I'm far from being an expert, but I like to think I've learned a lot from those mistakes, and so when it was requested again that I write a post on how to deal with publishers and how to get into reviewing books, I thought I'd give it a go. Please take this post as a guide, not as a rule book! I'm not telling you what to do, just sharing how I do things.
Firstly, let's look at the generally accepted do's and don't's when it comes to publicists and review books.
What I'm about to tell you will help you to be successful in getting books to review, but you don't need to follow these tips. The fun thing about having a blog is that you can do what you like with it. This is just a guide made up of comments I've seen around the blogosphere and my own mistakes and experiences.
- DON'T email publishers asking for a book that was published ages ago. You can try and they might send it to you, but chances are you'll be ignored and you'll just make yourself look cheeky, like a Nando's. Heh. What I'm trying to say is that, if you want a book that has already been published but hasn't already been offered to you for review, you should probably just buy it. It's easier, quicker, less cringe-worthy, the industry gets money and you get your book. Or you could go to the library! Edit: Apparently publishers in the US love sending backlist titles! Unfortunately, that's generally not the same here in the UK.
- DO be polite. When talking to a publicist, whether you're asking for a book or whether they've just offered you something, remember that you represent your blog and your readers. Also, publicists are lovely, generous people and deserve to be treated with respect. And if they're not lovely, because there are a couple who like to take advantage of bloggers, you should still be polite and professional. I think that goes without saying, to be honest.
- DON'T ask other bloggers for their contacts. Once, a blogger who had only started their blog the day before sent me a message asking if I could give them the email addresses of all the publicists I speak to. This is wrong on many levels.
- DON'T ask authors for review copies. I used to do this occasionally and I am physically cringing just remembering it. Something I didn't realise in my first year or two of blogging was that authors get a very limited number of their own books. If they want extras, they have to buy them - just like us! Asking an author for a review copy of their book is basically saying look, I want your book, but I don't want to pay for it. Ouch. (Of course, this is different if they themselves are offering you one.)
- DON'T do the whole emotional blackmail/passive aggressive thing. If you see lots of bloggers getting a review book that you would also love to review but you haven't received, just tweet/email the publicist and ask, or buy it when it's published. Don't tweet them lots of sad faces or say that your day has been ruined and you think you might quit blogging because you don't have the book. Just ask. Are there are spare copies available? I'd love one to review! No worries if not though. I know it's embarrassing. I've been blogging for nearly a decade (#old) and I still feel shy and awkward about it, hence I don't do it often.
And please don't start a blog just so you can get free books. Sure, it's cool, exciting and the novelty for me still hasn't worn off, but if getting free books is the sole reason for you starting a blog then you might want to rethink your life choices. Blog because you love it. Read because you love it. It's obvious when someone is just in it for the freebies and it gives all of us a bad name, so please think carefully about approaching publicists for review books. Another tip - don't contact loads at once. You'll be quickly overwhelmed, trust me!
So, now we've covered that, how do you actually get on mailing lists in the first place?
Back in the day, I would scour publisher websites for hours, tracking down generic marketing email addresses. I would then send a quick email in the hopes that I had the right address, explaining who I was, asking if they had a blogger mailing list and, if so, please could I be added. I also asked that, if I had emailed the wrong person, I would greatly appreciate it if they could pass on my email to the correct department.
I don't do that anymore because, firstly, I don't need to and, secondly, effort.
These days, you can send 'em a tweet or wait for them to advertise that they're looking to add bloggers to their mailing lists, although not all publishers do the latter. They will probably then ask you to email some details. Here's the very, very important bit: do not spam them.
"But, Amber, what do I actually have to include in the email?" I hear you ask.
Now, what I include might not be the norm - who knows? - but it's never failed me. Ever. So here we go.
- Full name and address
Saves them having to ask, and saves you having to provide it every time you request a book. Simples.
For this I include my average monthly page-views, my follower count across my blog and all relevant social media, and sometimes my DA (Domain Authority) depending on whether I'm talking to a publisher or a PR company. If you have a YouTube channel, you can also include stats for that.
- Book preferences
Do you like YA fiction? Adult? Non-fiction books about cooking, or wild dystopians? Let them know! Then they have a general idea of what you might be interested in hearing about.
And now for a little bit of myth-busting.
- Someone tweeted me the other day asking how I get review books, because she thought they were only available for people in the US until she watched my videos. If there are publishing houses based in your country, there's no harm in seeing if they'll let you onto their mailing lists, and review books certainly aren't just available in the US. I know bloggers in Ireland, South Africa and Australia to name a few, and there's a huge blogging community in the Philippines - they all have review books available to them!
- You don't need a certain amount of followers or views to get review books or to be noticed by publicists. There are other things, like blog tours and giveaways, which you might need certain numbers for, but generally for review books publishers approach people based on quality, not quantity. Although, obviously, good stats are helpful.
This is a massive topic so hopefully I've covered the key points, but if you have any questions feel free to comment or tweet me @MileLongBookS. If you're looking for more blogging tips and tricks, click here!
Just a quick note to say that I have a new Instagram account @themilelongbookshelf. I'd love it if you could give it a follow! For non-bookish, life-y photos, you can follow me @they_call_me_amber. And my July book haul went up on my YouTube channel a few days ago, so you can watch that here. Awesome. I'm off to paint my bedroom. Thanks for reading!