Sometimes you’ll see disclosure statements in reviews with the reviewer stating that he/she received a complimentary (free) book (or product) in exchange for an honest review. “Well,” you think yourself, “that’s sounds pretty good. I like free things. How do I get in on this free stuff action?” Well today I’m going to teach you the secret handshake and give you the full scoop on how to get books to review — these same guidelines apply to coloring books and products.
I’d like to add that while the book, coloring book, or product is technically free — in exchange for said item you will be investing a considerable amount of time into using the item and writing up a review.
Reviewers/Book Bloggers: Reviewers are also known as book bloggers because bloggers use blogs as their platform to spread news and reviews.
Reviewers/bloggers often review books they receive directly from publishers — that’s why you’ll see some type of disclosure statement in the reviews because the FTC *requires* this if you’ve received a complimentary book product. And of course book bloggers may also review books they bought themselves, too.
Spreading the news: Bloggers publish their reviews to their blog — often before the book’s official on-sale (release) date — and *almost always* to other places online, too.
The purpose of the early reviews (or on-sale date reviews) is to generate buzz and pre-release hype for the book. Bloggers help people get excited for forthcoming releases. And course, publishers hope the reviews will result in pre-order sales, general sales, and a greater awareness for the book.
ARCs and Finished Copies: Book bloggers generally receive ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) directly from the publisher — these are books that are printed up and sent out many months before the actual on-sale date. ARCs look a bit different from the books you see in bookstores — they often have the word “ARC” embossed on the front cover and the back cover has all sorts of publicity information.
I’ve also received plenty of finished copies too — these are no different from the books that sit on the shelves in bookstores.
(As a side note, all but one of the coloring books I have received from publishers have all been finished copies.)
Books (and products) are sent to people with an online presence: You really *must* have a blog or website — that’s just how it goes and this is what publishers want. There are many free blogging platforms out there — I obviously use WordPress, but there is also Blogger, Squarespace, Weebly, and others. It’s up to you to decide which platform is best for you.
You need to have a large following and the reviews you post online (usually in multiple spots besides your blog, more on that below) need to be able to reach TONS of people.
Your “profile page” on Amazon, goodreads, facebook, instagram, or whatever other online social media type sites just is not the same as having your own blog or website that you control 100%.
However, every publisher is different and some may make an exception if you are the admin of your own facebook group/page or youtube channel and have a large following there.
The review and where it is posted online: Book bloggers write up reviews — these reviews are very informative and often VERY LONG, almost like an essay. You don’t have to love everything you review, but if you don’t like something you should try to be respectful and explain why you don’t like it.
Book bloggers post reviews to their blog and almost always to other places online such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, goodreads, LibraryThing, BookLikes, twitter, youtube, vimeo, personal facebook pages, facebook groups, etc… You certainly do not have to post to all these places — just know that there are so many platforms you can use to post reviews to spread the word!
Don’t forget to e-mail the publicist after you post your reviews online so you can share your review links and thank them for the opportunity.
Contacting the publisher: Reviewers/Bloggers ASK for books or products — it’s true, that’s our secret, we simply ask.
The protocol is to send an e-mail directly to the general publicity e-mail address for the publishing house (or a specific publicist if that e-mail contact information is available, more on that below in the next section). It is generally not a good idea to contact artists, authors, or publishers via FB or other social media outlets.
Look in the book catalog to find the general publicity (or specific publicist’s) e-mail address. You can also most likely can find this information in the press, media, or contact us section of the publisher’s website.
To ask for a book you e-mail a review copy request — usually my e-mail subject line is “review copy request for [title of book].” The guidelines below can be used for product sample requests (art supplies) too.
When I first started book blogging, my review copy request e-mails I sent out were admittedly so dorktastic that I’m really lucky that I got some replies! As time went on, thankfully, my request e-mails got a lot more professional and polished. Publicists get tons of e-mail everyday so you want your e-mail to stand out in the crowd. Here are some things you should include in your e-mail:
** An introduction: include your name, blog name, and what kinds of books you review
** Readership statistics for your blog: average number of page views and visitors each month, number of subscribers/followers, etc…
** Number of subscribers/followers on other sites like goodreads or if you are admin of your own facebook group/page, etc…
** A list of all the places where you will post the review online
** All the meta data for the book you are requesting: title, author/illustrator, publisher and/or imprint, ISBN, and on-sale date
** A few sentences explaining why you are requesting a particular book
** If you’ve reviewed books for this publisher before, let the publicist know and list the titles (and include links to the reviews on your blog)
** At the end of your e-mail, include your full name, e-mail address, blog link and mailing address
Whenever I send a review copy request e-mail I always think this is the most awesome e-mail request ever — and sometimes the publicist thinks so too! Sometimes I’ve gotten a response within a couple of hours, other times the very next day, or sometimes a week later. Sometimes I don’t get a reply at all — so maybe a month after I sent my first request, I will send a second e-mail. Still sometimes, I just may never get a reply from a publicist — so many people request books and publicists cannot honor all requests. Don’t get discouraged.
How do I know what books to ask for?: You may find this surprising, I know I did when I first started, but publishers put out their seasonal catalogs full of forthcoming releases several months in advance. Most of the time you can find these catalogs directly on the publisher’s website. There may be a catalog link toward the bottom of the page or you may need to poke around the site to find it — some publishers may tuck away catalog links in a publicity or media section of their site.
Some book catalogs will have a general publicity e-mail address to send review copy requests to — or sometimes each individual book listing in the catalog will have a specific publicist’s contact information.
Review Policy: Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a review policy. This does a few things: (1) it makes you look like you take the opportunity to review books and products seriously, (2) helps your “review copy request” e-mails not turn into novellas since you can just include a link to a specific page on your blog that explains your review process, and (3) prevents you from receiving pitches/solicitations from random authors, illustrators, and/or publicists because you can be very clear about what kinds of books (or products) you will or will not accept.
You can take a peek at my review policy here — your own review policy certainly does not need to be this detailed or long! I just never can make a long story short so that’s why my policy is so verbose, it certainly wasn’t intentional. You are welcome to use my review policy as inspiration for creating your own but please do not just cut and paste it.
This is really overwhelming. Is there an easier way to get complimentary books in exchange for a review?: Yes, there is! You can participate in book blogger programs. It’s a bit easier because you just sign-up by creating an account and then select what books you hope to receive. Please note, I have not participated in any of these programs and each program is going to have its own terms, conditions, guidelines, etc… There is absolutely nothing wrong with these programs, I just strongly prefer to contact publicists (or the publishing house) directly via e-mail.
Net Galley (e-ARCs and e-books only)
Blogging for Books by Crown Publishing
Please note I am not an expert and this is just an FYI guide to help explain things — it is not comprehensive. I hope this information is helpful and good luck to you if decide to give it a go!
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