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How to Successfully and Respectfully Pitch Your Book to Book Bloggers

January 5, 2012 12 comments

So!  You’re an author or publisher who has discovered the world of book blogging and says, “Hey! That’s a cool new way to market my book!”  Excellent.  We book bloggers love books and most of us view accepting ARCs as a mutually beneficial experience.  We love books, and trust me, if we love yours we will yak about it ad nauseum.  But!  There are basic guidelines to submitting your book to book bloggers that you really need to follow or you’ll start the relationship off on a bad foot.  Since I’m in the interesting position of being a book blogger and an indie author, I thought I’d put together a convenient set of guidelines for all those authors and publishers out there seeking to develop some book blog based marketing of their book(s).

  1. View marketing your book(s) via book blogs as developing professional relationships.  Book bloggers are people too.  Most of us do this as a hobby due to our love of reading.  We can tell when an author or publisher views us as a tool.  Take some time to get to know us by browsing our blogs, clicking through to our twitter or facebook or flickr, etc…  Friend us on GoodReads or LibraryThing.  Trust me.  I can tell from the pitch email if the author/publisher has taken the time to do this or not.
  2. Read the review polices before submitting and obey them.  Most established book bloggers have a set of review policies somewhere on their site, either under contact information or on a dedicated page.  Take the time to look at and read these.  We post them to make everything smoother for everybody.  For instance, on mine I say I do not accept YA.  You may read this and think, “Oh, but mine isn’t like other YA books, I’ll submit it anyway and tell her that.”  No. Do not do that.  Trust me when I say, I do not like YA.  I avoid it. Yours is not special. You are not a unique snowflake.  And besides, why are you wasting your time submitting to someone who already has an aversion to your genre?  The beauty of book blogs is they let you seek out and find your own niche audiences.  The review policies help with that.
  3. Do not pitch a book to us in the comments unless the blogger specifically states she prefers that.  Most established book bloggers have a blog email or a submission form that they use to sort out the ARC pitches, since we really do get a lot of them.  Comments are for interacting with our own readers, not for you to pitch your book.
  4. Find out our name we go by on our blog and use it in the pitch email.  The only thing more insulting than getting pitched a book that we obviously wouldn’t want if the person had read our review policies is if they start the email by saying “Dear blogger.”  Unless my name on the site is “blogger,” don’t call me that!  Our names are usually pretty obvious if you take five seconds to browse our blogs.  For instance, on mine on the right-hand sidebar there is both a Creative Commons license with my name on it and my twitter handle, which is my name.  If you can’t take the time to address us by name, why should we take the time to read your book?
  5. Do not contact bloggers until you have the final copy that you want reviewed ready to send out.  I encountered this problem multiple times in 2011 when reviewing ARCs.  Either the author would send me a copy then send me another copy months later saying, “Oh, this is the newly edited version” or when I posted my review the author would say, “But it’s different now!”  We agree to review the copy you send us.  That’s it.  It is not our obligation to seek out new edits.  Do not submit a book to us that you are not 100% positive is the absolutely positively best you can do.  I know it’s exciting to have finished the first draft of your book, but editing is your friend.  Nothing puts a reviewer in a worse frame of mind than a book badly in need of editing and no amount of you saying “But it’s different now” will entice us to change your review.  This is viral, indie marketing.  Use it to your advantage and don’t send out ARCs until you are positive it is the best you can offer.
  6. State in your pitch email exactly what format of ARCs you can offer.  This again is a time-saving technique that shows respect for the book blogger.  I personally primarily accept kindle-compatible ebooks, but I hate having to email back to a pitch and ask exactly what format is being offered, especially since I don’t like giving out my mailing address unless it’s for a reason.  It will take you a few seconds to type out a sentence saying what formats you have to offer.  Doing this will generate more positivity between you and the blogger.
  7. Provide the book jacket blurb of the book in the pitch email and do not include praise for your work unless someone super famous has said it.  Really. We just want to know what the book is about.  We do not care how much praise your work has gotten unless one of our own favorite authors has said so.  (For instance, I instantly accept anything Stephen King has praised).  I know that it’s awesome your first book got a lot of praise, and that’s great for you!  But we don’t care.  This again goes back to respecting that the book blogger knows what she likes.  Tell us the genre and give us the blurb and maybe throw in one or two really awesome praises you’ve received, but that’s it. Seriously.
  8. Compare your work (if it’s true and applicable) to other books the reviewer has read and loved.  This shows us that you paid attention to our blog and creates a positive association in our minds between you and a favorite book or author.
  9. Include links in your email signature to your blog, GoodReads/LibraryThing presence, twitter, etc…  Not all bloggers will look at this, but some of us will and sometimes it will lead to an acceptance of an ARC that otherwise might not have been accepted.  It’s smart marketing for you and convenient for the blogger.
  10. Once the blogger accepts an ARC, send the copy immediately and thank them for their time.  If you are mailing a print copy, email them telling them exactly when you put it in the mail and thank them.  If you are sending a coupon code or a file attachment, also be sure to thank them in the email.
  11. When the review goes live, do not disagree with it in public.  This all comes down to being mature.  Everyone gets bad reviews, even the famous authors.  It’s gonna happen if you market your book.  But responding aggressively to a negative review either in the comments or via email just makes you look like a childish jerk. Every time.  Be graceful and thank the blogger for her time.  That’s it.  If your work is good, one or two negative reviews are not going to kill it.  Now, if the blogger got a detail wrong, like a character’s name or who published the book, by all means politely correct her, but do so via email.  You clearly have it, and it shows respect for the blogger by not embarrassing her in public.  Most of us will be grateful to you for pointing out the mistake!
  12. If the blogger liked your book, maintain the rapport and relationship.  I honestly hate it when I love a first book in the series and the author doesn’t offer me ARCs of the rest of them.  You have found a reader who likes you and has an audience to spread that love of your work to.  Why wouldn’t you offer more ARCs to her in the future?  Some of my best professional book blogging relationships are with authors or agents whose first pitch I loved who then proceeded to continue to offer me more books.  I want to like the books I read and review just as much as you want me to.  After one positive experience, why wouldn’t you keep that positive rapport going?

Before I close I just want to give a few examples of the types of pitches and interactions that worked really well on me as a blogger in 2011:

  • “In addition to the obvious wolf connection, judging by what you discuss on your blog, I think you would enjoy it.”
  • ” I would be happy to add you to the list to receive a review copy once they are available.”
  • “It’s great to meet you. I just read your review, and thank you so much for all the kind words.”
  • “Let me know if you’d like to review the sequels. I’ll be happy to send them to you.”
  • “Thanks again for your honest and evenhanded review.” (in response to a negative review)
  • “I’m not ‘technically’ self-pubbed, but the publisher I work with consists of about 3 people on staff and have released a total of 5 books which mine is the only one released by them that isn’t written by people who work there.” (I accidentally said a book was self-pubbed when it was indie pubbed)
  • “Thanks again for reviewing. YOU ROCK MY SOCKS OFF! SERIOUSLY!”

You can see from these samples that all of these authors and publishers treated me like a person, thanked me for my work, and were personable themselves.

I really hope you find the tips helpful in your endeavors to market your books! Viva la reading!

Book Review: Arizona Free by Doug Martin

December 20, 2010 2 comments

Glowing timerSummary:
Three white collar schmucks sign up for a classic pyramid scheme selling energy drinks known as DINAmite.  Gradually, they start noticing disturbing changes in the consumers of the energy drinks and find themselves pulled into the world of a nefarious plot to change humanity as we know it.

Review:
Not in years have I read a book I disliked this much.  I generally try to find at least one redeeming quality when reviewing a book, remembering that not everyone likes what I enjoy, but honestly.  This book is terrible, and I have zero idea how it managed to get published in the first place.  The publisher’s website doesn’t give very much information on how and why they choose books to publish, so no answers to that particular question were found there.  Anyway.  On to why this is the first book ever to receive one star here on Opinions of a Wolf.

First, there’s the writing.  I felt like I had landed back in beginner’s creative writing in high school and had been assigned the worst writer’s short story to critique.  It abounds with showing, not telling.  The dialogue is painfully fake sounding.  Most of the characters are completely unmemorable, and the few that managed to put some image into my brain were simply charicatures lacking any dimensions at all.

I’ve read books before that struggled with sophomoric writing but that at least showed potential through a strong, uniquely imagined plot.  There is none of that here.  The plot changes its mind so many times throughout that I honestly have no idea what actually happened in the end.  I’m completely baffled.  You can’t throw that many surprises at a reader without offering some modicum of explanation or elaboration.  The characters are simply straight up told “This is happening now,” and they go along with it.

Of course writing and plot are the core of what makes a good book, so it’s bad enough this book fails on both of those already, but it’s topped off with a nice icing of homophobia and womanizing.  The characters and the narrator repeatedly make slams against gay people.  One of the characters, Catherine, plays tennis with a lesbian, who yet again is a characature who speaks in the most fake Russian accent ever.  This lesbian tennis player is interested in Catherine, and this of course grosses out everyone in the story, including Catherine.  Also, the lesbian is turned into a hulk-like villain, complete with horns.  I was so disgusted by the homophobia that I almost stopped reading the book, but I refuse to write reviews of books I didn’t finish, and frankly, I wanted a bad review of this homophobic piece of trash out there.

Bottom line, I can’t recommend it to anyone.  It’s completely made up of bad writing, terrible plot structure, and rampant homophobia.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Free copy via LibraryThing‘s EarlyReviewers program

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The Evolution of My Wishlist

September 23, 2010 10 comments

Before LibraryThing, book blogs, and PaperBackSwap entered my life, I didn’t really have a book wishlist.  Oh if I had gotten into a series I’d keep my eye open for the release of the next one or if a friend recommended a book to me I’d put it on hold in the library, but that was about it.  Back then I’d generally go browse the library or a bookstore and just grab whatever looked interesting and that was that.  My reading was much more hit or miss back then.  I’d periodically find a book I really enjoyed, but most of the time it was average or “yuck, this sucks, but I don’t have anything else to read right now, so there you go.”  This meant that, believe it or not, I’d been an avid reader for years, but didn’t really have a firm grasp on what type of books I enjoy.  I’d read anything I could get my hands on just for the sake of reading, because that’s how it was when I was a kid.  We were poor, and so I had to make do with whatever books I could get my hands on.  This mentality had firmly carried itself over into my adulthood.

Then I started recording what I read on LibraryThing, blogging my own reviews, and discovered book blogs.  I created a wishlist in LibraryThing and started adding pretty much any book that sounded even mildly entertaining to it.  I then added them to my PaperBackSwap wishlist until I hit the limit (which is in the hundreds).  I couldn’t believe how many books I wanted to read! I then had the phenomenon of a tbr pile of books I own, not books I’d checked out from the library.  I was sitting looking at them this week, and it struck me.  There are as many books in my tbr pile as I’ve read so far this year, and I could think of at least a few on my wishlist that I wanted to read more than a few of the ones in my tbr pile.  Then something someone pointed out to me a couple of months ago rang through my brain.  They pointed out that reading is my hobby, and I shouldn’t feel bad for spending money or time on something I enjoy so much.  Well, why have I been spending time and money on books that I don’t want to read as much as other ones?  Why have I felt obligated to?  Because I might like it?  Reading is my hobby; it’s not my job.  It’s not homework.  Why have I felt this obligation to branch out into types of books I don’t tend to like just because others have liked them?  I’m not saying I shouldn’t ever branch out.  That’d get dull.  But if you saw my tbr pile and my wishlist, you’d realize that I was branching out about 50% of the time.  That’s a bit too much in my opinion.  20 to 25% is more like it.

I can’t do anything about the books I already have.  I acquired them, so I’m going to read them, but I could do something about my wishlist.  So I went into my PaperBackSwap wishlist and ruthlessly went through, eliminating books that I’d tossed on there without much thought.  What’s left is books I genuinely want to read, and yes, a couple of them are branching out of my norm.  They stayed because they sounded genuinely intriguing, not because they sounded mildly interesting.  I can only read so many books a year.  Why spend time on 0nes that don’t grip me?  That don’t affect my perception of the world?  Life’s too short.  I should enjoy every second of it I get to spend reading for fun.

BBAW: First Treasure: The First Book Blogs I Encountered

September 13, 2010 12 comments

Glowing treasure chestHello to those visiting for Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  To my loyal readers, in case you missed the note in Friday Fun, this week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) in which  people who blog about books come together, post on topics related to the theme, and award prizes to various types of book blogs.  This is my first year participating, and I must say that I feel like it’s the formal introduction to a community I’ve gradually become a part of over the last year.

The theme for this year’s week is “A Treasure Chest of Infinite Books and Infinite Blogs,” so each day’s theme is a “treasure.”  Today’s is all about either a new blog you’ve discovered since last year’s BBAW or the first book blog you encountered.

Last year at this time I was blogging about books, but not in the in-depth way I do now.  I started this blog as a place to voice my opinions on various things (mostly so I wouldn’t annoy the crap out of people I know irl).  That’s clearly how my blog got the name.  I was already entering my books read into LibraryThing and writing mini-reviews there, but I found myself wanting to say more, so I figured I’d start reviewing some of the books I read on my blog.  Some changed to most changed to all and suddenly I found the whole book blogging community.  My blog definitely isn’t exclusively a book blog.  It’s still my opinions.  I just happen to read a lot of books and have quite strong opinions on them, so reviews show up a lot.

Anyway, that’s not the question today, is it?  I’m really not sure if it was Jessica’s The Bookworm Chronicles or Meghan’s Medieval Bookworm that first crossed my radar, alerting me to the concept of a book blog, so I’ll talk about both of them!

I actually attended undergrad with Meghan.  We were casual acquaintances via mutual friends, not to mention the fact that our university was medium-sized, so you grew to know most people by sight.  I saw her talking with our mutual friend on twitter, and we got to talking again.  I admit I was curious, because I knew Meghan had moved to England to get married right after undergrad.  Talk about a transition!  Via twitter, I went to her website and was immediately intrigued by it.  Here was an opportunity to discuss books in an academic fashion; something I was sorely missing in my post-undergrad life.  Plus, since I knew Meghan before I saw the blog, I was able to see how much personality and personability impacts a blog.  Meghan’s reviews are academic and professional, but she never goes so far as to lose her own voice and personality.  Reading her blog is truly like discussing a book with your friend down the hall in the dorm who’s at the top of all her English or Medieval History classes.  That level of intellect and personability is exactly what appeals to me in book blogs.

Now Jessica I stumbled upon using WordPress’s tag surfer.  Basically, it finds other recent posts on WordPress that the writers tagged with the same tags you use.  Jessica had just started her blog when I stumbled upon her, but I was immediately intrigued.  It was again for the combination of intellect and personality; however, this time I was mainly interested in the glimpses into a British gal’s life who is approximately the same age as myself.  All of Jessica’s posts are very British, and I find that endlessly fascinating.  For instance, she takes the time at the beginning of each review to casually discuss the various interesting tidbits she knows about the author or the work or the impact the work has had on the world before delving into the plot and her thoughts on the book.  I think of reading Jessica’s blog as similar to visiting a country cousin who lives on a pleasant dirt road and always has a spot of tea and cookies (er, biscuits?) ready for when you arrive.  Jessica is also very personable, taking the time to respond to all the comments on her posts.  She’s one of those people who I wish actually lived down the road from me so we could be friends irl too.

I’ve of course found more blogs in the book blogging world since these two lovely ladies, but the ones that have longevity in my GoogleReader are the ones that are similar–they’re smart and personable.  They don’t worry about branding; they just are themselves.  Bright, intelligent, witty people who you are pleased to know online and wish lived close enough to have tea with periodically.

Book Review: 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

September 1, 2010 2 comments

Man standing on a horizon.Summary:
Edward likes facts and order, and his life revolves around them.  Every morning when he gets up he records the weather in his town of Billings, Montana, as well as the time of his awakening.  Every night at 10pm he watches a taped episode of Dragnet.  He buys the same groceries every week on Tuesday and does his best to avoid left-hand turns when driving.  Edward does not work.  He has a hard time interacting with people.  He can’t seem to understand them, and they have a hard time understanding him.  But 600 hours of his life are about to happen and change everything, daring him to open back up to the world and give it a chance.  Daring him to step outside of his comfort zone to make his life more than he ever dreamed it could be.

Review:
This is an extraordinary look into the mind of someone with Asperger’s syndrome.  Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that causes great difficulties in social interaction, odd language use, and repetitive behavior commonly compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In lieu of presenting us with an odd neighbor who we later discover has the illness, Lancaster brings us into the mind of the person with Asperger’s syndrome and shows us how the world looks to him.  Edward finds the world to be a rather confusing, disorderly place.  He can see when his behavior upsets people, but he doesn’t understand why.  His attempts to make sense of the world via rituals are heart-wrenching to read.  Yet the narrative also does an excellent job of demonstrating the good intentions of someone with Asperger’s who doesn’t realize his behavior is frightening or abnormal.

Edward’s life may be full of rituals, but it also is full of people–his parents, his therapist, his neighbors, his old high school workshop teacher.  The commonality between them all is that they see the good in Edward and are willing to work with him and be patient in order to keep him in their lives.  They see him for the good man struggling with an illness that he is.  Of course, Edward is not left with a free ride. The people around him expect him to do what he can to function better from taking his Fluoxetine every day to faithfully attending his appointments with Dr. Buckley and pushing his own boundaries.  It is a message of the hope that is possible when everyone involved works to overcome a mental illness.

There were two draw-backs to the book, however.  One was that the repeated summaries of Dragnet episodes every chapter were quite dull.  I think after a couple, the reader would still have gotten the point of ritual by saying “then I watched Dragnet” without actually summarizing the episodes.  It was a lot of narrative space taken up to make a point that was already made with the much shorter recording of the weather and waking times every morning.  This is minor and easily skimmed over though.  My other issue is actually that I think the book ended too soon.  I think the point at which it ended was chosen for some sense of supposed literary quality rather than telling the whole story.  I would like to have seen at least a bit more of Edward’s transformation.  It felt a bit short-lived.

Overall this book helped me understand people with Asperger’s syndrome better than I ever had before.  I highly recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction, fans of memoirs as it reads like one, and people seeking to understand Asperger’s syndrome better.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: free copy from the author via the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program

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Librarians, Enough With the Hero Complex

March 15, 2010 7 comments

Last week, I was chillaxing on my couch, enjoy some crackers and cheese whilst watching tv, and I checked in on my twitter feed.  My twitter feed is an interesting mix of folks–writers, publishers, libraries, gardening tips, celebrities who amuse me, veg folk, real life friends–but predominantly other librarians.  Well, suddenly everybody started tweeting at once.  The freak-out was over loss of funding for Florida libraries.  This turned into everybody bemoaning the fact that nobody understands the importance of libraries.  Then out of the blue, a male librarian said, “Simple truth- police & firefighters can always rehire when times get better. Close a library & what are the chances they’ll bring it back?”
I replied, “Well, y’know, I’d rather my house not burn down than be able to use old crappy computers for free.”
To which a different male librarian replied: “If a fire starts, no matter how much you spend on fire fighters, your house it totalled in a matter of minutes.”

I have refrained from naming them, because this isn’t about these individuals.  It’s about a general attitude going on among librarians that is just wrong and self-centered, and I wanted to illustrate it with actual quotes.  The attitude that libraries are the most important public service, and they–and by extension, librarians–are misunderstood and under-appreciated.  I mean, a book just came out whose subtitle is How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (LibraryThing record of the book here).  You know what? No.  We’re not more important than policemen and firemen.  We’re not even as important.  As librarians, we’re not out there risking our lives to save strangers’ lives.  Contrary to what male librarian #2 said, not all houses burn down anyway, and even if they did, there’s still people to save.  There’s also the fact that the blaze needs to be prevented from spreading, but I digress.

We are librarians.  We are not out there providing for the safety of lives.  The fact that we exist doesn’t make it so people can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that if a fire starts in their house, someone will show up and run into the blaze to save them.  Public librarians, at best, provide educational support outside of the public school system.  At worst, public librarians are providing entertainment to the low income masses, and do you think the low income would rather be entertained or be alive and able to walk down the street safely?

I don’t enjoy the fact that libraries and fire departments are pitted against each other for money.  However, it is an economic crisis.  The money just is not there.  Of course I would rather see libraries’ hours cut instead of the doors closed, but if the choice is keeping the library open a few hours a week or maintaining a safe number of firemen for the community, I would choose the firemen.  You know why?  Because I don’t have some hero complex.

What we’re really seeing is people freaking out because they think either their job won’t exist in the short-term or that libraries are going to cease existing entirely, making their career choice a really poor one.  I get it.  I do.  It sucks to be worrying about getting laid off.  It sucks to wonder if your career will still exist in 10 years, but you know what?  Almost everyone is having to worry about their job right now, if they’re even lucky enough to still have one.  There are also plenty of people worrying that their careers will cease to be an option due to technological advances, changing world economic climate, etc…  I saw it happen to people I care about when the Silicon Valley happened.  Yes, it sucked, but maybe it’s time to admit that you chose your job because you like it.  Because you enjoy organizing things, helping people, books, literacy, and more, and yes that’s more noble than becoming a back-stabbing CEO.  However, it’s not this superhero career.  It’s just a nice one.  One that I certainly hope continues to be needed, but I’m not about to go out there and over-inflate it because I’m worried about jobs.  I’m realistic, and the fact that other librarians are being so unrealistic in the face of this economic crisis is just making us look like a bunch of snobby, privileged, unrealistic bookworms.

(Yes, I realize this post is mainly about public libraries, which is something I strive to avoid, but I haven’t been hearing much of the same thing regarding academic or special libraries.)