One of the key ways to build word of mouth for your book is through the book blogging community: book bloggers not only tend to be enthusiastic about reading but also about spreading word of mouth, and will often post reviews across a number of forums, which can significantly boost the profile of your book. So how best to go about getting this exposure? Here are some handy tips – and some guidelines on what not to do!
Find a list of blogs: there are a number of ever-changing blogging directories out there, so I’d start by simply Googling ‘book blogger directory’ and working your way through the most up to date lists. Once you have found a site you like or think might be suitable, it’s also worth checking out links from that site to directories / other sites (these are usually found through ‘buttons’ on the bottom or side of the blog).
Check the blog is still active: lots of people start a blog but it takes time, determination and stamina to keep it going and to build a following. It’s probably not worth contacting any blog that hasn’t been updated in the last month. Ideally, you want a blog that updates at least once a week, if not more.
Check their review policy: this will tell you if they are accepting review copies, and what sort of books they are interested in. There’s no point in sending an ebook to someone who only reads print, and you just have to accept that some bloggers won’t consider self-published books, or will only accept certain formats. Respect their choices and move on.
Is your book a match? Look at the kind of books and features they have on the site. If they are big fans of historical fiction and you’ve written a modern horror book set in space, they’re unlikely to want to read it.
Be polite – remember they’re people! Approach politely and courteously, and remember you are dealing with an individual, not an anonymous corporation. If there is personal information on the blog that resonates with you, try to reflect that in your approach. People like dealing with other people – be nice, and you’re more likely to get a response! Treat them like you’re doing them an enormous favour letting them read your book and they aren’t going to be that keen to engage with you.
Remember they generally aren’t professionals: in nearly all cases, these blogs are run by individuals – or small groups – who are doing it for love (with some free books thrown in). They are fitting blogging around their jobs, families and other commitments. Respect that, and don’t be overly demanding: they have plenty of other priorities than responding to your email and reading your book! Also, they aren’t obligated to you in any way: just because you send them a book doesn’t mean they have to read it. Accept that you’ll strike out a few times and let it go.
Be flexible: bearing the above in mind, be as flexible as you can re: deadlines – don’t expect to send a book and have it reviewed within a week. Most bloggers will try to help you out if you’re doing date specific promotion, but they may be booked up well in advance, or they simply may be too busy. If you want to have a book reviewed when it’s published, you need to send advance copies at least a few months before publication date (most will state timeframes in their review policies).
Offer alternatives: the one thing all bloggers constantly need is content, so it’s worth offering an alternative; for instance, when you offer your book for review, suggest that you’re also happy to do an author Q&A or guest post. Many bloggers whose review schedules are packed will still accept guest posts (especially if you throw in a giveaway) and while this is extra work for you, it can be useful publicity (remember, don’t reuse guest posts: you’ll make both of you look bad if it’s not original content!)
Offer to cross-promote: All bloggers – or at least almost all – will be keen to get more readers or followers, so state in your initial email that any reviews or posts will be cross-promoted on your own blog or website (you have a blog or website, right? Right?) and through your Twitter feed (ditto). Also, if you have a blog yourself, why not offer to host a guest post from them? That way you boost your own content, and are offering them more exposure.
Build relationships: In the short time I’ve been dealing with book bloggers, I’ve already come across some really interesting and fun people – so don’t just go into this focused on how to plug your book. Think about building long-term relationships – follow them on Twitter and Goodreads, sign up to their blogs, comment on their reviews. You won’t have time to invest in every one of the bloggers you deal with, any more than they will with every author, but be open to connecting with new people and you could be very pleasantly surprised.
Never badmouth a blogger: even if you have had a negative experience, there is nothing to be gained by mouthing off or getting annoyed with a blogger. For a start, it’s unprofessional, and it’s also enormously counterproductive: there’s a fairly strong community of bloggers and the last thing you want is a reputation as being difficult – part of the reason so many bloggers won’t review self-published works is because self-published authors have a reputation for poor behaviour. Sure, you might encounter a truly obnoxious blogger – they are individuals, so you’re bound to come across some you’d rather not have, just as you will in any other community – but in all circumstances the best thing is to take the high ground and let it go.
Be realistic – they won’t all like you: One of the hardest things for writers to accept is that lots of people simply won’t like your book. They may think it’s stupid or badly written, they may hate the characters, they may wilfully misread your meaning or sentiment, they may think it looks so God-awful boring that they can’t even bother to read past the synopsis. Tough. Get over it. There isn’t a writer alive who has been universally loved, and you won’t be the first one. Don’t get into a row over bad reviews, don’t vote them as unhelpful on Amazon, don’t try and get them removed from blogs or anywhere else. Take them on the chin and move on.