Writing in the Digital Age: Pajama Marketing – Pitching to Book Review Blogs

I remember the first time I approached my local Borders for a book signing. The events manager (this was when Borders was new and actually had enthusiastic community building ideas) liked romance and was happy to let me arrange for a panel of authors to speak and sign. I invited a couple of writer friends and we had a good time.

I, however, did not like trying to arrange live events. I tended to try to do group signings, where I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. And I didn’t do many. I don’t know how the authors who did (and still do, although less commonly) real book tours survive all the travel, smiling through questions like “Where’s the bathroom?” and sitting for an hour with nary a purchase without collapsing into a puddle of author flopsweat.

Enter the virtual book tourEnter the digital age, and the virtual book tour.

Last year, I cobbled together a virtual book tour for myself by directly asking other writers if I could guest post (and offering them guest posting opportunities on my site). It was much easier than a real book tour: no travel, no make up, no dressing up, no one asked me where the bathroom was. I’m trying out a professionally arranged tour in May. But the one thing I did not do, which most tours include, is ask for a book review. I cannot find a graceful way to ask for reviews. I never could. So I don’t.

Now that I am in charge of every aspect of my career, avoiding reviews is not an option. So I’ve consulted an expert.

Dorothy Thompson, author and CEO of Pump Up Your Book, arranges virtual book tours that include reviews as a critical component of the tour, to explain the ins and outs of pitching a review request to a book blogger.

Thank you, Dorothy. I hope to learn how to get over my review request phobia from you!

The Perfect Blogger Book Review Pitch

Pump Up Your Book 5 AnniversaryI want to thank Kelly for hosting me today on Pump Up Your Book’s 5th Anniversary celebration this month!

I’d like to begin by telling everyone a little about myself.  I am a book lover, book blogger, social media enthusiast, lover of dogs, beach walker, sunset lover, trail-blazing, bike riding owner of Pump Up Your Book!  I’m also the author of several books but I’m not here today to pitch anything at you.  In fact, this is a pitch of a whole different color.  I’m here to talk about the perfect blogger book review pitch because I see we’re having a bit of trouble getting our requests to bloggers without infuriating them.

I love Google alerts (don’t you?).  They’ll pull up the most interesting things.  The other day, I was drawn to a blogger who was just about fed up with self-publishing authors pitching her the wrong way and in Dear Self Published Authors on YouTube decided to condemn the whole self-publishing industry.  You can watch it,  but I hope you’re not squeamish.

While I don’t agree she should blast the entire community of self-published authors (heck, small press and traditional published authors have done the same thing), it did make you realize how someone can be so irritated that they have to tell the world about it.

But it’s not just that.  Why is she targeting self-published authors?  I read on too many blogs “We don’t review self-published books.”  It’s a bit prejudiced isn’t it? I have found more self-published books that are diamonds in the rough than you can count.  But that’s the reviewer’s prerogative and I accept it.

What I find a little disturbing is the fact that this blogger singled out self-published authors like they were the only ones doing it.  Even traditional published – NY Times bestselling authors – are still doing their share of pitches.  I know because I receive them too.

But still, the point of the matter is just how do you pitch a blogger without them ranting about you on YouTube?

The first thing the author has to think about is what is in it for the busy reviewer?  Is it something the reviewer likes to read?  Will the author send the copy off quickly and not harass the reviewer until the review goes up?  Will the author not condemn the reviewer for a negative review?  These things you have to really think about.

So I’ve compiled a list of advance research all authors might want to consider doing before they start on a reviewer pitching campaign:

  1. Read the blog thoroughly.  Don’t be in so much of a hurry.  Make sure they accept your type of book.  Don’t pitch them if they don’t.  No matter if you think you have the best thing out there, don’t do it.  They are only going to hit delete.
  2. Find out the blogger’s name.  Nine times out of ten you can find it if you know where to look.  If it still turns up no name (as often some remain anonymous), address it to the name of the blog.  I hate doing that but if you really feel this would be a great blog to review your book, it’s worth a shot.
  3. Read their review guidelines.  If they say they take no self-published books (or romance, or thrillers, or erotic, or literary fiction), why are you wasting your time?
  4. When you write your pitch, please if the above blog post didn’t help you to understand why, then do this for me.  When you write your pitch, don’t use the copy and paste method.  I know, I know, you’re busier than a cat during mating season.  Set some time aside to make each pitch personal (stop screaming, this makes a difference).  I myself pitched to seven blogs yesterday for a money book that I will be having on tour.  The only one who got back to me was the one where I told the blogger I was a friend of the friend he had in his sidebar.  Either this friend wrote for them or something but right away he trusted me and out of the seven I pitched, he was the only one who got back to me. This made me wonder if I could have made the pitches a little more personable.  After all, did I really know in that five minutes I was on each blog what this blog was really all about other than it had a full set of archives, was updated frequently and had hosted another author with the same kind of book?
  5. Find something about the blog that you love and tell the blogger without brown-nosing.  For example, “I loved how you found flaws in Jack Thornton’s A Way with the Birds.  That is the reason why I’m emailing you.”  Not, you are the best reviewer out there, I would die to be on your blog.  Sometimes any kind of brownnosing is still going to look like you’re trying to weezle your way in so  in my opinion if you can look at his work and find something that truly stands out and doesn’t make the reviewer thinking you’re brownnosing, you may get a yes much quicker.
  6. In your inquiry, mention which blog you are pitching.  You’d be amazed how many inquiries I get for reviews and interviews and they don’t even mention which blog it’s for and I have millions.  I have even had to email the author and ask, which is uncomfortable and makes me look like a fool (that’s the disadvantage of having too many blogs I suppose).

As a book blogger, what’s your take on this?  Is there something that infuriates you?  Any tips on making the query more prone to having you accept their book for review?

As an author, has this helped you to write your queries keeping this in mind?  Do you have any tips that have worked for you?

Thank you so much for having me here today, Kelly, and thank you for being part of our 5 year celebration of book publicity!

Thank you, Dorothy. These are good tips. Now I just need to screw my courage to the sticking point and implement them.

careful or you'll wind up in my novel pinGIVEAWAY ALERT! Folks, in honor of their 5th anniversary, Dorothy Thompson and Pump Up Your Book are giving away a gift on every stop they make. If you’d like a “Careful, or you’ll wind up in my novel” pendant, here’s how you win — click on the share button on this blog (right at the end of this post) to share a Tweet about this post, and/or leave a comment about what blog book reviews mean to you (two entries if you can name a blog review that enticed you to buy a book that you may have missed otherwise).

I’ll come back and announce the randomly selected winner (who must be in the U.S. or Canada for mailing purposes) on Sunday, April 21, at 5 p.m. EST.

To find out what other prizes are being offered, click on their the Pump Up Your Book tour page.   

Good luck!

Kelly McClymer is an opinionated new member of Book View Cafe, and a cheerleader of writers reaching readers however they can. You can visit her on her desperately-in-need-of-update website; Follow her on Twitter, hang with her onGoogle+, Like her on FaceBook, and share Pinterests with her. Oh, and she’s on Goodreads, too (once a reader, always a reader)

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Writing in the Digital Age: Pajama Marketing – Pitching to Book Review Blogs — 19 Comments

  1. Great post, Dot. It irks me to no end when someone sends a blanket post titled “Dear Blogger.” I mean, my name is right in my profile. How hard is it to personalize your pitch?

    The other thing is that authors need to provide a few more details and links to their website/blog. I am not going to go searching the Internet to see if I would be interested in reading your book. Tell me what the book is about and tell me how to find out more if I want.

    Thanks for hosting Pump Up today, Kelly.

    • I hope this helps other authors in my boat feel like they know how to send a perfectly targeted book review pitch. It is nice that emails can contain links, rather than actual promotional material. It feels like more of a quick pitch that way, since the reviewer will only link if interested.

  2. Great point too Cheryl. I’ve had them do the same thing when they query about a tour. I have a book so and so and no link to where I can determine whether this book called so and so would be something I’d be interesting in promoting all month long. People are just too much in a hurry.

  3. Great post with important reminders. I think the whole internet craze with everything constantly changing and moving so fast, has perpetuated poor manners. People need to stop a minute and think about how they would feel and what they’d want if they were on the receiving end of some of their correspondence, regardless of the delivery method. In other words, back to the basics: 1) Name 2)Please 3) Thank you 4) Contact info. The basics work for most situations. Thanks for the reminder :- D

  4. Looking for the review guidelines on any blog is usually a very simple matter and is always a must-do. Making the pitch personable is certainly important but can be a ticklish prospect. You could write a great pitch but catch the person on a bad day.

    It’s great to get these kinds of tips from someone who’s been on the front lines for a while. Great advice—any one trying to do it themselves will quickly discover the tremendous amount of work that goes into it.

    • As a new indie author, I do confess the process feels an awful lot like submitting the book to an agent/editor all over again. Which may be why I’ve avoided it so far, other than checking out likely blogs and their requirements.

  5. I like the reviews on I am a reader, not a writer blog because they’re pretty short and to the point. Book blog reviews introduce me to new books and authors that I’ve never heard of.

  6. Enjoyed this post. I find it very helpful when the author offers to send a pdf of the first few chapters of the book. Along with a good story line, I need to know that the writing style works for me. This has helped to accept some books for review that I was hestitant to read, and to reject a few that really weren’t for me, but that I couldn’t tell from the paragragh blurb I had first received.

  7. I really wonder why you think that hysterical little twit flipping out in the video instead of getting over herself is helpful to anybody. Even her.

    Maybe if she’d taken the time to write that out it would have been more coherent. And less damaged by her mannerisms.

    • I’ve talked to a lot of reviewers and bloggers, and while most of them don’t show their frustration, many of them feel it to this extent at some time or another. A visual is always useful. The truth can be annoying, but instructive if we let it be.

    • You are sooooo right. Furthermore, she needs to stop using “like” as a filler. Very childish.

  8. She was very coherent. And brought up some excellent points. I bet there are some agents who can echo the same complaints about writers who query them books to be represented.

  9. Thanks for the helpful tips, Dorothy! It’s becoming so hard to find reviewers who have the time to read and review your book. The majority are being bombarded by review requests.

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  11. I’ve found I’m more receptive to review requests made to me on twitter. sounds odd I know, but the character limit forces the person making the pitch to say only the most important things – no brown-nosing, no name-dropping, no overly written press releases listing the eighteen subgenres their book covers. Also, by looking at the person”s twitter feed, I can get an idea of what kind of online presence they have, and what they do with it. Are they using twitter to just broadcast their info out / spamming people with links? or are they using twitter to have conversations with friends, authors, and bloggers?

    my point is don’t just pitch me your book, have a conversation with me.

  12. My pet peeves in this respect are:

    1) Grammar/major spelling errors – I don’t mean simple typos, though spellcheck should get rid of those, they’re honest mistakes. I mean sentences that don’t make sense. If you can’t write proper sentences in your query, how did you write a novel?

    2) Not knowing your genre – I had someone query me for a dystopian novel that takes place in the modern day. A little research (since the query didn’t include a plot synopsis) showed me that the book wasn’t dystopian at all, and would have been better classified as a plague based thriller. The author assumed this was a unique idea. It wasn’t. And as a genre reader I could name a dozen books off the top of my head that had the same premise.

    3) Not including a plot synopsis in your pitch – How can I say yes if I don’t know what your book is about? I actually will look up the author’s website, but I find it a bit annoying to have to do footwork for a task I hate – namely, turning down projects (and I turn down most projects due to time and interest concerns)

    I don’t review many self-published books because I’ve found the editing to be lacking. Professionally published books will have the occasional typo, but at least the sentence structure and grammar are good. But I don’t turn books down simply because they’ve been self-published.

    Interesting post. Thanks.