How to get bloggers to review your book: A very thorough answer to an important question

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Emlyn Chand

This blog post has been a long time coming. It’s one that many of our readers have requested, and today, I’m proud to deliver it.

My first novel released in late October, and I’m currently running a blog tour for it through Novel Publicity. This tour has over 200 bloggers, reviewing Farsighted, interviewing me, and featuring guest posts by yours truly (seriously, you can check the schedule out here). As far as blog tours go, it’s huge—in fact, I’ve never seen any bigger.

Allow me to clear-up a pretty big misconception before going any further. Many people assume that organizing a blog tour is easy. WRONG!

Even if you know what you’re doing, it’s still a lot of work—not even close to easy.

Take my tour as an example. Yes, I have the benefit of running my own blog tour company, which means I have a list of over 100 bloggers ready-made. But the existing Novel Publicity host blogs made up only half of my tour. I had to dig deep into the trenches to recruit the remaining 100. And I’ll tell you the exact strategies I used.

But knowing what to do is only half the task. Prepare yourself for A LOT of work, but to quote TR, “the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” And believe me, spreading news of your novel across the interweb in the form of a blog tour is definitely work worth doing.

Let me start with some numbers:

  • 120 hours = the estimated time spent on recruiting and organizing bloggers, pre-tour
  • 30 hours = the estimated time spent writing guest posts and answering interviews
  • 70 hours = the estimated time spent organizing and promoting during the tour’s implementation

And remember, I had an advantage since I started with a list of Novel Publicity bloggers and because I’ve been conducting tours professionally for quite some time. Believe it or not, this is efficient! If you’re new to running tours, you might want to add anywhere from 100 to 300 additional man hours to my total of 220 hours.

Yeah, it’s intense.

Okay, now that you know how much work is involved (and again, I’m not exaggerating these figures in the least bit), allow me to discuss the most crucial and time-consuming phase of running your own blog tour:  recruiting bloggers.

How do you get bloggers to review your novel? That is the magic question. Allow me to discuss the strategies that worked for me and that I believe can work for you.
 

Querying Bloggers

Speaking as a blogger and a former newspaper reviewer, it’s really annoying when an author sends a form letter seeking a review. It’s also kind of insulting. You want a blogger to spend how many hours reading your book and then writing a review, and the most you can personalize your letter is by adding the person’s name (and not always that)? Oh, no, no, no.

Requesting a review is not unlike querying a literary agent. A certain set of parameters apply to the situation. Well, they do if you want to see results.

#1-How to find book blogs. If you’re a YA author, your life will be made much easier by the YA Book Blog Directory. If not, that’s okay. Do a search on Google or your favorite social network and try to find a blog that caters specifically to your genre. Most blogs have blogrolls (either a list of links or a cluster of badges that link to other blogs). The blogroll displays blogs that the blog site you are on enjoys—that’s a mouthful! Chances are, the blogs linked in the blogroll will review similar kinds of books. Most blogs have a pretty robust blogroll, which means finding one blog can lead to dozens and dozens of others. It’s a tangled web, but it will get you to your destination.

#2-Approach the right bloggers! This should go without saying, but, sadly, it doesn’t. Most book blogs have a review policy in place. A little digging through the menu bar or side bar will easily reveal it. If the blogger doesn’t have an explicit review policy, take the time to read through their past book reviews to determine if your book is a good fit for the site. If a blogger says they do not accept your genre, don’t push it. Don’t write a letter that says, “listen, I know you said you hate romance novels, but I think you’ll really love my novel, because… (insert narcissistic idiocy here).” That’s so not cool.

#3-Construct a query letter. Personalize it for each blogger. Aw, but that seems like a lot of work! It is a lot of work, but again, you’re asking bloggers to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 10+ hours to read and review your book. You can spend 10 minutes looking around their sites and showing that you care. Really. This is much like querying an agent. You should construct a basic form letter with the relevant information about your book, and then personalize a portion of it. Include the blogger’s name in the title. I even include the blog name in the subject of the email to signal to the blogger skimming his or her email that, yes, this letter was written just for you—it’s not a mass mailing.

Here’s the template of the letter I sent out to recruit for my tour. It worked very well and may give you some ideas on how to write your own:

[learn_more caption=”Example Blogger Query Letter – click the arrow to expand”]

Email Subject:  Blog Name – Review Request – Farsighted (Paranormal YA)

Hi blogger’s name,

I came across your site via explain how you found the site and can see that you’re a big fan of Twilight and other paranormal genre books. ADD IN 2-3 sentences of personalization based on reading the blogger’s bio and taking a quick look around their site. And I’ve followed you on list sites you followed them on, so we can stay in touch that way now too :-)

Might I convince you to take a look at my upcoming novel Farsighted? It releases as an eBook October 24 and in paperback November 24 (my birthday, yay). I’d gladly provide you with an Advance Readers’ Copy via your preferred eBook platform – just let me know what that is.

If you’re running an organized blog tour or other promotional event include info about the timeline and incentives here.

Thanks for considering this request. I look forward to hearing from you,

Emlyn

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Here is a brief summary of Farsighted:

Alex Kosmitoras’s life has never been easy. The only other student who will talk to him is the school bully, his parents are dead-broke and insanely overprotective, and to complicate matters even more, he’s blind. Just when he thinks he’ll never have a shot at a normal life, a new girl from India moves into town. Simmi is smart, nice, and actually wants to be friends with Alex. Plus she smells like an Almond Joy bar. Yes, sophomore year might not be so bad after all.

Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival—an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to “see” the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they begin to suggest that Simmi is in danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and new friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex must embark on a journey to change his future.

In this enthralling debut novel, Emlyn Chand creates a world in which friendship, perseverance, and a handful of psychic powers come together to fight against what appears to be the inevitable and all-too dangerous future. This is a book you won’t want to put down—even after you finish it!

Watch the live action book trailer> http://youtu.be/tZjskE5zjzM

Quiz to find out which character you’re most like> http://www.emlynchand.com/farsighted/quiz

Read the first chapter onlinehttp://www.emlynchand.com/2011/09/farsighted-chapter-one

[/learn_more]

#4. Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow on social media sites! Notice how I said “I’m now following you on XYZ sites?” Bloggers often include links to their Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads accounts on their sites. Whenever I see a link to connect via social media, I do it. I also make it a point to follow any blogs I visit via Google Friend Connect. This is yet another way to show bloggers that you spent time on them, and as they see your name popping up on their follow and friend lists, that query you sent will become more ingrained in their memory. Besides which, if a blogger is just too busy to feature you or your book now, they’re now connected with you and might (okay, it’s a long shot, but they might) remember the offer and approach you later.
 

Social Media

Although contacting bloggers through the above query method is extremely time-consuming, it’s far more effective than recruitment via social media. Why? Because you are specifically targeting bloggers who enjoy your genre!

I’ve had pretty good success recruiting via social media as well, but the bloggers I acquired through that method are not die-hard fans of my genre like the ones I got through the query method. That being said, recruiting through social media is super fast and easy, but… it might not be so fast and easy if you have a small following. Yet another reason to build your social media presence, methinks!

Here are some notes about how recruitment worked through my various social media networks. I’m also including my number of followers as a reference point. It’s important to note that I recruited through my own networks, not Novel Publicity’s larger ones.

Twitter (current number of followers ~ 9,000). Twitter was actually the least effective method despite the fact that I have the largest following there. I sent out a couple of tweets offering review copies without much luck. I was able to secure a few reviewers because people saw my profile and directly requested a copy.

GoodReads (current number of friends ~ 2,500). Like Twitter, GoodReads was effective because people saw my profile and directly approached me for a review copy. It yielded better results than Twitter and hooked me up with bigger bloggers and some top reviewers. What’s even more important is that it attracted reviewers who are in my target audience. Yay GoodReads!

Facebook (current number of fans  ~ 750). This was pretty easy and produced great results. At 3 different points, I posted a status update offering review copies. Many of my existing friends and connections agreed to review for me. These people aren’t as targeted as the bloggers I got through the query method or through GoodReads, but since I have a lot of writer friends, I received a number of really well-written reviews from the Facebook recruitment method.

BookBlogs.Ning (current number of friends ~100). I invested a lot of time on the discussion boards and by introducing myself to new members, and it totally paid off. For those who are unfamiliar, BookBlogs is a Ning social media site with over 13,000 book-blogging members.

Google+ (current number of circlees ~ 4,000). Google+ worked better than any other social network in terms of recruitment. The main reason that this site is so awesome is because of how the stream is maintained. On Facebook, if I write a post on Tuesday, and you comment on it Wednesday, it stays buried with the Tuesday posts. On Google+, each comment (no matter how much later it occurs than the initial post) will bring the post and comment thread to the top of the stream. This is nothing short of brilliant on Google’s part. Conceivably, you could write a single review request post, and it could continue to generate reviewers for years to come. Google+ is just awesome like that.

Alright, that’s all I have for you today. I might write a post about organizing your own blog tour, if that’s something you guys want. Just let me know!

 

Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityAbout this post’s author:

Emlyn Chand is the president of Novel Publicity and a YA author. She loves to hear and tell stories and emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Her first novel Farsighted released in late 2011 and is of the YA genre. Learn more about Emlyn at www.emlynchand.com or by connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or GoodReads.