Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Guidelines for Approaching Book Review Bloggers

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Book review bloggers can help promote your book, so make sure you approach them in the right way.

Last time I talked about self-published book awards as one means to help build word of mouth and credibility for your book. Today I want to talk about another important method for letting readers know our book exists and (hopefully) that they’ll enjoy it—blog reviews.

I know blog tours have become a debated topic of late. Are they worth it? Aren’t they worth it?

I’m not talking about you running a blog tour where you do interviews and guest posts. I’m talking about approaching book review blogs to have them review your book.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll increase both your chances of a review and your chances of a good review.

Rule #1 –Research every blog you’re thinking of submitting to.

Is the blog still active? Do they review indie books? Do they review your genre? Have they given positive reviews to books similar to yours in the past?

These are all important questions to know the answer to before we submit. If they’re no longer active or they don’t review indie books or our genre, we’ve wasted our time and money in submitting to them.

As importantly, if we know their tastes, we’ll know whether our book would be a good fit for them. For example, if the reviewer tends to give negative reviews to books with a lot of violence and our book has a fight scene in every other chapter, we’re setting ourselves up for a negative review by submitting to that reviewer.

Rule #2 – Follow their submission guidelines exactly.

Most book review blogs have a page that tells you what they’ll review, when they’re open to receiving books, whether they accept ebooks or only print copies, what to send with the book, what to put in the subject line of your email, and so on.

Do what they say.

We’re asking them to do us a favor and to give up 10+ hours of their time to read and review our book. Most of them don’t make any money from their reviews. They do it because they love books. We need to be respectful of them.

Those guidelines are there to allow them to review as efficiently as possible, and if we ignore them, it’s a fast-track to rejection.

(P.S. In case it wasn’t clear, you will need to send the reviewer a free copy of your book. Don’t expect them to buy a copy.)

Rule #3 –Personalize your emails.

The advice given to authors who want to traditionally publish about personalizing each email they send to agents holds true for book reviewers as well. No mass mailings allowed.

When we email a book blogger, we should make sure we know and use their name and that we can say something about their blog. Perhaps we let them know about a review we appreciated or that we follow them on Twitter. Whatever it is, we need to say something to make a personal connection and show that we took the time to learn about them.

Rule #4 – Don’t make demands.

You’ll be able to tell either from the policies page or from the past reviews what a reviewer does for reviews. And that’s what we should expect them to do for us.

They’re already doing us a favor in reviewing our book, and it’s rude of us to then ask them to do more for us than they regularly do during reviews.

Let me give you an example.

Say the reviewer usually only posts their review on their blog and on Amazon. That’s what we know we’re getting if we submit to them. We shouldn’t ask them to also post on Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, and Shelfari, and on and on. It might seem like that won’t take long, but if they don’t already have accounts or aren’t already familiar with those sites, it can add extra time they don’t have onto the review process.

Another example would be demanding that they review our book within a certain time frame. They might have a hundred books ahead of us in line, and life and a day job besides. It’s unfair to specify a deadline.

Making demands like these hurts our chances of building a relationship. Good reviews and good reviewers are gold. We should do our best to make them want to review for us again.

Rule #5 –Don’t comment on the post.

Before we finish, I need to address the elephant in the room—the possibility of negative reviews.

Some blogs will give you the courtesy of contacting you to let you decide whether or not they post their review if it’s going to be unflattering. Not every blog will. Which means you need to weigh the risk vs. the benefit of sending your book out to book review blogs.

As self-publishers, we’re in an unusual position. Our books haven’t been vetted by an agent and then by a publisher. In a future post, I’m going to talk about the steps to take to make sure our book is as strong as it can possibly be before sending it out into the world, but the judgment call about when our book is ready falls on us. And we’re not objective.

So, sending our book out for reviews is always going to be a risk. The important thing to remember is that, if we do receive negative reviews, we should never reply. Don’t reply thanking them. Don’t reply arguing with them.

In fact, do not comment on the post at all, even if the review is positive. Book review blogs are a safe space for readers. We don’t belong there.

When the book review goes live, instead send an email thanking the reviewer for their honest review.

What’s been your experience with reviews? If you’re someone who regularly reviews books for others, what are your recommendations or pet peeves? 

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

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Both How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide and Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction: A Busy Writer’s Guide are now available in print!


  1. Fab feedback ~ great article! Thanks!

  2. Some very great points though on #5 I would argue on that one. On negative reviews definitely avoid posting a comment but on a positive review I love it when the author takes time to stop by and say thank you or I really loved the review and appreciate it. Maybe I'm the odd blogger out but I've got no problem with that at all.

    1. I'm sure many bloggers wouldn't have a problem with it. Thanking a blogger who's taken the time to read and review is a great idea because I know you all invest a lot of effort into it, but I personally think email is the better way. The real issue I see with posting at all is that then many blog readers will feel like they have to censor their opinions in case the book's author reads them. If review blogs are to stay a good source for honest discussion about a book, then they need to stay a safe place for readers. The point of #5 is really to safeguard that safe space. I hope that clarifies.

    2. I can see that but guess it just depends on the blog and how it's set up. Mine works with authors and general readers. I have authors that follow the blog and comment all the time and like that it's a spot for all of them. And those that follow know they can always say what they're thinking. But maybe it's just how mine is put together and the people who follow it.

    3. That's awesome to know, Anna, very validating; I try to always thank my reviewers 'cause I know how much time it takes to execute a thorough review - and also know it's a voluntary endeavor.

    4. Hi Anna, thanks for adding your thoughts. I have always thanked bloggers for their positive reviews and the bloggers have always told me they appreciated my engagement. More than one has commented that they wish more authors commented and engaged. I guess the answer to this one is, it depends on the blogger I

    5. Yep it can definitely depend on the blogger but I think it's awesome when authors engage. I think a lot of readers appreciate it as well. It's nice to get to know the people behind the books and know they care :)

    6. I agree with the email over a comment on the site, as one of the first things I think if an author thanks the reviewer is that the reviewer did them a favour. Was it reviewing the book? Was it giving them a positive review? If they want to retweet a review or sometihng like that, it seems fine to me, but directly engaging the reviewer publicly takes your "private" relationship and makes it public. THere's a reason why some sites demand any review note if they follow the person on social media, it looks like a conflict of interest.

  3. I cannot possibly take the time to read a book and NOT review it. If you want a gushing, positive review without fail do not come to me! I will however find at least one good thing in almost every book and will do my utmost to write civilly about even a book I find utterly repugnant.
    Thank you for mentioning the policy page.

    1. Thanks so much for adding to the discussion. I like your approach. As hard as negative reviews are to take, we can learn something from them, and really, it helps readers make an informed decision about whether a book is right for them or not. Just because I love my book doesn't mean it's the right book for everyone to read.

  4. This is excellent! Thank you for sharing this wisdom with others. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who need to read your post right now!

    1. Thank you. My hope is always to make the path easier for others :)

  5. Great tips! With my last release, I waited too long before seeking reviews. Most bloggers were booked a long way out or didn't review indie titles. This time I didn't seek reviews.

  6. I run a MG and YA book blog at and I have to say, I do love when the author comments on my review of a book. I agree with the part about personalizing emails. I've gotten a lot of emails that were obviously copy-and-pasted. I don't consider those requests nearly as much as I would a personalized email.

  7. These are all great points. Especially the personalizing your request. As a book blogger I know I automatically disregard the mass-email where the author doesn't even address me by my name. If I'm taking the time out of my life to read and then review then I want to feel acknowledged. If they can find my email address then it's not that much more work to find my name (it's all over my blog).

    I also like your point about researching the blogger. I don't review horror or religious type books and yet it seems like I'm regularly being approached by people who clearly haven't read my review policy.

    I think your point about not commenting is interesting.I like to be acknowledged.And whilst maybe commenting isn't the best way to show it - I want to know that the author has seen what I've said. It doesn't matter if it's a reply to the email I send with the link to the review, a like on twitter or goodreads or a comment - it is important me to feel like the author has seen my review. If I get some sort of acknowledgement it makes me much more likely to want a future relationship with the author.

    Kate @ Fictional Thoughts

  8. Great tips. The first four rules are true for approaching bloggers to ask for guest posts, too. 90% of the people who approach me asking to guest blog have never read the blog.

    And mass-mailings are almost always a turn-off. If you can't take the time to write a personal email, why would anybody take the time to do you a favor? Stuff like that makes more enemies than sales.

    Thanks for spreading the word, Marcy!

  9. I disagree wholeheartedly with #5.
    Instead #5 should be; In your pitch do not use the word free. Nothing is free in this world.

  10. Great post - I would disagree a bit with #5 though. I appreciate (and my readers appreciate) when an author comes to their post on my site and interacts. I just love it when an author takes the time to reply to the individual comments left by readers on my blog. And it makes me feel good that they took the time to visit my blog and read my review. Overall great post though - you touched on several things that I agree with as a book review blogger.

    Brooke from Brooke Blogs

  11. I have tended of late to drop out of the unsolicited reviews game as a blogger for three main reasons. I'll share them in case it helps others.

    First and foremost, I would get pitches that would follow some generic template (literally, someone was selling it), just as the tips above tell them not to do. The pitch opened noting that I was an Amazon reviewer (good), and that they had seen my review of a specific book (good), and wondered if I might be interested/willing to read their book based on the similarities. Which sounds great, right? Except the review they quoted was one of my first, a Janet Evanovich novel in the Stephanie Plum bounty hunter/mystery series (same exact wording in each template), and THEIR book was a steam punk / sex fantasy / scifi thriller. Umm...does anyone else hear crickets? The book had NOTHING in common with the review they were pointing to. Which is a REALLY bad way to pitch but also, even if it works, and I did read it, it would likely get a bad review. Not my genre, not my area, why would you think I might like it?

    Second, many of the books I received as ARCs were NOT ready for publication. I don't know if they had beta testers that weren't family members or their employee, but someone should have told them it wasn't ready yet. Bad writing. Bad punctuation. Bad formatting. I love the indie and self-publishing worlds, but for the love of books, please make sure your book is actually ready for release before you send it out into the world. I am a book reviewer, not your beta tester.

    Third, and this was a killer for me, I struggled with the personal side of the job. As a reviewer, my first duty is not to you as author but rather to a future reader. Probably one who is trying to decide if the book would be something they would like. I can even tell myself, as some professional reviewers do, that this is the ONLY duty.

    And if the book came to me from a company promotion, or a big corporate publisher, or even an agent, I would feel that was indeed the relationship. But that isn't how the book came to me. An author took a chance, reached out to me directly, asked me if I would review their baby, and they may not have ANYONE else saying yes. And so, because I'm not a monster usually, I found I was being a bit more generous or softer in my review. I was holding back a bit. Which means I'm not delivering on my PRIMARY duty to the other readers. I was compromising my reviewing integrity, so to speak, because I was worried that a harsh review might injure the author's career or feelings, I guess.

    I mention this not to say "get a thick skin" but merely to point out that just as you took your role as author seriously, so too does the reviewer. And the more personal your relationship becomes, the more blurred the lines are for them in reviewing your book. Respect their boundaries. They are reviewers, they are not your new BFF.


    1. Thanks PolyWogg, what a great summary of what book reviewers go through and some of the things you guys face. This is something all authors should print out and read every time they're ready to send out books for review.