I Heart Book Reviewers! (And why you should, too)

Targeting book reviewers is a great way to get exposure for your indie book, be it through blog tours or contacting them directly to read and evaluate your novel. These reviewers are in fact the drive behind so many self-published books’ success, and yet they are more often that not unpaid, and all too often unappreciated. Author Lauren Clark talks about her experience with book reviewers, and why we should ALL give them a little more R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Take it away, Lauren!


In May 2012, when Dancing Naked in Dixie was first released, I contacted a very popular e-reader website that offers free book reviews for Indie Authors. As you can imagine, the competition is fierce, reviewers are swamped, and a reply back can take several weeks.


I was fortunate. Shortly after submitting Dixie, a reviewer offered to read my novel in about eight weeks, meaning sometime in July 2012. I gave an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and waited for a response.


As it turns out, the reviewer really liked my novel. She wrote an excellent review and cross-posted to other sites. When I inquired about getting a feature on the site, I was told that I needed to speak to the “head” person, as she was JUST a reviewer.


This stopped me cold. Just a reviewer? Aghast, I wrote back…”What do you mean? I value the work and thought you put into the review of Dixie. I really appreciate the extra time and effort it took to post it on Amazon, BN.com, and GoodReads.”


Her response?  “You wouldn’t believe some authors.”


This really had me thinking. And worried. And wondering. Are Indie Authors being snobs? Divas, even? Is it possible? While I am certain that YOU are sharing the love and paying it forward, feel free to pass on these reviewer etiquette and appreciation tips to your friends or colleagues:


1. TARGET SMART – When seeking reviews of your novel or promotion on a blog for your new book, target the right sites. Don’t ask a YA/Paranormal blogger to read your ChickLit novel. Likewise, if you write romance, don’t target thriller-only sites. It helps to keep a list of bloggers on Google Docs or Excel to track your progress. I also set up daily Google Alerts using my author name and book title so that I don’t miss any mentions.


2. FOLLOW – When you find blogs that seem like a great fit for your novel, it’s helpful to follow them FIRST via email/RSS/Facebook/Twitter and request a review or interview later. Spend some time on the site, leave comments on posts you find interesting, and note which entries get the most traffic. It won’t take much time to discover whether your writing is really in tune with the blogger’s interests and personality.


3. READ THE FINE PRINT – If a reviewer says she is 3-4 months behind in her reading, don’t send a review request. Move on to the next blogger. If the fine print says .mobi version only, don’t send an .epub. Above all, only send the manuscript unless the blogger requests it.


4. MAKE IT PERSONAL – When you pitch a reviewer, explain why your novel is a good fit for this particular site. Read the blogger/reviewer’s bio. Did he adore Flat-Out Love and your novel is similar? Does she like pepperoni pizza? Have a favorite NFL team? Find something interesting that YOU connect with or admire and include it in your review request.


5. PROBLEM-SOLVE – For Dixie’s May 2012 release, I contacted 30 to 40 individual bloggers asking if they would be interested in reviewing my novel. Of those, ten people requested a paperback copy, which I promised by a certain date. When that release was delayed (My formatter had her baby early!) I immediately emailed those ten “hosts,” let them know the situation, and mailed them Dixie swag (bookmarks, postcard, etc) with a quick note as a thank you for being patient.


6. BE FLEXIBLE – Offer as many book formats as possible to potential reviewers (.mobi, .epub, .pdf) Be the author who gives extra and sends a paperback with swag or a note! If a reviewer has trouble uploading an ebook file to a Nook, Kindle, or iPad, consider gifting your novel via Amazon, BN.com, or iTunes.


7. WHEN LIFE GETS IN THE WAY – Even with the best planning and 100 confirmed reviewers or bloggers, stuff happens. Reviewers are people, too. They have families and jobs. That means that the occasional crisis will come up. My own reviewers have had parents die, children get sick, a few decided that they didn’t have time to read the novel. At least a few reviewers simply disappear or never reply after you’ve sent off your book. While none of this is desirable, it happens. Be gracious and move on.


8. PROMOTE – If a blogger reviews your novel or mentions your book in a positive light, do your part to promote your book! First, leave a comment on the blog and say more than ‘thank you.’ Be personable and point out something fun or unique about the post. Second, spread the word about the post with a Tweet, Pin, Facebook, email, or Google+.


9. BE SMART – Not everyone will love your book. Some reviewers will leave less than flattering comments about your writing, your characters, or plotting. Thank them anyway. Yes. Thank them anyway for taking time to read your work. Don’t defend your novel or argue. It’s not worth it. Concentrate your efforts on the positive reviews.  Besides, a fellow author once told me that a book with ONLY five-star reviews on Amazon looks kind of suspicious. I have to agree.


10. USE YOUR MANNERS – Some authors may disagree, but I think that if a reviewer likes your novel, it’s okay to send ONE quick email requesting a cross-post on Amazon, BN.com, or GoodReads. When you request this, use the reviewer’s name, mention your book’s title, and reference the topic or date of the blog post for easy reference. Always, always say please and thank you.


If a blogger can’t or won’t cross-post, or if they don’t answer you, do not send repeated emails. It’s bad manners. No one needs a reputation as a “Crazy-Stalker-Author,” right?


What are your thoughts on reviewer etiquette and appreciation? I’d love to hear what works for you!

Lauren Clark writers Smart, Sassy Fiction with a SouthernTwist. Her second book Dancing Naked in Dixie set in NYC & Eufaula, Alabama, is out now! Visit her at LaurenClarkBooks.com

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