Blurb and Review FAQ

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Author’s Note: Hope ya’ll had a great Christmas, if it’s what you do. Mine rocked. Here’s another FAQ from the past. Enjoy!

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A couple of the guys in my Seven Deadly Pens crit group have books coming out this year, which precipitated a round of questions on how to go about requesting blurbs from other authors and querying book reviewers. As always, what works for me might not work for you, and I invite you to share your insight in the comments field.

How exactly did you go about procuring blurbs and reviews before your book was released? Did you only contact authors you knew, or did you send out feelers to dozens asking for reads and blurbs?

I asked a few authors (whom I had previously read, enjoyed and reviewed) for blurbs. I have a spreadsheet template that I used for reviews, and that was more of a shotgun blast.

When soliciting fellow authors and publications for blurbs and reviews, did you try to shoot for any big names that you had no connection to? Just send out a query and see what happens? Or did you stick to people/publications that you felt fairly confident would give you the time of day and respond to you?

When soliciting blurbs, I shot for authors whose books I’ve reviewed. That way, they might have seen my review and remembered my name. If you don’t review books the best thing I can say is just email a few of the writers whose work you admire most, preferably those you’ve actually had dialogue with. I’d try to avoid asking favors like that of writers I didn’t know or at least sometimes exchange a sentence or two with.

Famous Author X’s mother used to work where I do and it was mentioned to me that maybe I should contact X’s mom to see if X would give me a read/blurb/review. My initial reaction is that sounds like a creepy idea since X’s mom likely doesn’t know me from Adam, but surely knows some of the same people I do… But I could also just give X a shot directly, mention the very, very remote connection we have and go from there. Either way, it sounds creepy. Opinions? Anyone?

If someone called my mom to see if I’d blurb their book, I’d kill them to death. Twice. It’s waaaay too invasive of privacy. Writing X directly wouldn’t be bad. Like The worst thing s/he can say is no, and at least you’re asking THEM. I’m sure X is used to that.

What about reviews? Did you wait for the book to be released? Did you send files/copies of your book out before its release (the term is ARC or Advanced Reader Copy, right?)?

Send out an ARC (Advance Review Copy). The whole point of the ARC is for it to go out a couple months in advance, so that reviews are hitting websites/magazines and generating a buzz right when the book goes on sale. For one of my books, I queried first, sent ARCs to those that responded positively, and then sent a followup one month after, to make sure they got the ARC. I highly recommend this; a couple of my reviewers hadn’t received the ARC email. I sent queries and ARCs to individuals who, like myself, review books on their websites, as well as to publications and websites that offer reviews as part of their standard fare.

What kind of response did you get from everyone? How many reviews were you able to line up, and are still actively soliciting reviews from magazines, newspapers etc.?

Some told me politely to piss off, some wouldn’t accept PDF ARCs, some asked for a hard copy and I still haven’t seen a review at all, and several professional souls offered honest reviews in a timely manner. I’m not currently soliciting reviews for either of my books, but if I see a site I like, I’ll drop ‘em a line. One campaign landed me six good reviews and a blurb from a pro author. For the other, I did next to nothing because I was a newb; the two copies I sent out got good reviews, though.

How much advice did your publishers give, or resources did they provide in terms of hooking you up with potential advanced readers or reviewers?

Expect exactly jack and shit from the publisher in the way of support, that way you’re not disappointed. With Publisher A, I did all the legwork (and I’ll admit, I didn’t do much) and I’ll bet my ass they never sent out a single copy (because the only reviews I’ve seen were on copies I sent out). With Publisher B, I did all the legwork, but the publisher not only stayed involved with my process but also sent the print copies to my more demanding reviewers at his expense and included copies of my book with other packages he sent out. The common denominator, though, is that I did all the legwork, both times. Most of your small presses have less money to spend on marketing that I spend on a month’s beer, and even some of the midlist authors we all love aren’t allocated much in the way of PR funding. Your job’s only begun once you’ve completed the manuscript and sold the book and no one, not even the publisher, is going to care as much about your book as you do.

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