you read my blog, such as a comment on a feature or review I've done, will give you at least a little bit of goodwill. Saying something which shows you don't read it - such as talking about my great use of quotes to illustrate points I'm making, which I've done precisely once in nearly 18 months of blogging - will probably not help you.

3. Give bloggers as much information as possible about the book. Back page cover, word count, and whether it's YA or MG would be a bare minimum. Comparisons to similar authors, background about yourself such as whether you've been published before and any relevant experience you have would be good. (Relevant experience is more for non-fiction, generally.)

4. If other people have enjoyed it, feel free to tell us - but bear in mind I've seen countless self-published novels on Amazon with 3 or 4 reviews, all 5 stars, from reviewers who've barely reviewed anything else. I'm cynical enough to think there's a fair chance it may be friends and family trying to help you. Not saying for a moment there's anything wrong with that - however, if you can share with me a review from another blogger or a top reviewer on Amazon it will carry a lot more weight.

5. Check the e-mail you're sending out carefully. If I get an e-mail which is eight lines long and has more than one spelling mistake or missing word in it, I'm starting to worry that the book will have hundreds.

6. Don't send books which haven't been requested. I actually don't mind this one personally, but I know some people feel authors are trying to put pressure on them when they do this. I'd say it's probably safer to wait.

7. If you've got a web presence - blog, website, Twitter account, etc - send links to everything. That way I can take a look (I'm nosy!) and it makes it easy for me to put these links into the final review if I do decide to review it.

8. Don't pester bloggers. I would say that if someone's said they'll review your book or will try to review your book, and given you a time span, it's acceptable to e-mail them 6 weeks or so after the end of the time period. If they haven't given you a time span they think it will take them, I'd say maybe two months after you send it. If you are e-mailing us, a polite reminder is all that's necessary. "Hey, just wondering if you'd had the chance to get round to taking a look at my book, INSERT NAME HERE?" or something along those lines.

9. Once a blogger has reviewed your book, that's it. You may want to say 'thanks' for a good review; if it's a bad review, you may want to say many other things. In the case of a bad review, please don't! I doubt there are many bloggers who particularly enjoy writing negative reviews of stuff, but we have to be honest. Starting an argument with a reviewer over a bad review is likely to be at least ten times as damaging as the review itself. If the blogger wants an interview, guest post, or giveaway, they'll get in touch with you.

10. Who says all lists need to go up to 10? Not me!

Hope those are of use - I'd love to hear any other bloggers add to them, or any authors join in with their views!


  1. Great advice. I've never sent my book to a blogger and I'm semi terrified to do it. At least I can refer to this for tips. Thanks!