I recently found a bunch of articles I wrote for the now defunct Young Adult independent author blog, YA Indie. The posts are almost 2 years old now but a lot of the advice I gave is still relevant to indie authors. I’ll be re-posting most of my articles here for a while. Hopefully they can help some new self published authors out!
You can find more of my YA Indie articles here.
This is a bit of a catch all post to discuss the little things you should know about book blogs and bloggers.
We’re Nice People
I’m always shocked to hear authors say they’re nervous or anxious about contacting book bloggers. If you play by the rules (read review policies, don’t spam them, and are nice), we are usually pleasant to deal with even if we don’t accept your request. For a while there, I tried to direct authors to other places to find reviewers if I didn’t want to read their book or I didn’t have time for it. For a short time, I even started having free promotion on my blog for authors whose books I don’t accept.
But We’re Not Your Friends
Keep in mind we are semi-professional contacts. It’s pretty insulting to get an email filled with spelling errors, run on sentences, and typed all in lowercase letters. We can’t see you. The way you present yourself in words is how you present yourself to us. Not to mention the fact that you’re a WRITER. If you couldn’t summon the strength to write a semi-decent email, I hate to think what your book looks like.
We Are Busy
There have been many requests I would have liked to accept but I just didn’t have the time for. I know that sounds like a cop out answer but it’s true. I have so many books I’d like to read. I’m a sucker for cheap books so my room has tons of books I’ve bought, my Kindle is full of even more cheap/free books I want to read, and I work in a library. I’m sure other bloggers have the same problem. Too many books, not enough time.
Not to mention, some bloggers have plans for their blogs. They have events and features they want to do so they can’t pile more on to their plate. Don’t forget many bloggers have busy lives. Many bloggers are students, have jobs, or take care of their family. Some do all of that! You can see how time is a big problem for us. It’s really nothing personal if we turn you down. If we had infinite free time, I’m sure you’d get more ‘yes’ replies.
Negative Reviews Aren’t The End Of The World
Not everyone has the same taste in books or appreciates the same things. If a book has something that a reader hates (insta-love for example), the reader will hate it but another reader might love the book for that. Some people (like me) will look over ‘negative’ reviews to see exactly what the ‘problem’ with the book is. If it’s something small (insta-love, love triangle, blah characters), readers might be willing to overlook that if they’re interested enough in the story.
For example, I’m a story/plot girl through and through. A book needs to have a really good story for me to enjoy it. I’m willing to deal with just okay characters if the story is good enough. Reader Mary Sue loves deep and complex characters. If a book she reads doesn’t have them, she’s not going to enjoy it. I might though because it has a great story. I wouldn’t avoid the book simply because she gave it a bad review.
Here’s a little secret: as a reader, book buyer, and a book blogger I want to see some bad or negative reviews about a book. Your book isn’t perfect. No book is. Seeing only positive reviews for a book is a little fishy. I realize that you (probably) didn’t pay for positive reviews but that is the vibe the book gives off if there aren’t critical reviews of it. I’d like to know where a book fails or falls short. I want to know the flaws. I’d likely skip over a book if there aren’t any critical reviews of it. It’s just something to keep in mind when you read over your reviews.
If the negative reviews about your book are legitimate problems then of course they will hurt you. You need to know how to spell, know your grammar, know how to use words properly and all the other fun stuff that goes along with writing. Sorry but if you put out a book that’s filled with those type of problems you kind of deserve the negative reviews.
Bad Author Behavior Will Hurt You
If you want to get people to hate you, whine and complain about how reviewers “don’t get” you or how a reviewer is wrong. You are absolutely allowed to be upset if someone hated your book and wrote a review. Just don’t vent or rant about it online. Things have a sneaky way of getting around.
The Follower Conundrum
When looking for a good blogger to send a review request to, you might be looking at how popular the blog is. You probably want to have your review on a popular blog because more people would see it. You would think that the number of ‘followers’ a blog has is a pretty good indicator of how popular the blog is. That’s not always the case.
I’ve seen many book blogs that seem to have hundreds and even thousands of followers for no apparent reason. They might post 3 reviews a month and that’s it but they have tons of followers. How it that possible? These blogs tend have contests quite often and to enter you have to be a follower. They might have “followers” but how many of these people are actually reading what the blogger posts? Not many people. There are also the bloggers who do follow-for-follows. They will follow a blog if the blogger returns the favor. That might produce nice numbers but once again are the “followers” actually readers?
Then there’s the obvious problem of popular blogs. They’re popular! They likely have many authors and even publishers asking for reviews. The blogger is going to be busy and have a much wider choice of review requests. I’m not saying they won’t review your book but you will have a lot of competition.
My advice? Look for bloggers who write quality reviews and don’t worry about how many followers they have. You might even try asking newer bloggers! I still find it extremely flattering when I get review requests. Imagine how a new blogger would feel to get his/her first (or second) request. Chances are their readership will grow so more people will eventually see your book. At the end of the day a review is a review, right?
You’re Allowed To Be Picky
Sometimes reviewers/bloggers will contact you for review copies. Exciting, right? Be a bit cautious because there are some people out there who are only in it for the free books. They request tons of books just to get books. They might eventually read the book and you may or may not get a review. Not the best use of a review copy.
There are other people who request books for books that aren’t right for their blog. Does a contemporary YA romance really belong on an epic fantasy book blog? You’re really missing your audience. Yes, you’re more than welcome to give review copies to who you want but you can say ‘no’ as well. Think of review copies as your advertising budget. You think hard about where you want to post your ads, right? You don’t post them everywhere because it’s not effective. If you’re seeing many people wanting review copies, consider doing a free promotion or a giveaway instead.
Be Careful When You Compare
When authors pitch their books to bloggers, they tend to compare their book to other books. If an author has an action-adventure book, they might compare it to the Percy Jackson series or Harry Potter. If they have a paranormal romance, they might compare it to Twilight. In some respects, these comparisons are helpful because they’re a quick and easy way for a reader to know if a book is right for them.
The problem tends to happen when the book doesn’t live up to expectations. Think about it, you’re setting incredibly high standards for yourself. That’s fine to do but you had better be sure your book lives up to what the readers are hoping for. You might have disappointed readers otherwise. Instead you should try making little comparisons . If your book has mythology aspects you could say something like “XYZ takes the mythology of Percy Jackson.” You’re not comparing your whole book to Percy Jackson, just the mythological aspect. That tells me your book is going to have mythology but not the sense of humor of Percy or the action of the series. I as a reader want to know that. It gives me a completely different set of expectations so I likely won’t be disappointed.