Sometimes I think things are so obvious that I couldn’t possibly need to write a tutorial on them. Review requests seem like basic common sense to me, but judging from the number of requests I’m still getting despite having closed submissions over a month ago shows that some authors have no idea what the heck they’re doing. So in my usual list format I’m going to go through the steps of writing a book review request email that won’t make reviewers want to punch you.
Step #1: READ THE REVIEW POLICY!
Due to the generally family-friendly nature of this blog I am resisting the urge to swear to emphasize my point. Regardless, the first thing you should ever do when visiting a book review blog looking for a blogger to review your book is read their review policy. How do you find a review policy? Well, it’s either under its own tab at the top or side of the web page or is generally under FAQs. If it’s not under any of those, use the search bar. Once you find a reviewer’s policy, ask yourself these questions while reading it:
a) Is this reviewer open to submissions?
b) Is my book in the acceptable genre list?
c) Does my book meet any other requirements?
d) What other information do I need to collect in order to make a request?
Step #2: Look around the reviewer’s blog to get a feel for their reviewing style.
So your book meets all of the reviewer’s requirements, great! Now take a look around their blog. You don’t have to spend hours poring over it, but try to take ten minutes to try to find out their reviewing style. Are they overly critical or always positive? Do they like books that are similar to yours? For example, if someone comes to me with a book featuring Greek mythology they might take note that I loved Prophecy of the Most Beautiful and Luciana Cavallaro’s short stories about women in Greek myths. That means I’m slightly more predisposed toward Greek mythology and your book would be a better fit for my blog.
Take that same idea and apply it to all book reviewers you want to request a review from. After all, if your book is high fantasy and they accept fantasy in general but have given bad reviews to high fantasy in the past you might not want to submit it to that particular reviewer.
Step #3: Begin your email or begin filling out their review request form by addressing them by their name.
I’m not saying all book bloggers are vain, but I know I am. So I have my name plastered all over my site. It’s on my About page, in the comments sections and even on every single article just under the title. Therefore yes, I do certainly expect you to address me by name. Most other reviewers will also expect this to make sure you’re not just sending out a bunch of form requests with no personalization at all. Basically, if you can’t be bothered to take the literal ten seconds to find out our names, why should we spend hours of our time reading and reviewing your book?
If you can’t find a reviewer’s name, address them by their nickname which you can find by reading their comments in the comments section. Failing that, address them by their blog name (e.g. Dear Mad Reviewer). But if you’re doing that, don’t address them by their blog initials especially when that reviewer is female and their blog initials are MR. (True story.)
Step #4: Briefly introduce yourself and explain in 1-2 sentences why you think your book would be a good fit for their blog.
I’m not saying that you can’t have a sort of template for review requests; I’m saying that you can’t use that template with no modifications at all. You can have your email signature and plot summary ready to go, but at least show reviewers the courtesy of saying why you would like them to review your book. Is it because you have a fantasy novel with an unique premise and they love fantasy? Or maybe it’s because you like their honest but respectful reviewing style. Tell us!
Step #5: Give them a BRIEF plot summary and any other information they request in their review policy.
Plot summaries can be handy, but I find that some of them are so unwieldy. Do I really want to read a three paragraph plot summary? No. If your regular plot summary is about a paragraph long it’s usually okay to include it in the email, but any longer than that and you’d better give reviewers the elevator pitch.
In addition to a summary, some reviewers like myself also request follower statistics. Follower statistics for me aren’t the be all end all so to speak, but asking authors to include them in my review policy weeds out the authors that can’t be bothered to read my whole policy. Then I know which requests I will simply delete without even giving a second thought to and which ones I’ll actually take a good look at.
Step #6: Sign off politely and thank the reviewer for their time and consideration.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Obviously I’m not the sort of person that requests reviews from other book bloggers, but I do request books from publishers. And when I do that, I make sure to thank them for their time as they’re incredibly busy. Remember that book reviewers are similar. So here’s an example of how to sign off:
Thank you for your time,
Tip #1: The failure mode of clever is asshole.
I often quote John Scalzi and now is the perfect opportunity to do so. He explains in his article that sometimes if you try to be clever in an email you can come off as an asshole. I’ve had this happen to me before. So please keep your communication with reviewers professional until you’ve developed good rapport with them. Save the clever for when you discover their sense of humour.
Tip #2: Don’t freak out if they reject your request.
Sometimes reviewers are really busy and can’t accept anymore requests, sometimes the writer making the request didn’t bother to follow their review policy or sometimes the book in question just isn’t a good fit for their blog. That’s life and get over it. Don’t freak out at the reviewer and demand justice for a perceived wrongdoing completely out of your control. Just take a deep breath and move on.
Tip #3: When they send you the review, thank them even if it’s negative.
I can usually get through a book in 3-4 hours if it’s in the normal 300-400 page range. However, I also read faster than the average person at around 100 pages per hour. Therefore, if your book is average length the reviewer has taken anywhere from 3-6 hours to read it and write a review. Even if they didn’t like the book and say so in their review, the very least you can do is thank them for their time and leave it at that.