The dos and don'ts of approaching bloggers
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
1. Don't be shy about approaching bloggers
Bloggers don't mind being asked to review books at all. It's flattering to be asked for your thoughts and a courteous query is not going to impose on anyone. Don't be nervous if you're self-published. After all, bloggers are self-published writers too!
2. Do be polite when corresponding with bloggers
Most bloggers receive multiple review requests a day. Many don't have time to reply to them all. If a blogger does get in touch to decline an offer, try and respond politely. Just because they are unable to accept this particular book doesn't mean they won't be open to future publications, so keep things friendly. Don't immediately unfollow them on social media for the same reason.
3. Don't be pushy
Don't automatically assume a blogger is available to review your book. Messages asking for my address or the best way to send me something, before enquiring whether I'm interested in receiving it, can feel a bit aggressive. If a blogger says they are unable to accept or review your book, do respect this. Don't keep asking after they've already said no.
4. Do make contact with as many bloggers as possible
Not everyone is going to have time to review your book or even reply to your request, so it's a good idea to cast the net wide. But do conduct some research into each blogger first (I go into more detail about this in Point 10).
5. Do keep your query brief
Overly long messages can be off-putting. Being concise works well with time-poor bloggers. Instead of launching into a lengthy description of your book and/or your author bio, ask first if the blogger is accepting submissions. Then include a couple of sentences about the book. If it's already getting good reviews, mention that. If it raises funds for a charity, include that information too (I'm more likely to review a book if it's for a good cause). It's not really necessary to go into your author bio or reasons for writing the book in too much detail unless they are a key selling point. If you have an Advance Information (AI) sheet, attach it. AI sheets are brilliant as they give all the relevant information at a glance and make you look more professional. I'll put together a blog post about the benefits of AI sheets soon but in the meantime, you can see examples of some that I've created here and here. If you don't have an AI sheet, attach a cover image. If your book is illustrated, send a couple of interior images too. Conclude by thanking the blogger for considering your request and say you look forward to hearing from them.
6. Do remember that bloggers are real people with busy lives
Very few people earn any money from blogging, never mind manage to support themselves through it. Most bloggers have full or part-time jobs and blogging is something they fit around these. If a blogger is reviewing books for younger readers, then it's possible that they have small children too. Writing reviews, and even just creating social media posts, can be incredibly time-consuming. So can responding to review requests. When you're asking a blogger to review something like a book, it also takes time for them to read it first. Try and have as much consideration and respect for a blogger's time as you would like someone to have for your own.
7. Do wait at least a week before sending a follow-up message
Many bloggers don't have time to check and/or respond to their messages daily. I get so many message requests on Instagram through my @picturebooksnob page that I tend to only sit down and go through them once a week. When you don't hear back immediately, it can be tempting to send a follow-up message but wait. It won't do you any favours to send subsequent queries too soon.
Lots of authors have sent me follow-up messages within 24 hours of first making contact. This has happened even during international holidays like Christmas! I once had an author send me several messages from their book's Instagram page, all on the same day, and then the following day, message me many times from their personal page. And this was at the weekend. It did not make me remotely interested in their book; it only had the opposite effect. Remember: if you like to relax at the weekend and take time off during Christmas and other holidays, then the chances are that the blogger you've contacted does as well.
8. Don't be discouraged if a blogger declines to accept something they are offered
Bloggers are inundated with requests and they tend to have a vast supply of to-be-reviewed titles they've already acquired themselves. If they decline to accept your offer, it's more than likely because they already have more books than they can manage. Don't take it personally!
9. Do remember that bloggers don't owe you a review
Just because someone posts about books, it doesn't mean they have to - or have time to - review every single one. Blogging is generally a labour of love and most book bloggers have an extensive library of treasured titles. This is why many bloggers don't accept submissions - they are kept busy with the books they've discovered themselves.
For my children's book blog, I rarely accept submissions as I feel obliged to post about every book I receive. I'm already overloaded with the books I either buy myself or request from publishers. While it might be poor etiquette for to accept an item and then neglect to review it, it's better than receiving a negative or tepid review. If a blogger really loves something, they will share a review of it.
10. Do familiarise yourself with each blogger before contacting them It's amazing how many people approach a blogger without taking a proper look at their social media pages, visiting their website or reading any of their reviews first. Even though I exclusively review children's books, I'm regularly approached by people promoting books for a grown-up audience. While it might seem like a lot of work to research each reviewer properly, you're just wasting time if don't do this first. There's no point pitching a horror book to a romance reviewer or vice-versa.
Many bloggers don't review work by self-published authors. It's futile sending messages to reviewers if they have explicitly stated that their policy is to only consider traditionally published titles. It's more efficient to find out who is open to independently published work and then send tailored messages rather than blanket mailers to lots of random reviewers.
Try and discover the first name(s) of who runs the blog too. For Picture Book Snob, I deliberately don't mention my first name anywhere, except on the 'About' page of my website. That way, if someone addresses me using my actual name instead of the name of the blog, I know they've done a little research. If you can't be bothered to read the 'About' section of someone's blog or social media page, why would you expect them to read your entire book?
11. Do follow other authors on social media and pay attention to who is reviewing them
This is especially useful if you are self-published. You'll get a better idea of who is more open to independent books and authors if you follow fellow self-publishers and take note of who is reviewing their books. Whenever an author you're following shares a review, take note of the blogger and add them to your list of potential reviewers.
12. Don't follow people on social media immediately before requesting a review
Bloggers are more likely to respond to someone who has not only been following them for a while but engaging with their content too. This means liking, sharing and commenting on their posts, rather than just cold calling. And don't ask people to review your book via social media if you're not even following them there; that's just bad manners.
13. Don't tag bloggers in social media posts that are completely irrelevant to them
This is actually my pet hate, especially now that Instagram sends you a DM every time you're tagged in a post. If you are going to tag people in posts, it's a good idea to at least be following them and/or have interacted with them before. It's an even better idea for the post to be somehow connected to them. If someone is tagged in a social media post, they can get a notification every time anyone else engages with it, which soon becomes annoying. Don't tag bloggers because you hope to obtain a 'like' or a review by using this approach. The only way I'll consider a book for review is if someone directly asks me to review it. I'm not going to buy a book from someone who tags me in a series of posts either. And I don't like feeling pressured to 'like' or comment on something. I won't respond to posts that I'm tagged in unless I have an existing relationship with the author, I'm quoted in the post, or I've either already reviewed or am about to review the book in question.
14. Don't send pointless messages or ones that don't require a response Despite almost compulsively replying to queries (even if it sometimes takes me a while), I've stopped responding to certain types of messages. These are ones that don't contain any text and instead just have an image or a link to a book. If you're not prepared to personalise your message, don't expect a reply. And I never click on a random, unsolicited link as I never know where it's going to take me! The other types of messages I ignore are those that either don't ask any questions or ask peculiar ones. It's hard to know if these are genuine or spam and I don't have the time or inclination to try and figure it out. If there isn't an easily identifiable query, or if the question makes no sense, then it's difficult for bloggers to respond. And if you would like to hear back from someone, you should make it as quick and easy for them to reply as possible.
15. Don't keep asking when your review will be shared
As previously mentioned, blogging is something that's usually carried out in addition to full or part-time jobs, and a million other responsibilities! If a blogger has accepted a submission, don't send messages asking when they are going to share their review. They're unlikely to accept another book from you if you keep badgering them.
16. Don't send more than one book unless already agreed
There's nothing worse than agreeing to review one book and then receiving someone's entire back catalogue along with it. Unless you've asked a blogger to review more than one book, don't send more than one book. If you'd like them to consider other titles, ask before sending them.
17. Do thank bloggers for their reviews This might seem obvious but not everyone does it! If you'd like a blogger to help you promote subsequent titles, it's a good idea to maintain a relationship with them. Like, share and comment if a blogger has posted a review of your book on their social media channels. And always say thanks, even if you're not mad about their review. I hope this helps you and your books reach a wider audience. If you have any questions or if I can help with anything else, get in touch. Find a list of services and rates here and contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org