If you have published a book, reviews are important. Reviews on Amazon and Smashwords help sell more books and reviews on book blogs present your book to an interested audience. So you go looking for some book bloggers who review your genre. Now you just have to convince them to read your book. How do you do that?
Know who you’re pitching to
Before you do anything, research. Don’t just look for an email address and get started. Read the blog’s review policy and make sure your book fits within the genres the blog reviews. If the blog has review submission guidelines, make sure you read them carefully. A busy book blogger will refuse or even ignore an incorrect submission.
Also find out a name to use in your email as part of the greeting. I get the odd spam email saying “Hello Ally’s Desk Site Admin” that then goes on about SEO or whatever. I delete them immediately. An author who uses the same greeting will probably get the same treatment. Use my name – there are three to pick from written somewhere on the site (Ally, Alice Leiper and Chilari). Do the same for any other book blog. Find out who runs the site and address them directly. It shows a personal touch and demonstrates your professionalism.
Include all the vital statistics
A pitch needs to be comprehensive. Most important is the novel summary. You need to hook the reviewer just as surely as any other reader, so your blurb needs to be strong.
But don’t forget the other information too. Your name, the title of your book, and, if it’s part of a series, the title of the series and what position the book has in the series. You should also include the length of the book in pages and in words. The publication date is probably a good idea too. All of this information should go after the blurb – the hook is most important as it’s going to be the major deciding factor.
You also want to include a bio about yourself – who you are, what your hobbies are, and most important – what you’ve written before that has been published. This gives the reviewer an idea of your experience. Links to existing publications, whether on Amazon, a magazine website or even your own fiction blog, should also be included. Also include a link to your book on Amazon, Smashwords or Goodreads so the reviewer can read other reviews.
What not to send
Do not ever send the ebook on first contact unless specifically allowed in review submission guidelines for the site. It’ll clog up someone’s inbox and it very presumptive – the reviewer hasn’t said they’ll review it yet.
Don’t include large attachments. The book cover is fine, but additional images – a photo of you with your book, your book and the others you’ve published arranged on the kitchen table, your dog with the book, and so on, are gimmicky and inbox cloggers.
How to get the pitch just right
You need to be persuasive with your book pitch. It’s the only chance you’ve got to persuade this particular reviewer to read your book. So start with the most important aspect of your book, the big question the book asks and answers (or at least attempts to), the main character’s core struggle, the thing that, if you stripped your whole book down to its core, was left at the centre with everything else revolving around it.
For me, characters are important. If I don’t get an idea of a character in the pitch, I won’t be interested. If your pitch is all about the quest, what will happen if the protagonist fails, the magical artefact she carried, but I never find out the protagonist’s name or what they want, I won’t review. I doubt I’m the only one. Put some character info in there. Name them. What is your protagonist’s greatest fear? Or their most prized dream? What do they want and why?
A pitch to a book reviewer isn’t the same as a blurb to a potential reader. A book blogger needs to know different information about the book, so don’t just paste your blurb from Amazon and stick it into the email to the book blogger. The reviewer needs to know if it’s the kind of book that fits for her site and her audience, not just whether she’ll like it. In this respect, a book blogger is not the general reading public, but somewhere between there and an agent.
That doesn’t mean you should send a summary of the whole novel – the reviewer shouldn’t know the ending because they need to be able to judge how well you handled twists and turns or how predictable the novel was. But you do need to include more information than the blurb. Start with the hook and the character(s), the sorts of things that would be in a blurb on Amazon, but then talk about themes, tone, genre and target audience as well.
Treat your pitch professionally
If your pitch is confused and unfocused, I’ll expect the book to be the same. If it’s full of spelling mistakes, bad grammar and typos, I won’t trust your book to be properly copyedited either. A reviewer doesn’t want to waste time on an unprofessional book – or an unprofessional pitch – when there are more than enough professionally presented books available to them.
My review list is currently about seven books long and my reading list about four times that (it includes some non-fictions, some fictions of genres other than fantasy); I’m not going to bump Shropshire Folk Tales or Xenophon’s Oeconomicus down again for a book that the author doesn’t care about enough to send a competent pitch. So don’t just rattle something off in an email and click send. Think about what you’re writing, structure it sensibly, and check it again and again to make sure you’ve not left any errors in.