Writer’s Resources #4 – Working with Book Bloggers

Writer's Resources #4 – Working with Book Bloggers

From my own experience and from talking to other writers, self-promotion can be one of the most anxiety inducing aspects of getting your work published. Even if you publish with a major house, the likelihood is that you will be expected to do at least a little bit of your own promotion. If you work with a smaller press or self-publish, the pressure to self-promote is even higher. 

    These days online promotion forms a large part of an author’s publicity campaign. At the centre of this are book bloggers. These beautiful individuals facilitate cover reveals, reviews, interviews … the components of an online tour. But for authors who do not have a publicist to organise things for them and maybe feel a little uncomfortable asking bloggers to feature their book – where do you begin? 

    My own experience is a little bit on the fly right now. I’m currently organising the cover reveal for my own first novel (yay!), but last Spring I put together a multi-blog charity event called the #QueerYA Blogathon. It did teach me a lot about working with bloggers, approaching bloggers and putting together information. I’m still eternally grateful to the bloggers I worked with, who put up with late information and last minute shuffles!  But when I first came up with the idea for the event, I almost didn’t run it out of fear. I was afraid that no bloggers would agree to work with me and that none of the authors I approached would want to donate their books or fill out interview questions. What I found instead was that by asking politely, some really amazing people agreed to work with me. 
     
Organising a blog event is a lot like querying. You’ll get acceptances, rejections and no-responses. The crucial thing to remember is that like agents and editors – bloggers are individuals with individual tastes and a schedule to maintain. A refusal is usually not personal and there will be blogs out there to match your book! Even for a charity event – a lot of blogs did say no to me. Sometimes people are just too busy to help. Do your research. Chances are, if your work has been accepted for publication – you are very familiar with the ins and outs of the querying process. You also have to keep in mind that most bloggers are maintaining their blogs as a hobby, often in addition to writing and a full-time job. They simply don’t have time to keep up with all the requests. 

If you find the idea just too daunting (try it! Really, it’s not as scary as you think it will be), it is possible to hire a blog tour company to do the organising for you. 

    For the purposes of this blog post, I’ve asked a few bloggers to share their feelings on how authors can best approach them and what makes authors good to work with!

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Questions for Our Guest Book Bloggers

         Jen at Pop Goes the Reader

1) How do you feel about being approached by authors with review or cover reveal requests?

Every blogger will have a different stance on hosting cover reveals and receiving review requests. An author's best bet is to become well-acquainted with a blogger's review policy. 95% of bloggers have one listed somewhere on their blog, and this will typically outline their feelings on the subject, including whether they're currently open to review requests, what type books they typically like to read and review, and how they feel about other types of promotional posts like guests posts, cover reveals, etc. Reading this will also help you familiarize yourself with the blogger in question, so that when you DO reach out, you can personalize your request and increase your chances of being accepted. Let a blogger know why your work is right for THEM. In regard to HOW to approach them, formality is always best. Contact them using their blog email, which should also be listed somewhere on their site. Unless you know them personally and/or consider them a friend, it's best to avoid pitching your work on other avenues like Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, etc. Personally, I'm happy to host cover reveals, and have done so on a number of occasions, primarily for close friends. One thing that will determine whether or not I reveal a cover is exclusivity. I will only host a cover reveal if I'm the only blogger tasked with doing so. I'm not willing to enter a cattle call or 10-20 other bloggers all vying for the same role. This is primarily from a marketing standpoint – When a cover reveal can be found on six, seven, or even twenty blogs, it can be more difficult for an author to promote. Which blog do you direct people to? If your reveal can be found in one central location, it's easy to point out where it can be found and to track how popular/successful the post in regard to page views.

2) What makes an author good or bad to work with?

I think there are a number of things that can make an author great to work with. First, kindness is always key! Recognize that the majority of bloggers you work with are passionate and care deeply about what they do, and are choosing to dedicate their time, energy (and often funds) to help support you and/or promote your work. A simple 'Please' and 'Thank you' go a long way! Second, participation! Don't expect the blogger to shoulder 99% of the burden of work. Even doing something as simple as supplying a blogger with what they'll need for the bare bones of the post (i.e. Author photo, Book cover, Synopsis, Author's social media links, etc) is a spectacular help! Third, promptness! If your guest post or cover reveal is set to go live on Monday, don't wait until Sunday night to email all the documentation for the post. As a rule of thumb, earlier is always better, as it allows a blogger ample time to code and schedule the post. Finally, enthusiasm! Why should a blogger be excited about your work if you aren't? Is this the story of your heart? A passion project? A message you've always wanted to impart? Let them know that you're proud and excited about what you're created and why you think they should be or might be, too. Enthusiasm can be infectious and can inspire a blogger to work a little extra harder on something for you.

3) What's on your personal book wish list? These can be real titles or totally hypothetical.

Again, this will DEFINITELY vary from one blogger to the next. Some won't read books with love triangles of any kind. Others won't read books without a happily ever after. Some won't read books with 'unlikeable' characters (However they choose to define that). Reading through a blogger's profile and learning which books they have loved (and championed) in the past might give you an idea of what they're looking for. That said, it never hurts to approach them and take a shot. There's an exception to every rule, and I've learned next to say "I will never read that!" What didn't work for me in the hands of one author might work splendidly for me in the hands of another. It's important to remember that your voice is your own and no-one, no matter how similar a concept might seem to your own, can write the same story that YOU can. The worst thing that a blogger will do is either ignore your review request or politely decline.

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     Daniel at The Blogger's Bookshop

 

1) How do you feel about being approached by authors with review or cover reveal requests?

I honestly don't mind authors approaching me with review or cover reveal requests. I find it to be quite humbling that an author would choose me out of hundreds to do justice to their work. However, I find there is definitely a way to approach it. I've had some lovely authors in the past who have approached me kindly, with respect. However I have also had some vague emails referring to me as simply 'blogger' and then attaching their book automatically as if demanding I do this ASAP, without consideration of my review schedule or my feelings on the book. This is not how to approach a person. If authors are polite and considerate, then I will definitely regard their request, even if I'm not able to fulfil it.

2) What makes an author good or bad to work with?

As aforementioned, if an author is kind and polite then they are a pleasure to work with. I also admire authors who are willing to go above and beyond for their bloggers in terms of answering questions in regards to their book. Obviously they understand their book the best, I don't think it's fair for authors to assume we can do their books justice without sufficient information and research. What makes an author difficult to work with is when they are not willing to assist you and just leave you to it so to speak. We can't be made to know everything, unfortunately. I so find that authors have to admire the effort and time we put into blog posts. It's not easy, nor a full time job. For me it's a hobby. Authors need to respect that. I've had authors in the past who have approached me, I've accepted but then later had to cancel the agreement due to the fact they have just assumed I will drop everything at a hat to promote their book because that's and I quote "all that bloggers are good for." It's just unacceptable.

3) What's on your personal book wish list? These can be real titles or totally hypothetical.

Whats on my personal book wish list? Oh lots of books. I couldn't even give you a list because I'd be here forever. However my bookish wish list does consist of the following genres: contemporary, fantasy, dystopia, science fiction.

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   Nori at Read, Write, Love

1) How do you feel about being approached by authors with review or cover reveal requests?

I almost always love it when authors approach me with review or cover reveal requests! I will say this- most book blogs have a strict review policy, and it is important to read that before sending a request. As far as cover reveals, I haven't gotten many requests for those, but please, send them my way! 🙂 I love being able to help out with cover reveals.

2) What makes an author good or bad to work with?

Here are some tips on being 'good'

1. Talk to the blogger about your/their expectations. It is important that you both know what to expect so that there aren't any miscommunications.

2. Answer your emails! Please, please, check your email frequently. Bloggers often have questions for authors and it can be frustrating if the response comes a week or two later.

3. Be personable! I adore it when authors aren't afraid to show their personality. I promise, most bloggers don't bite. You don't have to be scared and send us a super formal email. (Please note: this depends on the blogger- check their review policy to make sure you send them whatever information they request)

4. Keep in touch! If you start talking to a blogger about one book and then find out some awesome news concerning another book, let them know! I love it when authors stay in touch and let me know what's new with their books.

What's on my personal book wish list?

Hmmmm that's a tough question. I'm going to change the question slightly and list some topics that I LOVE reading about, because I can't figure out how else to answer. 😛

Faeries ~ Unicorns ~ Magic ~ Best Friends Falling in Love ~ Happy Ever After ~ Psychological Twists ~ Friendship ~ Gritty Contemporary ~ Fluffy Contemporary ~ Fantasy ~ Anything Unique!

To be honest, I will read (and enjoy) almost everything. The only genre I don't read is erotica.

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Mila at The Book Dreamer

1) How do you feel about being approached by authors with review or cover reveal requests?

I love it! I think it's great if an author chooses me for that. Writing a book and promoting it is a lot of work, so it means the world when an author trust I'll be a good choice for her/him.

2) What makes an author good or bad to work with?

Well, that depends on the person. What I like it's not the same of what other bloggers/reviewers like, but I prefer it when authors can be profesional and accept that I have opinions of my own. If I dislike their work for a certain reason (I always try to be respectful though) I hope they can understand it's just my opinion and that I won't love their book even though I have chatted with them. I've had experiences when authors kept watch of every comment and new review I made, fearing that every time I disliked something I might say something bad about them, even though I was discussing a completely different work.

3) What's on your personal book wish list? These can be real titles or totally hypothetical.

 I'll be honest, I have over three hundred titles on my wish list right now, and mostly are fantasy books. I have Miss Mayhem, the sequel to Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkings, Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. As for hypothetical… I'm not sure, I always wish there were certain ideas made into books!

A Year Written – Mental Health and Starting to Write Again

This is a very personal blog post for me. 

I started writing again a year ago – in late August 2014 – after a break of several years. I had been enrolled in a PhD programme, and writing of a different sort was my life. At least, that is how I justified the hiatus to myself. Before that, I was always scribbling at something. More often than not, I wrote fan-fiction, but I usually had an unfinished novella on the go somewhere. But for a period of almost three years, I didn’t do any creative writing at all.

 

Looking back at the time, I think that my break came as a result of severe depression. The inspiration to write, for me, has always come from life-highs and experiences. Unsurprisingly, I think I’ve written some of my best material on exotic family trips: times when I felt both a sense of wonder at the world around me and also deeply loved. Depression is insidious and it kills hope. For me at least, I think that internal sense of hope is integral to creating fantasy. It’s true that fantasy novels provide a form of escapism, but for me, when I’m not in the mind-frame to imagine something great, a place that’s a little bit magical … my writing falls flat. More than that, I stop reading for fun as well. It’s almost as if my mind finds one world enough, and puts the breaks on imagining yet another existence.

 

In August of last year, I made the extremely difficult decision to go on a medical leave of absence from my PhD. My health situation was dire. I’d gained 40lbs in a year, was taking multiple types of anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications, and I suddenly found myself on the verge of developing diabetes. I lost interest in my PhD and convinced myself I wasn’t smart enough to finish. During my leave, I was adamant that I wanted to try something else. I couldn’t distinguish anymore whether the PhD made me depressed or my depression made me miserable while doing the PhD. I felt I needed to get some perspective on that key question.

 

So, I got a virtual internship working for a NYC based literary agency. I loved it. Reading queries, reading partials … there was something thrilling about the potential to discover something great. And I read a lot of truly excellent work by the agency’s current clients. Doing that internship got me reading again, and once I got reading, it wasn’t long until my creative juices started to flow again.

 

My first manuscript of 2014 was a disaster. I tried to write a MG Novel from the perspective of four different protagonists, all in 3rd person. I tried to polish it, tried to query it, but I could never bring the book together in the way that it really needed. I found the 3rd person style too impersonal, and trying to get inside the mind of 11-year-olds just wasn’t happening for me. The manuscript read like YA. But YA that has been stuffed in a tiny box and is oozing out all over the sides like muffin-batter. Lovely.

 

So after a few months battling the slush pile, I scrapped the manuscript and knocked it up as a learning experience.

 

Then, I wrote another one. This one was different. I wrote 1st person. I wrote it as YA ,with a single protagonist. I based the world on a place that was magical to me: Africa, and I let that feeling of the fantastic carry me through the first draft. Immediately, my CPs noticed the difference. I finished Unicorn Tracks in January, and in March, I got an offer from Harmony Ink in March, and my first novel will come out next year!

 

Since then, I’ve settled into a new job – working with books 😀 Lots and Lots of Amazing Books 😀 😀 So, the pace of my writing has slowed a little. I’ve started working on a YA fantasy trilogy, and am nearly done writing the first book. I’ve recently finished a novella manuscript, and am now in the daunting stages of having to enter the query hell again …

 

Possibly the most important thing is that for me, this urge to write and create is a sign that my overall sense of wellness is coming back. I feel like a person again, with an imagination and dreams. I’m still recovering, and I have down days and weeks. But I do feel like my brain is putting up a fight, and that fight is worth everything.

 

I’m in the middle of writing my dedication and acknowledgements for Unicorn Tracks. While the acknowledgements are nearing completion (and longgggg), I’ve really struggled with the dedication. I have amazing friends, an amazing relationship, amazing family … all of them are in the acknowledgements pages. But for the dedication I’m writing one to all the people who struggle with depression, in the hope that they can also find the things that make them feel a little bit hopeful.