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  • Blurb is a Verb: Working With Book Bloggers, And A Little Help from Jen Karsbaek
Blurb is a Verb: Working With Book Bloggers, And A Little Help from Jen Karsbaek
Written by
Sarah Pinneo
October 2011
Written by
Sarah Pinneo
October 2011
There's been a lot of chatter on SheWrites lately about the importance of book bloggers, and the amazing power they have to help get a book "out there." But it’s one thing to appreciate book bloggers and quite another to actually harness this new force in the universe.  Book bloggers are a diverse bunch.  It’s intimidating. So I asked book blogger Jen Karsbaek to weigh in on working with them. Here’s what she had to say.                  
—Sarah P. 
Working with Book Bloggers and the Worst. Pitch. Ever.
By Jen Karsbaek
Over the past few years - as publicity budgets are slashed, bricks and mortars bookstores close (RIP, Borders), and as more and more people have turn to The Great and Powerful Google for every question they have about any product they might possibly want to buy - book bloggers have become increasingly important in the publishing world. It would be easy to sit here and tell you why you should care about book blogs and the (mostly) wonderful people who run them, but author and publicists have already written boatloads of those sorts of posts. For example, Amanda Hocking (yes, that Amanda Hocking), wrote a post in which she more or less credits book bloggers with quadrupling her sales of My Blood Approves in a month.
These days, it is no longer really a question that bloggers can be important to a book’s success, and that authors need to pay attention to and work with them. Now the question is how to do it. Or, you know, how not to do it:
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a self published science fiction author from [redacted] looking for exposure. The problem is, I can’t afford a publicist, so I have to self promote. My dream is to become a well known science fiction author. Unfortunately, my books are not widely distributed, and are only available online. However, I’ve attached copies of my books for you to read.
Please note; I’m my own proofreader, and my books are constantly being edited, since I must order proof copies of my books from Lulu in order to approve them, and I’m constantly finding errors I didn’t notice with the previous copy until much later. Since I have very little money, each edition of my books often continue to have typos that were missed in the editing process, so they remain flawed until I can afford a new proof copy of any new edition… (and it didn’t even end there.) 
Yes, this is an ACTUAL pitch I received at my blog, identifying information changed to protect the clueless. It is also perhaps the textbook example of how to not pitch a book to a blogger. Can anyone spot the most ridiculous error of all?
Yes, that’s right, while telling me his entire life story, this guy FORGOT TO MENTION THE TITLE OF HIS BOOK. Yes, in this case there were files attached, but you’re never going to get anyone to read your book if you can’t build a little interest for it, and that is fairly difficult to do without a title. His other major mistake? Not that he told me far more than I wanted to know about his money troubles (although that made me cringe with every sentence), but that he didn’t do his homework.
You see, I, like most book bloggers, include on my blog a review policy. Mine includes my stats, what an author or publisher can expect when pitching me a book, what formats I read, and, perhaps most importantly, which genres I do and do not accept. Most review policies contain similar information, but almost every single one of them will include those genre preferences. This is important, because right there, under my review policy, it clearly states that I do not accept science fiction. Or self-published books, for that matter.
These are my personal preferences, and, really, it behooves authors to respect them. Do you really want someone who isn’t into science fiction reviewing your space opera? Or someone who doesn’t like romance reviewing your bodice-ripper? Sure, your book might be the breakthrough which makes them realize they love the genre, but even if that happens, it is not terribly likely that their audience is there looking for that genre. They have built up a trust with the blogger around certain types of books, and chance are good that they either are just not interested in the genre, or that they have someone else from whom they take recommendations in that genre. Plus, I see no reason for authors to foot the bill for book blogger experiments in genre-busting, but that is probably less important than finding a blogger with an audience who can appreciate your book.
You know, I get why authors just email the first book blogger they come across, I really do. The book blogosphere is big, and can be confusing. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by just contacting any old blogger, though. Just as you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) blindly email every print reviewer you can think of, you mustn’t do so to bloggers, either. There is a book blogger out there who is exactly right to review your book, but it will take some research, either on your part or on the part of a publicist. When it doubt, find someone who knows the blogosphere well, and let them work for you.
Sarah: Many authors will already be nodding along with you here, because the good advice to “do your homework” will sound familiar—it’s the same lesson that many of us were required to learn in order to find an agent.  Do you have any tips about how to do it?  What advice do you have for our search?
Start reading blogs before you are ready to ask bloggers to review your work, that way you can find blogs that review books similar to your own and get a feel for who might be interested in (and will hopefully love) your book. Twitter is a good way to 'meet' interesting bloggers, and a way to begin to build some relationship with them, so that jump at the chance to read your book when the time comes. If you have no idea where to start, try searching the Book Blogger Search Engine for some titles comparable to your own and see who has reviewed and enjoyed them. Look at those blogs, and the blogs of people who have commented on those reviews and continue to expand your book blogger search from there. Once you've found your favorites, get to know their voice and blogging style and, above all, before you pitch, check the review policy!
Jen Karsbaek been blogging about books since February of 2008 at Devourer of Books (www.devourerofbooks.com). She is also the cohost of the regular book-related podcast "What's Old is New" and the founder of Booklicity (www.booklicity.com), which is devoted to targeted online publicity for books and authors. You can follow her on Twitter at @devourerofbooks.
This post first appeared on Blurb is a Verb, the website devoted to helping authors get their books out into the world. Stop by and join the conversation!

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  • Nancy MacMillan

    Sarah - I finally found a few free minutes to get back on SheWrites and notice "this new addition." Very interesting! Being in the throngs of publishing my first book "the professional way," I enjoyed this piece. Having recently made the decision to self-publish after querying for a year, I'm still a distance from the "book review" stage, probably 3-4 months down the road. Working on a compelling book cover now, plus public speaking classes. I'm shooting for a July 4th release date, but know reviews should happen a number of months prior . . . I'm learning as I go. Wonderful info on line, but way too much. Must do a lot of gleaning. I will look forward to your continued input . . . thank you again.

    Nancy MacMillan @ http://blogofavetswife.blogspot.com/


  • Stephen L. Brayton

    Very good post on how to be professional when asking for reviews.

  • Widdershins

    It's absurd (and not in a happy way) how many authors trip over this aspect of 'writing is also a business' ...from their first pitch to the last sale ... 'specially in these interwebz times, where so much information is right on the other end of their fingertips.

    I do wonder if its because so many believe that becoming an author is all about the 'art' of writing, and nothing else.

    I dunno!!! ... could it be as simple as defining a writer as someone who writes, and an author as someone who is committed to turn what they've written into a book (of infinitely variable length) for public (anyone else other than themselves) consumption?

    ... and they have to pass a test before they go anywhere near a submission process! ... only joking about that last bit ... mostly.

  • Sarah Pinneo

    Virginia--you're right that the book blogger search engine is terrific. I've been putting comps for my own book into it to see what comes up.


  • Virginia Lloyd

    I'm still reeling from that train-wreck of a query letter. Thanks for the tip about the book blogger search engine. I have been trying to build up a bloglist of dedicated book-reviewing bloggers, but it has been scattered and piecemeal. Jen's advice is practical and helpful.