How to Get Book Reviews (or How to Run Your Own Book Review Campaign) by Beth Barany
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Many authors think that it is totally time-consuming to find reviews for their books. I admit, just like everything else, it takes time. You can get book reviews.
If you want to develop a long-term relationship with one of the key influencers in our industry—book bloggers—then you’ll want to learn how to get reviews for your books.
In this article I will cover how to get reviews from book bloggers. They are people who love to read and have started their own blog or video blog, are active on social media, and love to connect with authors. This article does not cover how to get industry reviews from such publications as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, newspaper, or magazines.
This article is primarily for do-it-yourselfers or people who are considering having other people do this type of work for them and want to know what’s involved. This article is also for people who want to connect with these types of bloggers and who want to develop relationships that will help them for their entire author career.
Elements you need to run a successful review campaign:
- A finished book or near finished book
- A polished blurb/book description
- Finished, professional looking cover
- List of bloggers who like to review your kind of book
- A growth mindset
You’ll also need to review your schedule, so you can block off time, like 30 minutes 3 times a week for 2 months, to plan and run this campaign.
I’ll go into each of these five elements. But first a word about why I recommend that you run this campaign yourself and not hire it out, at least the first time around.
Book bloggers and reviewers appreciate one-on-one connection with the authors. Many of these people are what you could call book geeks. They love to connect with authors and do not want to connect with a middleman. That takes all the fun out of it for them. They blog on their own time, they are not paid to do so, and so it is part of the pleasure for them to connect directly with authors. Remember that they are in this for the passion, and that you are in this for the long haul. If the blogger likes the first book in your series and reviewed it favorably, then you can offer them the next book in the series, and the following one, and so on.
Click to Tweet: Develop relationships with key influencers to spread the word about your books https://ctt.ec/8C9A5+
(You can edit before you share.)
In this article I am going to talk about getting book reviews as a campaign. I’m recommending that you treat this as a project and not as a haphazard affair. I like campaigns because they have a start date, an end date, and three distinct phases: The preparation phase, the running of the campaign phase, and the follow up phase.
In the preparation phase for your review campaign, you want to make sure your book blurb is the best it can be. This is especially important if your book is not yet published. If your book is published you should be able to grab the book description blurb.
Bloggers like their email communication short and to the point, so make sure your blurb is no longer than standard size book description, 4-5 sentences.
You need a JPEG of your cover.
You need to compile a list of appropriate book bloggers.
Here are some tips on how to find appropriate book bloggers:
- Search on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or Facebook under your genre and the words “book blogger”. Some of the hashtags you can use for your searches are #bookblogger #bookreviewer #bookreview (#bookstagram #booknerdigans only on Instagram).
- You can also use this list as a starting point: https://twitter.com/Beth_Barany/lists/book-bloggers-reviewers
Read the review guidelines carefully to be sure your book is the type of book the book blogger likes to review.
Create a spreadsheet to track your actions during the campaign. Go to this page to download a template. My gift to you. http://writersfunzone.com/blog/how-to-get-reviews.
(Click to tweet. You can edit before posting.)
Other preparation steps you can take to harness the power of your community and your readers:
- Write a blog post about your upcoming review campaign.
- Share the news in your social media channels.
- Tell your readers in your newsletter.
- If you have a street team, enlist their help in book bloggers they know.
The point of this campaign is to harness book bloggers and anyone else who has already a platform in which they can share about your book to many people. Of course you can harness your avid reviewers during this time as well as long as they post reviews on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, etc.
Next pick a start date and end date. I recommend picking something that feels manageable. My first attempt at a review campaign I picked six months because I thought I could do a little bit of work over time and not feel overwhelmed. In fact I was only able to sustain my momentum for three months. Next time I run a campaign I’m going to make it for 4 to 6 weeks.
Next set a number target of reviewers to query. You can set some goals for amount of reviews desired too. While you cannot control how many people buy or review your book, you can absolutely control how many queries you send out. There is no guarantee that the blogger will say yes, there’s no guarantee that they will even actually post the review, and there’s no guarantee that this campaign will increase your sales.
In my experience from running informal and formal campaigns for myself and clients over the last five years is that you will get reviews, you will increase your visibility, and you will get the word out about your book.
Next you want to draft template email that will be the standard request to send to book bloggers. Be sure to personalize this email in the first sentence so that you can show each blogger you have done your homework.
Here is a basic template you can personalize and pretty up that I’ve used successfully in sending out requests and getting reviews and promo opportunities that highlighted my novels.
Dear Wonderful Blogger (Use their name),
I discovered you on Twitter and really love XYZ about your blog [insert URL].
I’m writing to you because you said you like to review X genre and I have a book coming out that I’d love to share with you.
Here’s the blurb. [Insert blurb]
I would be happy to send you a digital and/or print copy of the book. If you could review this book by X date that would be great, but later is fine too. I really appreciate it. Just let me know which format you would like, where to send it, and I’ll send it over to you.
I’ve also attached the book cover for your enjoyment.
Lastly I am open to doing guest posts and/or Q&A’s. Just let me know if you would like that and by when.
I’m really excited to share about my newest book and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely, Awesome Author
Do remember to customize this template to your voice and circumstances.
Lastly, put on a positive or growth mindset. You don’t need to do this campaign perfectly, you just need to take small steps on a regular basis to make a difference in your author career. More on mindset and its importance here: http://mindsetonline.com/.
Now that you have all the preparatory steps ready, start your campaign.
Running Your Book Review Campaign
Because we all have busy lives, and who doesn’t, schedule 10 to 15 minutes every (work) day to send off one query. In that way you could run a campaign to 30 bloggers in 30 days. Of course you can hire someone else to send these out for you, but as I said above readers love to hear from authors. You could also block off an hour once a week to email a four or five of notes to bloggers.
In the planning phase, I usually research four or five or more bloggers put them in the spreadsheet, so that when I send out my email requests I have a starting place. After that, I spend time researching a few more bloggers on Twitter (and their sites), and then send out one or two at a time.
As an example, I ran my last campaign over the course of six months. My goal was to send out 100 queries. I actually worked on it for three months and sent out 48 queries. Not bad. My results? I was sending out queries for both my romance and my young adult fantasy novels and was open to doing guest posts and other kinds of promotions.
In this way I garnered 19 promo opportunities:
- 4 spotlights for my romance
- 5 reviews of my 2 fantasy novels
- 3 reviews of my 4 romance novellas and their collection
- 500+ giveaways for my romance (of one title)
- 3 prizes sent (books and/or bookmarks)
- 1 guest post featuring one of my romances
- 1 paid ad for my fantasy
- 1 FB party appearance that netted me 3 new newsletter subscribers (romance oriented)
- 1 FB party appearance (fantasy oriented)
Not what I expected going in, but I am happy with the results, which are far better than if I had done nothing at all.
Your results may vary! Set up a reasonable program that you can follow through on even if it’s just for one week or one month.
During the time of your campaign you can also write a guest post and share on social media about what you’re doing.
One question I get from authors is whether or not to share the reviews they get from these bloggers.
And the answer is yes, if it’s a good review of course.
I recommend sharing the best 1-2 sentences in your promotions.
As an example, every time I got a review by a book blogger I posted it on my blog. I made a fun graphic excerpt of their review and linked back to the blogger. I also did shares on Twitter and Facebook. The bloggers really appreciated that.
As many have cautioned before me, do not interact with people who slam you or your book. It does not help you or your career. Take what is useful from the negative review and leave the rest. If you cannot stand to read your own reviews, have a trusted friend read them and share with you what was useful.
One thing I do during the campaign is I follow up with bloggers who have not gotten back to me. A gentle nudge or reminder email is always appreciated. Remember they want to be reviewing your type of book. But they are just as busy as the rest of us.
Follow up Phase
When you decide your campaign is over, make sure you tie up loose ends, like following up with bloggers to thank them, or to thank anybody else who supported you during this campaign.
Another very satisfying step to do in this phase is to count your successes.
- Did you reach your goal for amount of queries sent and number of reviews generated?
- What else did you learn from this experience?
- If you were to do it again what would you do better or change?
- What worked about this campaign?
The whole point of running your own campaign is that you can do the legwork to get reviews. I totally believe that. I have seen good results for myself and others. Now the question for you to decide is whether or not you want to do this or delegate it, or whether or not you want to create your own way of garnering reviews for your books.
Just as publishing a book is totally within our reach these days, so is connecting directly with the reviewers. Enjoy!
c. 2015 Beth Barany
First published in Promotion Posse, a monthly column in Heart of the Bay spotlighting promotional strategies for authors, written by members of the San Francisco’s Romance of America chapter with a knack for PR.
Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance and adventure, enchanting readers into worlds where anything is possible. Her latest contemporary fantasy romance novel is A Cupcake Christmas, #5 in her Touchstone Series. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter @beth_barany. More about her fiction and to grab a free first-in-series book, go to http://author.bethbarany.com. As a book midwife and author’s coach, Beth also runs Writer’s Fun Zone, a blog for and by creative writers.
If you have a good resource that relates to this topic, post in the comments, and I’ll add it to this article, and possibly to the upcoming class.
Shawn Coyne shares a wonderful article on the importance of giving away books to build a groundswell of support. Check it out here: “The 10,000 Reader Rule.”
Another Writer’s Fun Zone article on getting reviews: “How to Write and Get Great Reviews — With Examples of a Book Review” by Ezra Barany.