Writers In The Storm is pleased to welcome Big Al, our first reviewer!
Looking at the posts on the Writers In The Storm Blog and reading the bios of the contributors I was reminded of one of my favorite things to say about what I do: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, review.”
I know, not very original, which is at least part of the reason why I’m not an author.
Assuming this blog’s readers are as accomplished and varied as the contributors, what could I have to say of value? I was told that I’m the first reviewer to guest post here, which means the range of subjects should be wide open, right? The request even included a few ideas. Rather than say a lot about one thing, I decided to say a little on two subjects, the world of book reviewing in general and how to increase your chances of getting your book reviewed.
Today’s book blogger isn’t yesterday’s book reviewer
No matter how your book gets published, unless your last name is Patterson, Roberts, or Grisham, a review of your book in a big daily newspaper or somewhere like People magazine is becoming harder to come by as book review sections are shrinking and even being dropped. However, thousands of people, just like me, are filling the gap. Some differences are obvious (I’m not aware of any book review blog with the readership of the New York Times). Some might not be.
The biggest difference I see is that we aren’t normally professionals. I don’t mean our blogs aren’t run in a professional way (I think most try) or that we make just a trivial amount of money for our efforts (although that is reality for most). But the typical newspaper or magazine review was written by a fellow author or at least someone who was a professional writer. Today’s book blogger, while sometimes an author or a wannabe, is more likely to be an avid reader who can manage to string enough words together to write a review.
What that means is that he or she is more likely to approach the review as a reader, not an author. The concerns of one are not necessarily going to be the same as the other. Issues of technique, symbolism, and deeper meaning may take a back seat to the important questions of “did I like these characters?” and “was I entertained.” Look at any of the bestselling authors that many of your peers look down their nose at - Stephanie Meyers, James Patterson, and Dan Brown all come to mind as possibilities - and look at the number of books they’ve sold. They may not appeal to authors, but they do to many readers.
Think of it as amplified word of mouth
While a review from a newspaper or magazine has a large potential audience, a majority of that audience isn’t a likely reader of your book. In fact, a lot of that audience rarely reads books at all. A review from a book blogger has a smaller audience, but that audience is always going to consist of readers. The more specialized the blog, the more likely those readers will be your target audience.
I like to view a book blog as more like word of mouth, only amplified. And word of mouth is one of the best ways for readers to become aware of your book. One recent example of what readers talking to each other can do for a book is Hugh Howey’s Wool that hit the top of the bestseller lists fueled almost exclusively by word of mouth.
It’s a numbers game
Getting a review from any particular book blog isn’t going to make or break your marketing efforts. Few book blogs are going to give your book the boost that a review from The New York Times Review of Books or Publisher’s Weekly would do. Getting reviews from book blogs is a numbers game. No individual can possibly review all the books that are queried or submitted. But the more bloggers you approach, the more reviews you’ll get to help build word of mouth.
Do your homework
However, I have some hints to help you tip the scales in your favor and increase the chances of getting reviewed by any particular blog. These hints fall into two categories, do your homework and follow the recipe.
Homework involves doing some minimal research on the blogs you approach. Do they have a specialty and, if so, how well does your book fit? Even if the blog says it reviews all genres, if they’ve never reviewed erotica or Christian Fiction, your book probably isn’t going to be their first.
There are tens of thousands of book blogs to choose from. One way to quickly find those most likely to be a good fit is to find a directory of blogs in your genre or other niche. Google “YA Book blog directory” and you’ll find this directory (http://yabookblogdirectory.blogspot.com/) of over 1,300 blogs that specialize in reviewing Young Adult books. Doing the same search on “indie book blog list” you’ll find The IndieView http://www.theindieview.com/ (a site I happen to run) that has a database of several hundred book blogs that are open to reviewing “indie books” (those that are self-published or published by small presses) with details on genre preferences and links to the site. Any search with your genre, “book blog” and a word like directory, list, or database as search terms will uncover multiple lists.
Just like baking a cake
Once you’ve found a good candidate, a blog that seems to like and review books such as yours, the single biggest thing you can do to increase your odds of getting a review from that blog is, just like baking a cake, follow the recipe or instructions on their submission or contact page. If the instructions say to query first with specific information, don’t send them an electronic copy of your book or neglect to give the information requested. If the blog’s submission instructions indicate to send an electronic copy of your book in a specific format, don’t query first or send an electronic version in a different format. Either of these are likely to result in your request being deleted or filed in the “don’t bother” folder
Now Build that Word of Mouth
Although it may seem too simple, by doing your homework to identify those book blogs that are a good fit before approaching them and following directions, you’ll put yourself ahead of a large percentage of your peers. Now it’s time to go give word of mouth a jump start. Good luck.
An avid reader for just shy of half a century, BigAl (who claims not to have a last name) spends the majority of his waking hours sitting at the computer. After working his day job (in front of the computer) his evenings are spent scheduling posts for The IndieView and thinking how happy he is to have never had the urge to become a writer. Then he’ll write reviews for his book review site, BigAl’s Books and Pals http://booksandpals.blogspot.com//, or work on his next post for Indies Unlimited http://www.indiesunlimited.com/ (a website for the indie author and those who read them). Those times BigAl manages to escape the computer are usually spent hanging out with his four grandchildren.