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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Advice for Writers Seeking Reviews: A Blogger's Persective

Melanie (aka Busy Bookblogger)
with her little sprite in zebra print.

Hello, everyone! Today I've got a guest post from Melanie, aka busy bookblogger. Her site, Reviews of Young Adult Literature, is one of the most articulate and practical ones out there, offering straight-forward reviews aimed primarily at librarians and teachers. Since I could see she has both experience and a teacher's ability to break things down with ease, I asked her to put together her tips for writers seeking reviews from book bloggers. Here's what she had to say...

A Force to Be Reckoned With:  The Power of Book Bloggers

When I started my Young Adult book review blog in 2008, I joined a community without even realizing it. I was a new teacher, just beginning to build an in-classroom library as part of the Alabama Reading Initiative that mandates this in my home state.  At that time, the Book Blogging community was made up of very few bloggers who spent a great deal of time and effort requesting ARCs from authors, agents, and publishers. Plus a few more that were just reviewing the books they purchased.

Fast forward to 2012, that very same community has expanded exponentially, is still gaining some serious momentum, and the Young Adult literary genre has exploded. Presently, many established book review bloggers get a steady flow of books from agents, authors, and publishers without even having to ask. Even those of us, like myself, who target a specific group—my particular book blog is aimed at middle and high school teachers and librarians—still get quite a few personal requests for reviews. As bloggers move from beggars to choosers, many of them now have reputable relationships with individual authors and literary agents—quite a shift from 2008.

In addition to growth in numbers, the book blogging community went from obscure to “a force to be reckoned with” as Ms. Gehrman so tactfully put it in an email to me. Quotes from book blogger reviews can be found on several young adult books. I can still remember the excitement/shock of seeing one of my own review blurbs on Jennifer Echols’ author website. When I came across the paperback edition of Robin Benway’s “Audrey, Wait!” with book blogger quotes on it, I nearly fell over in my local Barnes and Noble. I remember thinking, Hey, I KNOW these people. Well, sort of.

I have a theory that this shift in power—or maybe power is the wrong word, importance or significance maybe? Anyhow, my hypothesis is that this shift has lot to do with the recent reduction of traditional book reviews in newspapers and mainstream media. While many bloggers are just simply reviewing the books they read—regardless of how they got them, those reviews have started to have a major impact – one that can be positive or negative. And that impact matters to agents, authors, and publishers. Book review blogs have begun to do more than just summarize, rate, and review. Most book bloggers promote books by doing cover reveals, author interviews, giveaways, and online book tours.  I can’t even tell you the last time I purchased a book without checking out some of the reviews on my favorite book blogs as well as on Amazon. Times are tough and book buying budgets are tight, for individuals and for schools. No one wants to waste 16.99 on something they won’t enjoy.

Just as literary agents have preferences when it comes to query letters and submissions, book reviewers have personal preferences that are important for authors and agents to consider when sending out review copies. A few other things are pretty important too, so I have compiled a brief(ish) list of things to think about when preparing to send your book out for review.

*Book blogging takes TIME. Most bloggers have full-time jobs, school work, children, a growing TBR pile, and other hobbies. When you send a book or a request for a review, a blogger might not be able to get to yours right away.  Or they might not be able to accept your book at all at that time. Don’t get angry and set fire to that bridge; chances are they will do what they can to help promote your book even if they can’t review it right away. Maybe suggest a cover reveal, prepared interview, or giveaway instead.  (Tread carefully though, book bloggers like original content so maybe don’t give a dozen bloggers the same prepared interview or guest post—not that you would do a silly thing like that!)

*Review Policies. This is simple. Every good book review blogger has one. Read it. It will probably answer a lot of questions like what specific genres they prefer, what they need from you such as bio info, cover art, etc. Some may even give a specific time frame for when they can post the review. They took the time to write it, take the time to read it before you contact them.  If they include an About Me section, maybe read that too.

*They’re just not that into you(r) book. Ouch. Talk about awkward. Sometimes you read the review policy, contact the blogger, they agree to review your book, but when they post their review, it’s not a good one. Or worse, they say they couldn’t even finish your book, much less think of anything nice to say about it. It’s like a stab to your soul, I know. Honestly, bloggers feel a certain amount of pressure to say mostly positive things when the author or agent has contacted them personally, but that doesn’t guarantee a positive review. Writing a book and getting it published are huge accomplishments, the last thing any reviewer wants to do is to diminish someone else’s hard work. Try and remember that bloggers have an audience just like you do; they have a responsibility to that audience to be honest so that their blog maintains its voice and integrity.

*Do your homework before you ask a specific blogger to review your book. What is the blogger’s preferred genre? Do they accept self-published books? Do they mention their policy on negative reviews? Will they post it or give you an opportunity to veto? Will they let your read the review before they post it? Do they also post reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble? Have they written some seriously scathing reviews of books similar to yours that make you cringe? If the blogger hates Sci-Fi and has said so on their blog but you send your teen alien love story to them anyways, don’t be surprised if you don’t like their review.  And if they do post that soul stabbing negative review on every social media site known to man, remember you chose to send it to them.  Avoid retaliation at all costs, even if you didn’t send them your book and they obtained it all on their own. Chin up, it’s just one review. Slap a Hello Kitty Band-Aid on your soul and keep going.

(Sidenote:  Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy, wrote a post on accepting negative reviews and I literally cannot say it better so stop by her blog and check it out sometime.)

*Etiquette. Sometimes the Internet makes us brave. In a really dangerous, “why on Earth did I tweet that?” sort of way. Some reviewers dislike being contacted anywhere other than the particular email address given on their blog. Stick to the protocol and avoid calling them out on Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads, unless their handy dandy review policy says it’s okay.  Bonus points if you send your book with a nice little handwritten note and/or signed to them personally. It won’t change the review, but bloggers are people too and it’s a nice touch.

And okay, this wasn’t as brief as I’d planned but I included everything I felt would be helpful. Utilized correctly, book review blogs are an excellent (and free!) way to generate some buzz around your book. Are there bloggers out there who will post only happy-fluffy-sparkly positive reviews of books sent to them by authors, agents, and publishers, regardless of how they actually feel about the book? There are. Just as there are, sadly, bloggers who are in it for the free books—though, in my experience, their blogs don’t have much staying power.

Overall the book blogging community is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people who want to promote fantastic books and fabulous authors.  I can’t describe how happy it makes me when someone comments on a review of mine, saying it made him or her want to run out and buy that book! As an English teacher, I am absolutely thrilled by the astounding amount of Young Adult books available today. As a blogger, I am wholeheartedly grateful to be a part of an online community that goes above and beyond to generate publicity in celebration of these books and their authors.

Links to some sites I mentioned:

About Me:
Busy BookBlogger is my not-so-secret blogger identity. My real name is Melanie. I’m originally from Ohio but currently live in Alabama and have been reviewing Young Adult books, mostly school appropriate ones, since 2008. I am “Busy” because I am a High School English Teacher, a mom, a wife, a Sunday School teacher, and I do a little writing of my own. I recently finished my own YA novel, loosely based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic poem “Christabel,” and am in the process of agent-seeking. Over the past 4 years I have developed many deeply cherished relationships with some seriously awesome authors and fellow bloggers. I consider myself a little fish in the book blogging community, and I like it that way! I am currently accepting YA novels for review and can be found online via twitter @BusyBookBlogger and at

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