If, like me, you have difficulty waiting for something to happen, you need some form of busy work. I already discussed why this shouldn’t be about trying to merge promo with all your usual social outings and also not seeking out questionable paid services that may net you nothing, so I would like to go over one thing you could be doing instead: sending book review requests to bloggers. I’ve done this in smart ways, and I’ve done this in dumb ways, and here are a few generally reliable tips.
Pre-compiled review blogger lists
If I’m not using a list compiled in someone’s blog post or on a website, I’m using Google and trying to remember whether or not I already sent something to that blogger. I’m also concerned my search terms aren’t the best, regardless of how many permutations of search term I try.
There are pre-compiled blogger lists on some sites. The Book Review Directory is the one I most recently used, which tries to keep up-to-date and also divides the list into subsections. I crawled along Fiction – Fantasy for a couple of days last week.
Check the time of the list’s last update
I’ve noticed there’s quite a turnover in the book review blogger world. It makes sense to me. Thousands upon thousands of writers, self-published or not, flood the field with review requests in the desperate hope of getting some positive attention, some more Amazon or Goodreads reviews, whatever.
The other thing is, it’s not like you want a set number of reviews before stopping. You want as many as you can get. That means no matter how many book review bloggers spring up, I don’t foresee there ever being too many for the insatiable hunger of today’s writers on the internet. If a hundred new book review blogs came up that didn’t immediately rule out my submission, it just means I have 100 more requests to send, which could take me a couple of days.
But my point is, a new book review blog opens for submissions, they get swamped, the reviewer has a job or jobs or school and work; life suddenly gets busy, and at some point they may re-evaluate whether they really have the time and energy to run a book review blog. They close for submissions, and maybe they never catch up with that backlog, and maybe the blog doesn’t ever become active again. The only obligation anybody has to keep a blog running is an obligation to one’s own feelings, which can shift at any time.
As a result, if your top search result is a handy list that was written in 2010 and hasn’t been updated since, prepare to encounter a lot of broken links or closed blogs. The ones that stuck around are probably listed on a newer such directory/masterpost.
Google lets you specify how recent you need the search results to be. I found that one list I used from 2015 was still okay, but I didn’t try anything older than that. Once you’ve run your initial search, find the tab that reads “Search Tools” and click that. You should then see three new drop-down menus reading “Any country”, “Any time”, “All results”, because that’s the default setting. I clicked on “Any time” and chose “Past year”. If you want to expand the time frame you can enter a custom range.
Be careful with your default email
If you write a personal email for every book review request, you’ve avoided this problem, instead opting for the problem of taking longer to send out large numbers of requests. And you’re probably right, but being eternally impatient, instead I have advice for people on how to carefully manage their Default Email. That should be the one you only dare use whenever a blogger simply says they’re open to submissions, but doesn’t have a form on their site, or any content that otherwise narrows down the few things they want to see in their email.
If they have an outline or numbered list of things they want to see in an email, follow that. They’re handing you a guideline on what they want to see, and just give them what they want. They suggest that format for a reason, and they’ll appreciate it. If they aren’t specific at all, they’re going to get your Default Email.
That said, make sure the Default Email gets tweaked every time in any way it needs to be. Look at one I’ve used recently, with mixed success:
When a young woman named Chandra takes the throne under suspicious circumstances, she has to solve the deaths of the King and Queen before those responsible get to her. She has to maintain peace in an empire where people consider her the number one suspect.
Derek is summoned by an official letter and his people’s tradition to be Chandra’s personal guard. He’s immediately suspicious given that her family ruined his once-noble ancestors, but if there’s no way to escape the world’s largest empire, what might he do to turn the tables?
The first of a trilogy, but the only one published so far. “The Crown Princess’ Voyage” has been written but the plot arc of the first book should stand more or less on its own.
The things I put in bold up there are things that need to be regularly changed or omitted. If the blogger doesn’t specify what format they like, I don’t enclose anything, and I leave that second bolded phrase intact. I may leave that second bolded phrase in there no matter what, because maybe someone’s about to inform me that my usual .mobi attachment is corrupted, and I just want them to know I have it available in different formats.
I don’t have enough spare paperbacks to mail free to just anybody anymore, but during my first ever reviewer sweep I did mention that as an option.
Get used to time frames of over a month
If you have a good reason to specify a hard review deadline, then you have to work with that and you have to let the reviewer know what time frame you have in mind.
If, like me, you really do just need more reviews and you’re flexible on the time, and someone says “it sounds interesting but due to my queue it may be 2 or 3 months, is that okay with you”, the correct answer is yes, 100% of the time. Reviewers take a long time because it’s necessary, they’re not doing it to inconvenience you.
This is why one of your first blog reviewer sweeps may happen when the book’s not even out yet, when you want to time the review to its release or shortly afterward. I tried that, with less luck than I’m having this time around. Some blogs don’t actually want a submission unless it’s an Advance Review Copy; I recall at least one reviewer wanting nothing older than a year, which means I was potentially there in the nick of time
When a blogger politely declines, politely thank them for getting back to you
It helps them to know that even if you used your Default Email quite a lot, you’re not a bot or a script. It might build rapport for the future. Also, some blogs offer promo options other than reviewing your book, and it helps not to rule that out. Maybe they’ll offer you a guest post, or an interview, or depending on whether you’re comfortable with that, a giveaway. Getting reviewed just happens to be the opportunity you were pursuing first. In my most recent reviewer run, I’ve had two of these “positive declines”. One blogger wants to know if I’d like to do any other type of promo, and another mentioned my book in great detail in his podcast free of charge.