Review books ARE NOT free.
Let me just get this out of the way and tell you, no, there are no such things as free books and if you start a blog to get “free” books you will fail miserably because people will just know that that is what you are all about. When I look at the amount of time I spend on my blog (I actually keep a log of how much time spent and what I did every day!), Twitter, reading, writing reviews, emailing publishers, I probably spend about 20-40 hours a week just doing bloggish things. 40 hours a week that I am NOT getting paid for. When I review a book, I take it seriously, I take notes about what I like and what I don’t, and I spend a long time writing up my reviews because I want people to appreciate my input. When authors/publishers send me review requests I research the death out of that book because I cannot accept something I know I won’t like. Which leads me into my next topic!
Don’t accept/request books you won’t like.
I feel like this should just be self-explanatory. If I get a review request for an adult fantasy novel, I will kindly decline to review their book because honestly it’s not my thing. I remember when I first started blogging and I got a lot of review requests for self-published books. Of course, in my excitement that an author wanted to give me a copy of her book FOR FREE so I could review it on my blog I immediately jumped at the chance without doing any of the proper research on the author or her book, and sat down to start it. It was horrible. A terrible, terrible book that had an incredible amount of spelling mistakes and a horrible plot line. You know what I did? I wrote a semi-positive reviewing thanking the author for sending it to me because I just didn't know how to write a negative review about a book that was given to me. I’ve regretted it ever since, because I feel like I’ve lied to my fabulous readers and since then I’ve been a lot more picky. Let this be a lesson! DO YOUR RESEARCH AND DON’T GET GREEDY!! This definitely ties in with ARCs and requesting them as well!!!
When can you ask for ARCs?
So, I just started getting attention from publishers, I have a few personal contacts, I’m on several mailing lists, and I have publicists emailing me with review requests for legitimately good books. This has not been happening long so I don’t have a lot of information about it, but I can share some of my experiences about how I got here!
I have to say, however, that ARCs are a privilege that you will get when you have established your blog “well enough” in the publishing community. What do I mean by “well enough”? Pam from Bookalicious is one of the most established blogs out there. She’s going on her fourth year of blogging and she gets about 1500-2000 unique visitors A DAY. I get about 4,400 unique visitors a month. In no way, shape, or form do I consider myself well established. My blog is almost a year old, I’ve been blogging consistently for about 7-8 months, and I have a little over 1000 followers. So if you want to start asking for ARCs I would do it after at least 6 months of consistent blogging and a good number of unique visitors and followers, but that’s just my opinion! Some bloggers get a great following in a shorter amount of time and that is just how they’ve established themselves! However, I did have an experience with Flux where I requested a book after only being around for about 3 months and I was kindly told that they do not accept review requests until you've been blogging at least a year! The best way to establish yourself is to network, network, network!!! Plan on spending a lot of time on Twitter, go around to a lot of blogs and comment, comment, comment!
What kind of information should be included in a review request?
This has always been kind of challenging for me. I’ve done a lot of requesting since I started blogging, and gotten a lot of nothing, so when emailing publishers you have to be prepared to get nowhere for a long time. Once you establish a good relationship with a publisher and you get a few personal contacts it will make things a lot easier, but that takes a LOT of time and energy!!
My typical review request looks like this:
Subject: Review Request: (TITLE) (AUTHOR) (ISBN)
To Whom It May Concern:
Hello and thank you for your time. I am a YA book blogger and I run the blog, Literary Exploration. You can find it here: http://www.literaryexploration.com/ I have 1050 followers, 1044 Feedburner subscribers, and an average of 4,400 unique visitors a month. I am writing to ask if you have Book Title by AUTHOR (ISBN NUMBER) available for read and review? I am very interested in reading and reviewing it because of (give reasons WHY you want this book!).
If you have any copies available for read and review you can send them here:
I post all of my reviews on my blog as well as on Goodreads. You can find my Goodreads profile here: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4645069-anna I am also willing to post my reviews on other sites (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) when requested.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you,
Anna @ Literary Exploration
That’s just how my requests look, I’ve formatted it over time and so far it’s worked well for me. I know a lot of bloggers do different things and that works for them! You can always request multiple books in one email, but if you’re just getting in contact with publishers I’m not sure that’s a good idea, although I’ve never tried it so maybe you can help me on that?! You just have to find what works for you and your personal emailing style. Eventually your goal is to get a personal contact that you can simply address by name, and you won’t have to send in this general info email anymore! The main thing is, DO NOT REQUEST BOOKS YOU DON’T ACTUALLY WANT. Only request what you really, really want, because you will be required to review them!! And always be respectful and professional when talking to publishers. They're taking time to look at your blog and send you books, so don't be rude if you don't get what you ask for.
That’s where my knowledge ends! I’d love to hear from you guys, and learn about your experiences so let me know what you think! How has reviewing gone for you? Do you have any horror stories?! Let me know!