On the proper care and feeding of book bloggers: A list of dos and don’ts for publishers who want to work with book reviewers

One of the most important components of building buzz behind your newest, shiniest book is getting book reviewers on board. However, building up a reliable stable of book reviewers is a long-term process. It’s a relationship, and treating working with book reviewers as a purely transactional affair won’t do you any favours – you don’t just put books in the slot and hope a review pops out like magic.

Based on my own personal experience as a book blogger, here’s a list of handy tips to keep in mind when approaching reviewers about your latest book and building a relationship for the long term.

Do: Contact reviewers ahead of time to gauge their interest in your book

It goes without saying that if a reviewer isn’t interested in your book, there’s no point in sending them a copy. However, I can think of at least one instance where I’ve received books to review with no prior warning.

While reviewers may enjoy getting a surprise book in the mail, that’s no guarantee that they have the time and space ready to give it the attention it deserves. And if you haven’t even made sure that your reviewer likes the genre of the book in question, you’ve just wasted a perfectly good ARC.

Do: Provide a clear deadline for when the book review needs to go live

Perhaps it’s a sign of me being an extremely scattered person more than anything, but there are books I’ve agreed to read that take me months to get to. In many cases, authors or publishers are willing to be flexible because they’re pleased that I’m interested in their books in the first place.

However, I’ve found that if there’s a specific event coming up that relates to your book — an upcoming launch or relevant convention, for example — I’m much more likely to push it to the top of my TBR pile.

Deadlines provide clarity and focus. They are essential if, like me, your book bloggers do this as a hobby and need to juggle it alongside other facets of their lives.

Don’t: Send books that are part of a series until you confirm that your reviewer has read the previous entries in the series

Once last year I got a call from my husband saying that a large package had come in the mail. Since I was at work, I asked him to open the envelope, as I had no idea that a publisher had even sent something to me.

“Holy crap!” he cried, when he had torn the wrapping away.

“What?”

“It’s a copy of The Wall of Storms.”

“The new Ken Liu book? Cool.” I paused, waiting for a predictable admonishment.

“You really need to read The Grace of Kings soon, you know.”

Me, sheepishly: “Yeah….”

Reader, The Grace of Kings, while critically acclaimed, is 623 pages long. I had yet to read it. Its sequel, The Wall of Storms, is a punishing 880 pages long.

I don’t know about you, but I did not relish the idea of needing to read over 1500 pages to write a single review, especially for a book that no one had bothered to confirm whether I was prepared for in the first place.

A year later, both Ken Liu books remain unread, despite the fact that I’ve heard good things about them. They’re too large and overwhelming for me to approach.

If you’re the kind of person who specializes in doorstopper books like this, please do your reviewers the kindness of making sure they have the proper background to give your works the time they deserve.

Do: Send periodic emails to confirm that reviewers’ contact information in your database is up to date

You don’t even have to do it that often! Once a year, or even twice a year if you’re feeling particularly diligent, is enough. Sending a quick mass email to the book bloggers you work with accomplishes a number of things:

  • It lets you confirm which bloggers are still active and open to receiving future books.
  • It lets you ensure that you’ve got the right email and mailing addresses on file.
  • It reminds your bloggers that you exist, in case they’ve subscribed to a lot of mailing lists and need help wading through their inboxes.

Do: Give reviewers the option of receiving ebooks

Writing reviews means reading books, which means crowded, teeming bookshelves. Especially since many ARCs explicitly state on the cover that they are not meant for resale. Let’s reduce the clutter and save on the number of trees that need to be cut down, hm? My tiny, tiny office thanks you.

Optional: Provide a hi-res file of the book cover

I’ll be honest and say this is something I’ve never received from a publisher or author when reviewing their book, but it would be nice. I like posting a copy of the cover alongside my review. Since I may not be able to scan the cover myself, this means I normally download a copy either from the publisher’s website or from Goodreads — which means the image quality can be unpredictable.

Different reviewers may have different guidelines in place for how they want to interact with book publishers, but I think this list of recommendations is a good start. Most importantly, building a successful relationship with book bloggers depends on keeping the lines of communication open. Over time, you’ll develop professional relationships you and your reviewers can be proud of.

Christina Vasilevski is a writer and editor by day and a slush reader, book blogger, cat petter and tea drinker by night. In addition to reading slush for Lightspeed Magazine, she reviews books at www.booksandtea.ca. She lives in Toronto with her husband, her mother, two cats, and a truly ridiculous amount of tea.

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