Hello, everyone! It’s me again with another author advice post. Warning: This post isn’t for everyone. If you’re an author who finds etiquette posts tiresome, this post isn’t for you. If you’re already an expert on book marketing, this post will probably seem pretty basic, but I hope you’ll read on and add your advice in the comment section. This post is for people like me – people who came into the writing world with limited social media knowledge. It’s for people who didn’t realize book bloggers existed until they were told to go out and promote their book. If you’re intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of contacting reviewers and bloggers, or if you’ve sent requests to bloggers and only received a lukewarm response, this post is for you.
- DO read the blogger’s FAQs, Policies, or Submission Guidelines. Each blogger is different. Some bloggers want you to contact them by email. Others have a submission form. Some are focused on certain genres. It’s important that you read the guidelines and follow them. It makes the process easier for everyone.
- DON’T assume the rules don’t apply to you. It’s not up to you to decide which rules are silly or unnecessary. You can either follow the bloggers guidelines, or you can choose not to submit.
- DO submit requested materials on time and in the format preferred by the blogger. If the blogger asks you to submit cover art in a JPEG, don’t send it pasted into a Word Document. Bloggers have different software and skill levels. Many of us also have day jobs, so if you submit your materials late, you might have missed our very narrow window of opportunity to get your post formatted and published.
- DON’T send unsolicited book review requests or manuscripts. (This goes back to #1) If a book blogger indicates they are not currently accepting unsolicited review requests, they mean it. Not only is it extremely rude to go ahead and send that manuscript, it won’t get you very far. I delete unsolicited manuscripts unread. To me, it would be unethical to read a free book given to me in exchange for review if I don’t have time to review it.
- DO remember that bloggers are working for you for free. Most bloggers don’t make any money on advertisements. In fact, most bloggers pay for website domains and hosting out of their own pockets. When someone is working for you for free, they are doing YOU a favor. Please don’t behave as if it’s the other way around.
- DON’T make demands. It’s perfectly acceptable to point out a broken or incorrect link. It is not acceptable for you to email the blogger throughout the day, insisting they add things you forgot to include in your original submission. It’s not okay for you to demand changes in formatting or appearance.
- DO contact your blog tour host if you have a problem. If you are paying a blog tour company to organize a tour, that company is obligated to do what you’re paying them to do. Please bear in mind that the individual blogs who are posting your materials are doing so for free. If there’s a problem, do not contact the bloggers – contact the tour host.
- DON’T expect a reply from every blogger. Some blogs have multiple reviewers and a whole team of bloggers. Most blogs are a one-man or one-woman show. Sometimes bloggers give birth, have a death in the family, get sick, or have other unexpected events that prevent us from blogging. Sometimes we just need a break. Bloggers are under no obligation to host you or respond to you. (See #5) I try to respond to everyone who contacts me, but there are times emails end up in my spam folder or accidentally get deleted. It happens.
- DO understand that bloggers can’t accommodate every request. There will be times when you send a review request, only to be told the blogger can’t read your book. They may offer you an interview instead. Or they may offer nothing. This isn’t a reflection on you as an author. When I was ill, I had to turn some authors away very suddenly. You might not always understand why a blogger is turning down your request, but try not to take it personally.
- DON’T harass the blogger. If you have read and followed all the guidelines, you may send the blogger a second request. Like I said in #8, sometimes emails are accidentally deleted or end up in spam. Before you send that second request, though, be certain the blogger isn’t on hiatus. Be sure you aren’t sending a review request to someone who doesn’t accept unsolicited requests. Make sure the blog is still active. If the blogger hasn’t posted in three months, they might have quit. Or had an unexpected life event and didn’t have time to update their blog.
- DO show support. If a blogger is kind enough to offer you a platform to promote your book, show your support for the blogger by following or subscribing to their blog. You might also consider following the blogger on Twitter or liking their Facebook page.
- DO thank the blogger. A simple thank you in a blog comment or email is so appreciated. Bloggers certainly aren’t in it for fame and fortune. A quick thank you is all we expect in exchange for our time and effort. And maybe a little support. (See #11)
- DO share. Share your book feature, interview, or review with all your friends. Send traffic over to the blog. Encourage others to leave comments and/or share. Bloggers love it when we get lots of likes and comments. We really really do.
- DO pay it forward. Many authors have blogs and host other authors, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t have the time. There are lots of other things you can do. Return to the blogs that have featured you and leave comments for other authors’ posts. Some authors don’t have a legion of friends or fans. A little support and encouragement goes a long way. Retweet. Reblog. Share!
In an effort to really get to the heart of what book bloggers are looking for when accepting submissions, I decided to ask an expert. Susan Toy is an author and blogger. Her promotional blog, Reading Recommendations, features a variety of authors and books. She offers writing advice and insights into the publishing world on her blog, Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing. Susan offers the following advice:
From Susan Toy – Why I stopped accepting unsolicited submissions on Reading Recommendations
When I first began writing my author promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, I asked a number of authors I’d met over the years if they wanted to be promoted. Then I opened up to general submissions by making announcements on social media. I received a large number of inquiries and accepted pretty much anyone who sent me an email. Some authors who came to me this way proved to be great writers and I like to say now that we have become friends over the course of this past year. They’re also many of the same authors who have hosted me on their blogs, reviewed my books, promoted other authors I’ve promoted, and just generally been very supportive of not only me but the entire writing community. They have also sent a number of new authors my way.
I made the decision to close the blog to unsolicited submissions mainly because I already personally knew or was discovering great authors on my own. When I find a book that interests me (usually on Goodreads, on another blog, Facebook or Twitter, or through comments made on my own blog) I contact the author and ask if they’d like some promotion. No one has turned me down yet.
What I consider is the book’s cover (especially true on Goodreads) and whether it looks professionally designed – I can tell the difference. I try to find an excerpt of the book, again to see how professional the writing is and whether an editor was involved at any stage. (Again, I can tell.) I also check that the author has some kind of a web presence – a blog, or that they are engaged on social media. (Note: I said “engaged” and not just that they have an author page, but that they post something meaningful and support other authors.) I also look at their profile. If all they talk about is their own published books (especially on Twitter), I don’t bother pursuing them. It’s become my bugbear with those authors who wish to follow me on Twitter that they tell me in their profile what’s in it for me. If I read, “Author of the breathtaking new novel XXX”, I will not follow. But if someone describes themselves as, “Writer, reader, promoter of fellow authors”, I’d not only follow, but would probably offer them promotion on my blog – once I checked out all of the above about them.
By the way, for me being a “reader” is the key word in that description, because the other way authors can get my attention is by asking me about my books or the other books I publish. If anyone asks to read and review either of my books, invites me to be a guest blogger or be interviewed, I automatically reciprocate and offer to promote them on Reading Recommendations. It’s only fair. After all, just like them I have a couple of books I’ve written and published that need promotion!
I’d love to hear from other bloggers and authors. What comments or suggestions do you have?