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:

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

###

 

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

#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.


45 Comments

  1. I would love to read your thoughts on organizing one’s own tour. Great stuff!

  2. Thanks. This is exactly what I needed at precisely the right time.

  3. Michelle D Keyes

    Excellent post and is just what I have been looking for! Thank you & I will definitely RT. Another topic to consider writing about is how to manage the time. For someone who works full time and has a family, how do you find an extra 300 hours before a release? And what about after a release? I have a book nearing it’s 1 year publication anniversary but still would like to get involved with some bloggers. I appreciate the time you spent on this and look forward to reading more.

  4. Thanks for the great post.

    I had someone send me an unpersonalized email with a link and a brief note telling me the link is so I could sign up to be part of the writer’s blog tour. Yeah, that’s nice. But since I didn’t know who she was, other than she had commented on my blog three times (three brief and vague comments), I ignored the email.

  5. Emlyn, i think you should reply to the post from Slate on Twitter this AM regarding the “death” of Google +. This is proof positive that the circles you create on + can be very helpful to an author, and discussions of its demise are premature. Here’s the link to Farhad’s article. You are an authority! Pick a fight! http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/11/google_had_a_chance_to_compete_with_facebook_not_anymore_.html

  6. Great information! Thanks Emlyn!

  7. Hells, yes, I want. I need all the help I can get. I have no idea how to set this up and this is a start. To paraphrase Oliver, “Please, ma’am, I want some more.”

  8. Thanks, Emlyn! I’m one of the ones who asked about this, and you’ve given me a lot to think about for how to handle things for the book I’m revising now. This was a great post – well organized, with useful information. It’s going in my bookmarks and RT list for sure!

  9. I’m already completely stressed out and overwhelmed by the workload imposed on writers today, but thanks for the information, and please share more. My question for the day is: When do modern authors ever get to write? I can only hope that publicity momentum will kick in at some point before I drop dead from exhaustion.

  10. Finally some good advice, :). But it is a lot of work, indeed.

  11. Thank you for this info Emlyn. So helpful!!

  12. *Copy-paste-copy-paste-copy-paste*

    How far ahead of the tour dates did you start recruiting?

  13. Nicely done! (as usual!)

    Laura

  14. Checking out blog directories is one way to find bloggers accepting reviews. The Indie Directory at http://hampton-networks.com/ is a great spot to look for authors.

  15. Hi Michelle. That would certainly be a great topic, but I wouldn’t be the one to write it. Honestly, I’ve given up most other parts of my life to work on book marketing and writing. I work 100 hours per week, typically 12-17 hours per day. I wouldn’t call that balanced! :-P

  16. Right? I hate that. I get them all the time from people who want me to review their books for Novel Publicity (and we don’t even review books). Ugh.

  17. Ahw, Jesse, now how could I say no to you? ;-)

  18. Thanks, Jennie. Yes, I remember. I love taking blog topic suggestions, because when I do, the resulting posts almost always go viral. Thank you!

  19. That’s a great question, Pamela. To get writing done, I have to hold myself hostage at the local Panera with my wifi turned off. Otherwise, it just doesn’t happen.

  20. At least a couple months. Bloggers need time to read the books, and you need time to recruit the bloggers!

  21. Thank you, Sarah. That is an excellent resource!

  22. No, no, no. Google+ is far from dead. People assume it doesn’t work, because they can’t figure out how to use it. Just like Twitter in the early days (and even now). Tsk tsk, I say.

  23. Wow! That’s a lot to digest and plan out. Emlyn, thank you for sharing your personal experience with the Social Media you used. Very helpful and generous of you.

  24. I’m totally sharing this post on Twitter! I really wish all the authors I work with follow these rules, especially number 2. Nothing peeves me more than to receive a query email for a book format that I clearly state I will not accept in my review policy

  25. Thanks so much for these ideas! You’ve inspired me to put more time and effort into Google+. Even though at the moment I blog about books rather than write my own, I think your tips will work out just as well for me!

  26. Enjoyed reading this Emlyn – thanks for your generosity of spirit in sharing this with us. You are spot-on about the hours and intense work. Each blogger has to be hand-pitched – no mass emails. This is how I recommend pitching traditional media as well. You have a new fan and I have just followed you on Twitter. Let’s connect.

  27. Emlyn,

    I just wanted to let you know how awesome this article was. As you know I’ve been trying to get people to join my blog tour for Noah Zarc, with limited success. I followed some of the advice you gave me a while ago, and I’ve emailed over 200 people with about a 10% response rate (so not bad really). But after reading this article I decided to target bloggers even more. And really study their blog and write a nice intro paragraph showing I’ve read their blog and why my book would be perfect for it. I’ve only mailed out 4 emails since trying this, and received 3 yeses back. So a 75% response rate. AWESOME! Now all I need to do is spend some more time at it. I’m up to 30 blogs out of my 100 blog target. So thank you, thank you!

  28. As a blogger who got an email from D. I can say he did a wonderful job. I was the “no” response just because I don’t do his genre, but he’s going to write a guest blog which will hopefully help with his tour and I’m thrilled to be able to help another Indie. Everyone wins when you do it right!
    Pav

  29. Yes, for goodness’s sake: read the bloggers’ review policies. Please don’t spam these hard-working and wonderful book-lovers!

  30. Google+ is definitely worth the time investment. My communications there are far more efficient than on any other social network, and things don’t get lost either (like Twitter DMs, GoodReads messages, and Facebook chats. A large following = lots of missing messages)!

  31. Thank you, Dindy. It’s great to meet you (and I love your name). Definitely tweet me up, and tell me more about you ;-)

  32. You’re doing a great job, D. I know you face added difficulty being a middle grade author. Some genres just have a more rapid fan base than others. God bless YA! Keep at it; I know you’ll reach 100. Know it!

  33. Aw, we’re just gonna test all blatantly out in the open like? Dirr…

  34. I couldn’t figure out what to say :) It works!

  35. It does?! I can’t see, because I’m the post author. That’s why I didn’t know there was a problem in the first place.

    Fans of Novel Publicity, you can now subscribe to comments! WOOHOO!

  36. This was really helpful, Emlyn! I’m starting to organize my own blog tour this week, and I’m so nervous. I hope you will make a post about organizing a tour, there are a lot of us who can use all the help we can get!

  37. Hi Emlyn,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insight with us. I have learned some valuable tips from your article and I look forward to implementing them. I must put more time into Google plus.I will definitely be retweeting you :-)

  38. Thanks, Joanne! So glad the post helped. Yes, Google+ has been very kind to me :-)

  39. Hi Emlyn!

    I really enjoyed your article. Book promotion can be an extremely frustrating and time-consuming process if not handled efficiently. And who wouldn’t rather be writing?! ;-)

    We’d love to be included if you ever decide to do a revision/addendum: Business2Blogger.com is a service that greatly facilitates the Blogger Outreach process for authors and publishers. We heartily agree that it is important to build relationships with the right Bloggers, but first you have to FIND those Bloggers! B2B puts an end to all that Googling and cold-emailing, and puts you right in front of thousands of Bloggers, where you can pitch them all at once!

    Here is our link: http://business2blogger.com/

    Thanks so much, and best of luck to you!

    Jay Cooney

  40. Thanks for dropping by, Jay. This sounds a lot like Bloggerdise–do you know about that site? If you’d like to tell me more about what you can do for authors, shoot an email to emlyn(at)novelpublicity.com. I have no problem making recommendations to our blog readers. I just always like to try something out to verify it really works before doing any promo.

  41. Came across this article via Twitter. I am a blogger and also researching a book to be published later this year. Some really good tips here. 2QT Publishing http://www.2qt.co.uk are going to offer all new authors Social Media and blogging opportunities – a great way to spread the word of new books, including audio & Kindle. Interested in the Google + thoughts – only just getting to grips with it but in some ways prefer it to Face Book.

    Good luck with your writing and do share news on Twitter @quirkytraveller :-)

  42. This post was recommended by http://alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com and I’m so glad I followed her link to you! Excellent and well-written advice. Thank you, Emlyn! I look forward to perusing your blog and reading future posts. :)

  43. I just found this post, and I can’t tell you how incredibly helpful it was. I’m venturing into the murky world of self-publishing (and self-promotion), and I wanted to thank you for being so generous with your advice!

  44. I have stumbled onto your site, and am impressed with your expertise and love for your craft. If I can acquire 1/2 of your knowledge I will be happy. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us.