Monday, January 25, 2010

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from Bloggers

This blog has come to fruition for many reasons. Yes, it is partially because I love Peachtree and would like everyone to know how great the books we publish are, and a little bit is because it’s my job, but it is mostly because of all the amazing book blogs I have been reading recently. Seriously, if you want to learn about what books you should be reading, bloggers know. They know everything, like Yoda, only with better grammar. I have been fortunate enough to work with many of them over the past several months on two blog tours for 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and The Brain Finds a Leg by Martin Chatterton. Believe it or not, I have managed to go from knowing NOTHING about Twitter and blogging, to having a cursory knowledge of the subjects without stepping on too many toes. As many of you know, for a publicist, this is a mighty feat. It helps to learn from others mistakes, but it is best to go straight to the source—the bloggers themselves. So here, with help from Bri, of Bri Meets Books, and Gina, of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers, I’ve put together some Dos & Don’ts for publicists in regards to the blogging community.

Do…
  • Take the time to review a blog before pitching to them. Just because you have a great book, doesn’t mean that it is a good fit for every blog. Some focus on children’s picture books, others prefer YA Fantasy, and others still may be so specific that they only want books about the Battle of Hastings, dinosaurs, or pancakes. The point is that you don’t know unless you look.
  • Read the review policy. Straight forward, I know, but you would be surprised how many bloggers state in their review policies that they don’t accept ARCs or nonfiction books and end up with nonfiction ARCs in their mailboxes. Time is valuable to a publicist and blogger. By sending a type of book that someone obviously doesn't review, you're wasting their time and your own. Taking the extra 5 minutes to check review policies pays off in the long run and lets the reviewer know that you respect their time and put thought into submitting a book to them.
  • Use a bloggers name. “Dear Blogger” is a form letter. They know that, and it is rude because it clearly shows that you did not follow the previous two “dos.” Many bloggers have their name on their blog, but if they don't, a simple “Hello” works great. I know that it can seem time consuming to individually address twenty e-mails, but making the effort to establish a relationship in the beginning is important.
  • Offer more options than just a review. Even the small gestures are appreciated and having unique posts helps keep blog readers interested. No one wants to read 10 reviews of the same book on a blog tour. They want to see a giveaway, a guest post by the author, an interview with an illustrator, a book trailer. This is for your benefit as much as it is for the blogger.
  • Include extra materials in your pitch. Like any reviewer, they need information. It is helpful to include an author photo, press release, cover image, or interior art. Don’t forget links to the author and publisher websites. They will use all of these materials when they post about your book. The more information the better and it saves them the time of finding a cover image online that is possibly of bad quality.
  • Remember that bloggers have schedules too. You cannot e-mail a blogger two days before you want them to post something and expect them to do it. Bloggers plan out their posting schedules and need time to fit your book in, as well as read your book and give it the attention it deserves in order to receive a thoughtful review.
  • Be clear about the dates you would like things posted. If you are putting together a blog tour and need something posted during a certain week, approach a blogger a month (or more) ahead of time and be very clear about what dates you need, as well as what other blogs are posting on what days. You don’t want two interviews with the same author being posted back to back.
  • If you want a review posted on multiple sites, let them know. A lot of bloggers put reviews on other websites like Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing, and many are happy to post a review in multiple places if you ask.
  • Ask if you want more information. Ask, and you shall receive. Most bloggers are happy to give you more information about their review policy, stats on how many visitors they get, how often they like to post, etc. They will not necessarily assume that you want this information otherwise.
  • Develop a relationship with bloggers. By being friendly and getting to know bloggers better, you are better able to tailor your pitch to the right people. You learn who enjoys what type of books, saving your time and theirs. Also, establishing trust and a good working relationship means that people will be more willing to work with you again and pay more attention to your pitches, as well as get the word out to others about your books.
  • Remember that most bloggers do this because they love books. Bloggers don’t get paid to write about books. They use their personal time to read and write about the books we send to them. This is very time consuming. Be mindful and appreciative of this.

Don’t…
  • Offer a book just to get placement on a blog when it is obviously a poor fit. This goes back to the previous comments of reading review policies and looking at a blog before pitching. It only takes a minute to look at recent posts to see that a blogger has been on a young adult post-apocalyptic novel kick recently and that your fairytale romance may not be what they want to read right now.
  • Don’t continuously e-mail a blogger about the same book. They got your e-mail, they’re just not that into you. Move on and contact someone else that the book is a better fit for. If you have already sent them a book, they need time to read it. They have a stack of books to read and yours may not be at the top of the list. If you need a response by a certain date, make that clear before sending them a book.
  • Use all caps in a subject header. That is the e-mail equivalent of yelling and we all know that yelling is rude. If you are contacting them about a blog tour, put “Blog Tour,” followed by the title of the book. If you want to pitch an author interview, put “Author Interview,” followed by the authors name. Straight forward is the way to go.
  • Assume that giving a book equals a good review. Like any reviewer, they may not like your book. They do not owe you a good review just because you sent a book. You don’t expect this from traditional print media, you shouldn’t expect it from electronic media either.

Thanks to Bri Meets Books, and Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers, for your feedback! I hope that my paraphrasing has gotten your ideas across properly! Be sure to comment and add (or subtract from) this list. I'm always happy to learn more.

24 comments:

  1. This is a lovely post! :) Very good advice!

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  2. Excellent! Especially the part about reading the review policy. The policies state what you, the publicist, can expect in return for your pitch: some bloggers answer every email, some bloggers say they answer only when interested in the book. This is important; no answer does not necessarily mean, "never write to me again."

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  3. Great post! I'd actually say the lead time for getting a review, post, etc. should be at least 6 weeks, not just a month. I know it is rare I can get to books in a month anymore.

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  4. Lessons learned the hard way! And yes, Jen, getting a book as early as possible is always ideal. I'll make a note of 6 weeks. I usually assume that lead time for a picture book would be less than for a YA book, since they are faster reads. Is that a safe assumption?

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  5. Picture book should be safe a a month, maybe three weeks, I think. I mean, I could read a picture book tonight, no problem, it mostly becomes the issue of writing and scheduling a review at that point.

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  6. That's what I needed to know! A month is a good amount of time.

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  7. "Be clear about the dates you would like things posted."

    Yes! I second that one. I can't have a review up in a month especially when I live in Canada and it takes a month just to arrive in the mail. And don't spring that on me in the email after I've accepted the book to review.

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  8. I know it takes extra time, but I am much more likely to accept and review a book if the publicist (or author, or whoever) can explain to me why I would be interested in this book--just a couple of short sentences. "I noticed you reviewed such-and-such, this also has a strong male character." "I see you like historical fiction; this book is this period with this angle."

    I also appreciate emails that contain phrases like "if you should choose to review, please let me know"--that low-pressure tactic makes me feel more comfortable reviewing.

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  9. What a great idea! It made me feel better about ignoring emails from people who clearly dont know what I read!

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  10. Treating bloggers with respect and as individuals is the key.

    I especially like your point about being open to book features other than reviews. Though I do review books on my blog, I am much more likely to feature titles I like in one of my blog's other series (authors create music playlists for their book, musician/author interviews, etc.

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  11. This is a great list, but I'd be interested in seeing one from a reverse point of view as well - that are things that bloggers need to keep in mind as well if interested in working with publishers.

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  12. Wow! Looks like some great suggestions in the comments...both give and take! That's great! I love sharing what I've learned but there is ALWAYS room to grow! =0)

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  13. So there is interest in a companion piece about how bloggers should approach publicists and tips for working with them? I can make that happen. Any particular issues you would like addressed?

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  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. We bloggers (at least in the children's literature area) have said these things for some time, but seeing it written from the publisher's side is truly refreshing.

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  15. Thank you for this! I especially like your emphasis on cultivating a relationship with bloggers. The few extra minutes it takes for people to look at my blog and find my name, review policy, tone, and subject matter can make ALL the difference when I'm approached by a publisher.

    I love to promote great books that are a good match for my blogs. I find it tiresome to receive repeated inquiries (from businesses of all kinds) who seem to expect me to promote their products for free just because they can scrape my email address -- worse still when their products aren't related to my content/audience.

    I have had great experiences with publishers who take the time to learn what I write, and come back to me more than once with a relevant book that they would like me to review.

    Thanks Peachtree Pub Gals!

    Jade

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  16. I have ran a successful book blog for five years, a literary pr firm for three, and now a
    a published author with Kensington. For a newbie blogger this post was spot on. My lead time for books are longer, because I publish reviews for magazines that need them sooner than six weeks before release date and I have a huge back log of books. One tip I would like to add is for publicists to not assume that just because we accept one book to review that gives them the okay to send their entire clientele. Second, supply us graphics that can be easily uploaded to our blogs. Third, if we ask for specific content for the blog, supply it in a timely manner.

    On the other hand for bloggers make sure you disclose your relationship with the author, in order to stay in compliance with FTC rules.

    Thanks for the great post.

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  17. I second everything on your list! This is a great reminder to publicists and bloggers alike. It's good for bloggers to remember to be up front about what they're able to accomplish when a publisher does contacting them. This makes it easier all the way around.

    As far as the picture book reviews, I agree with Jen, 3 to 4 weeks lead time is perfect. My reviews on picture books involve getting my kids feedback as well and sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to really see how they feel about it.

    Thanks again! Great list!

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  18. This is such a great post! Thanks for taking the time to understand and learn from book bloggers. Building relationships is key. This is an excellent list.

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  19. I don't like an initial email from a publisher/publicist/author saying "post on x date."

    Reasons: I have a "if I don't finish/like it, I won't review it." I may like a concept, a cover, a blurb, but not the actual book so won't commit to reviewing it up front.

    I also try to schedule posts based primarily on what I think readers want to read when, with a side helping of what works for me and my schedule (i.e., is there a holiday I'm posting around? a special week, holiday, theme, topic? a conference? an interview series? vacation? sick? busy weeks at work?). The publisher's schedule is last on my list.

    I don't mind publishers sending unsolicited books once they have an address. In fact, it takes any pressure off, as since I didn't ask for the titles, I have no obligations at all. What I would want in those situations, especially when its multiple imprints, is for the book to come with a slip/paper that includes an email to send a notification for when I post the review.

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  20. A wonderful and thoughtful post. Excellent points which I completely agree with! I, for one, try to publish reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, tweet and Facebook about the reviews and am more than happy to place the reviews in other places at the request of the publisher, author, etc. Also, it is nice to know if there is a time frame for which the contact person is looking at. This helps to organize priority of material, etc.

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  21. Great post! I've been blogging for a while now, but just started a book blog and you are the first publisher I have worked with...so far it has been an awesome experience. I'm really appreciative that you let me be part of the blog tour even though I am a new blogger. I loved being able to have a choice of books so that I was able to pick one that would be a right fit for my blog. I love the optimism you bring to the coordination between publishers and bloggers! It feels good to feel recognized for what we are doing! Go books! :)

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  22. Thank you for this great post! I would add that the longer the lead time, the better possibility that a blogger will accept a book. I know I plan my schedule 3 to 4 months ahead because I get a lot of requests. And I also really appreciate when pertinent subject headers as I save all requests that I accept in a folder so I can follow up with the publicist/author/publisher once I've featured the book...having a subject heading that is clear makes it so much easier for me to find the original email.

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  23. The lead time is very important to mention when you contact a publicist, because everyone reads at a different pace and some people like things several months in advance, while others are fine with just a few weeks. And I certainly agree. I good subject line is key.

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