Book Review Query Etiquette

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I was on Twitter last week when this caught my eye: “Writer sends messages to strangers on FB asking for 5* reviews.”

Of course, I clicked on the link (how could I not? I had to know who this person was, going around the internets asking folk for 5* reviews and to see if this method was working so that I could maybe employ this strategy for myself )and discovered author Terry Tyler’s blog. Her post had me in stitches. Sidenote: I am having a lot of trouble spelling “stitches” this morning and my spell-check is going haywire. But I digress.

Anyhoo, in the post, Terry talks about the brilliance the nerve of this author trying to solicit reviews from people who may not have even read their novel. You can read the post in its entirety here, but here’s what had me in stitches:

I have a HUGE but important favor to ask PLEASE!!! If you haven’t already: Could you PLEASE do a 5 Star review of ***name of book**** and maybe corral a few others? During this year I’m going to seek an agent to help me land the elusive book deal. I’m really trying to bump up the current 4.6 Amazon stars to 4.8! Thus I’m shamelessly networking for 5* reviews with a minium of 20 words from you and anyone else who has an Amazon account.

*Faceplants*

Folks, I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I thought “Is this how the kids are doing it nowadays?” Forget forging meaningful relationships with other bloggers who might read your book and recommend it to their friends or worse (gasp!) querying bloggers based on the genres they like and politely requesting a book review. Is this what’s going on nowadays?

Of course, this got me thinking about plain ole etiquette. I was contacted recently by a stranger on Goodreads who asked me to send out a message recommending his/her book to all of my friends. And someone else recently sent me an unsolicited email (not a personalized email, mind you) with (I’m not making this up), an attachment full of promotional material for their book. The person thanked me in advance for helping to “make this upcoming release a success!” What I wanted to say: “Excuse me, honey, but the last time I checked my name was not Boo Boo the Fool.” What I actually said? Nothing. I deleted the message.

We are all pursuing the same dream. I want reviews and promo for my novel just as much as the next gal, but do you see me going around all willy-nilly, asking folk for 5* reviews, or for them to recommend my novel to their friends, or sending you, my dear blogger friends, unsolicited attachments with my author photo, book cover, and blurb with the expectation that you’ll promote the novel for me because you’re too afraid or nice to say no? No, ma’am! (But I can if you want me to…)

I think that if you’re going to query people for reviews you don’t necessarily have to grovel (unless it’s specified in the blogger’s review policy). All you have to do is be professional and courteous.

Here are a few simple guidelines:

1. Address the blogger by name. Dear “You” or “Hey there” just won’t cut it.

2. Know the genre(s) the blogger reviews! This takes some time and research but if someone specifically states “no horror” please don’t send it.

3. Be nice! Even if someone doesn’t review your book after one query doesn’t mean that they won’t review another book of yours down the line. And if you were a real a-hole to them during your correspondence, consider that a bridge burned.

Here’s a sample, no-frills book review query letter:

Dear (insert blogger’s name),

I recently found your blog on ___________________ and see that you are currently accepting book review requests. Would you be interested in reviewing my novel, _________________?

Here is the blurb (copy and paste blurb).

If interested, I’d be happy to send the novel as (insert format: mobi, epub, PDF, print copy, etc).

Thank you for your time,

Your name.

Helpful tip: don’t attach anything to the email unless the reviewer specifically asks you to do so in their review policy.

Also: make sure you check if the reviewer is closed to book review requests. No sense wasting your time sending a letter if they aren’t actively seeking books to review. They normally state this in the review policy section of their blog. Another thing that might help: if the reviewer has a blog, check to see when their last post was. If they haven’t posted since 2012, there’s a good chance that they are no longer maintaining their blog.

Sound easy enough, right? What about others? Has anybody else gotten any crazy review or promo requests? How do you go about querying for 5* reviews, I mean um, book reviews?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*There are MANY review groups on Goodreads where authors can post book review requests. Some are peer review groups and others have forums where you can post your request and people who are interested respond. Some of the groups are even genre specific. This is a great way to get reviews!*

 

 

 

 


34 thoughts on “Book Review Query Etiquette

  1. Pingback: How to Get More Book Reviews | Quanie Talks Writing

  2. Pingback: Best of the Web Book Marketing Tips for the Week of November 3, 2014 - Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

  3. Definitely go through this with the blog my sister and I share. We’re one of the few that accepted self published books that openly promote diversity, so I think that’s an invitation to many to start with a “This’ll be the best self pubbed book you’ve ever read” type situation.

    Many dont even read that for us to accept it, the main character has to be from a marginalized group. And when they do, they forget to mention that perhaps, while there may or may not be a PoC, a woman, a disabled, queer or otherwise non-default(I use default loosely) character in the book(basically we have to play “Where’s Waldo?” with these authors) they are indeed to push the main character’s story forward and nothing else.

    So few address you, and we get it. Being an author can make a person selfish. Writers want people to like their as much as they do, and do whatever it takes to get it in people’s hands. But that tends to do more harm than good!

    Im glad I see how others do it,so I can avoid that behavior at all costs when I release my work!
    Guinevere Thomas recently posted..Week Four of OUR Favorites, Day One:Favorite Authors- Emlyn Chand+ Ellen Oh’s Prophecy/Warrior & Sarwat Chadda’s The Savage Fortress/The City of Death giveaway!My Profile

    • Hi Guinevere,

      I think most of these problems can be alleviated if authors just read a blogger’s review policy. There’s so much ego involved (well, perhaps self consciousness masquerading as ego) and, as you say, “This will be the best self published book you ever read” type of attitude that people think that the rules won’t apply to them. There’s still a need to be friendly and professional because you never know when you will run across that person again. And the last thing you want is for them to say, “Aren’t you that crazy author that sent me fifteen messages in one day?”
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Never Pay an Editor or Book Cover Designer UpfrontMy Profile

  4. When I approach bloggers to review my MG novel, I always check if they are 1) currently receiving review requests, and 2) the type/genre they review. And it’s understood that their reviews are their honest thoughts.

    I have, on my end, received review requests as well. Some address me directly and are friendly. They ask. I check out their links/synopsis of their books, then reply. Some plonk the whole ‘Hi there, please consider reviewing my latest book … …. … Here’s the synopsis, and the cover, and the ebook …’ and I simply stop reading. It’s funny how the things writers/promo companies do can teach us what not to do during our own promotion. (Yes, promotion is tough and we get desperate. So we have to remind ourselves not to get THAT desperate.)
    Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books recently posted..Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!My Profile

    • How presumptuous of someone to send the book with the request! Come on, now! All of us are short on time but there is a proper way to do things. Imagine if you queried an agent and along with the query letter you sent the whole manuscript? Ain’t nobody got time for that! I think your approach to bloggers is right on the money. If they aren’t accepting book review requests, there’s no need to query them (I think that would land us on their “do not respond to” list).
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

    • They do! It’s mostly from people I don’t know, for some reason. I’m like, “How did you even find me???” I don’t normally take them on because I don’t want to get distracted from my primary goal, which is pursuing my own writing career and maintaining my blog and social media profiles (and I think book reviewing would just take up too much of my time). And besides, I’d hate to get harassed by some disgruntled author after leaving a less than stellar review! If I ever did decide to review books, I’d probably do it under a pen name, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  5. Yowza, that poor author! A hot mess, indeed. If I were them and I was seeking representation by an agent, I’d be concerned about potential agents and publishing houses discovering how I got those 5 star reviews. Their integrity comes into question as well as if they have really developed a loyal fan readership. Because if they’ve begged and solicited great reviews, those people are not likely to actually buy the author’s next book. True readers that genuinely love a book will typically buy that author’s future books. It’s a little old fashioned thing called building an author/reader relationship. It takes finesse and effort. It takes wooing and romance. Promises and the fulfillment of those promises. In other words, not a quick screw standing up in the back of an alley with a stranger! Take a girl to dinner first…sheesh.

    As always excellent points and advice Quanie! I need to put forth some effort with my Goodreads profile and make use of some of those forums.
    Faith Simone recently posted..Confessions of Faith: A Child, A Quarter and A Cheating ManMy Profile

    • You’re on a roll today! You’ve hit so many nails on the head it ain’t even funny. Building that relationship is truly important or at least building a relationship with people who trust you enough to recommend your books to their circle. But it takes time! Wooing and romance and not a quick screw standing up in the back of an alley with a stranger. Indeed! Two snaps in a “Z” formation, honey. Whomp!
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  6. …there is something seriously wrong with that person. O_o I mean, I hope someday I’ll be asking people if they’d like to review my book, but it’ll be people I’ve been chatting with on blogs for years, not just anyone. Gah! And you’re more disciplined than I might be for just deleting the messages; I would have typed back something scathing and made very very sure to click “Close” instead of “Send”.
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..Cracking the Magic MirrorMy Profile

    • I know! It’s crazy how bold people are nowadays. I seriously hope that I’ve never come across in any such way while communicating with people. Word of authors behaving badly tend to spread fast in this industry and who wants to be ostracized????
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  7. Argh, REALLY???? People are actually DOING this? Is it…working? I mean, if people keep asking I have to imagine that there are least a few idiots, um, I mean, fools, um, I mean, reviewers who are willing to give 5* reviews to total strangers that bear no relation to whether or not they liked the book. Ugh. I already wonder if a lot of Amazon reviews are garbage, but if people are doing this, I KNOW they are.

    Anyway, no, you’re no Boo Boo, (although I did laugh when I read that 🙂 ) Your ideas and suggestions are respectful, practical, and MAKE GOOD SENSE.
    Liz Blocker (@lizblocker) recently posted..Updates and SnippetsMy Profile

  8. I want to say that I can’t believe a writer would do this, but sadly I can. Last year, a writer I know told me how she received so many FB likes on her author page, and it was because she was messaging anyone and everyone she could (strangers, authors/writers she didn’t know) and asking them to like her page in exchange for the like she gave them. She told me to do the same. I politely told her I was going to get my likes the old fashioned way, but inside I was really appalled. She wasn’t earning those likes from people who really cared about her and her writing. She went from having the same number of likes as I did to close to 2,000! The furthest I went was to ask writers I got to know through my blog to like my page if they wanted to, but I wasn’t trolling Goodreads or other sites for FB pages to like and solicit. She may have a butt load more likes than I do, but when she’s published, how many of those people will really support her when they only liked her page to get a like back?

    As for the reviews, we all want them but there is a professional way to go about it. Now that this author’s secret has been revealed, I wonder if he/she has gotten a ton of 1 stars reviews instead…

    Your advice is spot on!
    Chrys Fey recently posted..Writing About: A Character Going CrazyMy Profile

    • I think that in terms of actual book sales, FB likes mean nothing! I think it’s a good way for other people to become aware that a page exists, and then there’s a slight chance that if they’re interested in what they see, they may support the author/business/etc., but that’s a slim chance. It’s like adding people’s books to your TBR shelf on Goodreads; your friends on Goodreads may see the books you’ve added, become aware of a book they may have otherwise never heard of, and if they like what the see, add it to their list as well (and hopefully, the cycle will repeat). I think it’s actually a great way for authors with little or no promo budget to get exposure. But in terms of those reviews: fake reviews fool no one! I’ve said it a million times: slow and steady wins the race. What matters for writers is that we keep writing and if we’re good, we’ll eventually get a good fanbase that will support our future books. I don’t think there’s a way around that.
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  9. Hi, Quanie,

    As many of us have found out, a writer’s job is never done.
    I have a book review blog and I find that the reviews never stop coming.
    For my own books, apart from asking people to leave a review if they have the time at the end of the book, I hardly ever make requests. Not a good way to operate, I know, but making those requests can come to feel like a job in itself.

    • Hi J.L., I was kicking myself for not adding an “if you like this book leave a review” note in my last release. I think some people may not even think about leaving a review but would be more than happy to if asked. And I can understand not wanting to make requests. It truly is a job in itself. To top it off, you never know if people will get back to you but waiting is part of the game sometimes. But who knows? Maybe we’ll be so successful that we never have to worry about reviews ever again because we’ll be so established that they come in by the thousands:)
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  10. Great post, Quanie! Etiquette is definitely needed when asking for any type of promotional support for our books–especially reviews. I think there’s an ongoing debate in the literary world regarding the validity of reviews (fake ones/real ones), and because of this, reviews aren’t being as highly regarded as they once were. And like you, I’d rather have 3 honest ones, than 300 hundred fake ones.

    Anyhoo, this was a great topic needing to be discussed. Thanks for sharing it. Also, I’ve been moseying around your sites trying to get to know you, and learned a lot. Happy to discover your debut novel. I like the book cover. The color scheme is vibrant and eye-catching. The premise of your book sounds hilarious. I love a good romantic comedy, so if your book is as funny as some of your reviews (real? not fake? LOL) say it is, then count me in. Consider “Jazzy” already added to my TBR.
    Demetria Foster Gray recently posted..Coming Soon: My Debut Novel!My Profile

      • Ha! Real? Not Fake? *insert evil laugh* LOL! Seriously though, I’m a firm believer in “slow and steady wins the race.” Even if I only get one review every few months I’d rather have that than fake reviews (okay, so maybe I don’t need to put that out into the atmosphere, the part about one review every few months, but you know what I’m saying). And I’m glad you like my book cover! As soon as your author page is up on Goodreads, definitely adding “Sifting Through Mud” to my TBR list! Definitely keep me posted on your release and let me know if I can help with any promo. Are you on Twitter? And I’m glad you liked the interview. Jazzy’s a hoot, I swear. I don’ know why she acts like that, lol.
        Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  11. Hi Quanie,

    Once again, it’s like you’re speaking directly to me. With my book release on September 17, I have been tearing through the internet looking for reviewers. I’m hearing a lot of people don’t respond etc. I am also finding people will review for money. It seems with such a large writing community that you should never have to pay to have someone review you, but I wonder if it’s worth it at all. I have yet to open the purse strings. I looked on Kirkus, they want approx. $500. I think for that price you shouldn’t have to ask for 5*, it should be a guarantee. 🙂 You are so right, it’s important to be polite and professional, and don’t react if it doesn’t go as planned. I saw someone say on RWA that she was approached to be interviewed, but the person didn’t really work with her genre that much, so she declined, she wanted to target her audience specifically. Isn’t any exposure better than none? What do you think about that?

    • “$500. I think for that price you shouldn’t have to ask for 5*, it should be a guarantee.” Ha! Agreed! You don’t have to pay for reviews, it just takes a little time to find reviewers online. There are many review groups on Goodreads (you just post that you’re looking for reviewers, the name of your book, the genre, and the format the book is available in) and people will respond if interested. You can also contact book bloggers directly. You can find them on Twitter, Goodreads, and other places online. I think that not everyone is a good fit for every book. When I was looking for reviewers for my first book, I specifically targeted reviewers who were looking for “chick lit” or “romantic comedies.” I think it’s a good idea to narrow down your list when you’re searching for reviewers. It’s better to contact people who are looking for work in your genre, but some reviewers may be open to anything. You’d just have to check their guidelines. And September 17? I’ve added the book to my TBR list on Goodreads. Can’t wait!
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  12. A Goodreads giveaway is a great tool for that–although you aren’t guaranteed a review. Only a percentage of the people who won my giveaway gave reviews. But you can’t really ask for 5-star reviews, only honest ones. I doubt this strategy was productive. The author’s friends and family may have done it, but not legit book reviewers. That said, now that I’m an author, I ALWAYS leave 5-star reviews when I like a book now, both on Goodreads and Amazon. I think getting your review on high-profile blogs is a good way to get the word out about your book, but does it translate to sales? I have rarely bought a book based on seeing it on a blog. Only once or twice. It does make me more aware of it, especially if it’s a high-profile book…but if it’s just one of the many book reviews I read every day on people’s blogs, 99.999999% of the time I will just leave a comment and move on.

    • I have heard of Goodreads giveaways being effective. It’s something that I definitely need to look into eventually. I think that most of the time, after bloggers post the review to their blog, they will also post to Amazon and Goodreads (although, I once had a reviewer tell me once that she doesn’t post to Amazon. I thanked her for her time and didn’t ask why).
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

      • Quanie, I did a Goodreads giveaway and it didn’t sell a lot of books but I got enough reviews that I felt validated, and a lot of peeps put it on their Want to Read list so you never know – that might pay off. I would do it again.

        • Hi Lynne,

          I’m thinking now that a Goodreads giveaway should definitely be on my to-do list. I think that getting people to put it on their TBR list is definitely a plus because then their friends on Goodreads will see it. Reviews are definitely worth it, even if you do have to give the book away for free to get them. I’ve added Dakota Blues to my TBR list, btw:)
          Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  13. Funny Quanie! And funnier, I just posted on the subject myself. Over the years I’ve seen so much regarding book reviews that today many stopped trusting 5star reviews to begin with. I can write a book on all I’ve come across… which on my end I have to pitch my own funny experience.

    Tell me why one day… and BTW I’ve only asked for reviews from professional groups, (I don’t ask for them at all anymore); so here goes one day when out of the blue I happen to see one of my books has its 2nd review! I was like, WOW, wonder who all on their own thought enough of this book to review it!?! Leading to “What the—!%!%!” Instantly I recognized who wrote the review, and instantly left this comment…(lol): “…first let me thank you for your review. Next, let me tell you (or ASK!), did I ask for this review? And to top it off, you gave me only four stars!!! Why you little !$?!&*!*! Later he told me he did that to balance my reviews/make it seem real.

    Wrapping this up: I primarily write reviews for the author, and read reviews for the entertainment. So, thanks for this post. As you might tell, I really enjoyed it!!!
    RYCJ recently posted..Promises, Promises, PromisesMy Profile

    • Bwa! “You only gave me 4 stars!” LOL! I will definitely check out your post on this subject. Seriously, it seems like everyone in the blogosphere is on the same page as of late. Must be something in the air. But anyway, I get requests for reviews ALL THE TIME. And I don’t accept them because I don’t want some disgruntled author stalking me online. This review business is not for the faint of heart, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

      • RYCJ, I received a lot of 5 star reviews for my novel. Most are from people I don’t know, and I didn’t ask for them. So I’m trusting them. What I don’t trust are when there’s a very small number of reviews and they’re overwhelmingly 5 star, cuz you know that’s all their family and friends.
        Lynne Spreen recently posted..A Boomer’s Painful RetrospectiveMy Profile

  14. Upon first reading this post I laughed, I wanted it to be funny, but it’s really not. I understand writers need to promote their work, but not this way. Amazon (I am sure of it) can figure out pretty quickly if you are gaming the system, and what author wants that in the long run?

    I guess to this writer, it’s a short term gain with long term pain. I’d personally “face the music” with a constructive “bad” review than have 40, 5* reviews. I doubt that it would change much in terms of book sales either.

    • I know! I read about something like that recently, where Amazon got rid of a whole bunch of reviews for that very same reason. It’s not worth it! I wouldn’t dare risk tarnishing my reputation for a review. I would rather have only 3 honest reviews than 300 fake ones. And people can spot them from a mile away. Not worth it if you ask me!
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

  15. Personally, I have found no one method that will get me reviews. I have politely asked bloggers and podcasters, asked fellow authors and said to those who buy directly from me “Hey, if you get the chance after you’ve read it could you please consider leaving a review?” With the bloggers and podcasters one of two things have happened: 1) Empty promises that went nowhere, and 2) No response. Fellow authors have either told me they were sorry, but didn’t really have time (understandable because they are writing too, but I appreciated their honesty) or said they would then never did. Customers are hit or miss, but still more reliable. I’ve honestly stopped asking people and have ceased looking for bloggers and podcasters since none of them will do it.

    I wish they would. I’ve become more than a little disillusioned with my genre (steampunk) because it seems as if blogs and podcasts only want to cover the Big Names who really don’t need anymore help to be seen/known. Even with the science fiction crowd I can’t get a break.

    I’ve thought that perhaps they didn’t like the book, and were being nice. That’s really no help. I’d rather get a bad review/rating so I know where I need to improve. Doing nothing doesn’t do me any favors.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. I can’t believe they’d want to cheat the system that way…but then maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

    • Hi Krista,

      Have you tried some of the groups on Goodreads? Many of them are genre specific and most of the time, you’ll find several people who would be willing to review for you. There are even some groups where people swap reviews, so if you’re interested in that you could take that route. In any event, it is very frustrating. I imagine that many bloggers/reviewers are inundated with requests so I think that the best method might be to build relationships with bloggers through social media and hope that when your book comes out, you can query them for a review. And in the meanwhile, keep writing, of course. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Best of luck to you and thanks for stopping by!
      Quanie recently posted..Book Review Query EtiquetteMy Profile

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