#NewBloggers 101, Book blogging

Real Publicist Advice On How To Get Review Copies Approved The Interview You've All Been Waiting For

So today I’ve got a secret agent under cover who wants to answer some of your questions about publishing and especially requesting books! Namely – on how to get review copies approved. Why a secret agent? I mean, since when have people in the secret services been working with publishers? Well, okay, maybe it’s a little simpler than that. It’s someone who has worked in the publishing industry for a while, but it would be unethical to talk names and imprints, so we will just refer to them as Secret Agent! Sounds way much cooler that way too, right?

So what is this arcane knowledge that the Secret Agent has for us? And how will this knowledge help us learn to request better, write better inquiries and perhaps tweak our profiles more? Let me just ask our guest! (Just in case it’s not clear – most of the bold headlines are my questions. All the paragraphs in plain  text are the answers by the Secret Agent.)

Alright, Secret Agent! Welcome and thanks for agreeing to talk about everything to us!
*grabs popcorn*

A GIF of Michael Jackson from the Thriller video, eating popcorn and smiling

Thanks for having me here. I’m glad we could find this totally not shady location to meet. We all know the traditional ‘secret’ places that people like me meet, like on benches in parks, so meeting in this totally random coffee shop will throw everyone off my trail. Also thank you for respecting my decision to wear a full animal mascot costume. This was the only way I felt safe enough to meet you without blowing my cover. Just kidding. I wish I had a full mascot costume I could wear around, but being called secret agent brought out the drama in me.

A GIF of a giant bunny costume face, being zoomed into and then having its colors inverted – for the added drama 

So what are the most common mistakes a reviewer / book blogger might make, when requesting books on online platforms, such as NetGalley or Edelweiss, or directly through email? In short, what’s important to get review copies approved?

So this comes down to one thing – whether you have given us all the information. Just for a matter of scale, I would have about 200-500 Netgalley requests alone every day. I didn’t handle Edelweiss. When we have that many requests, on top of what we already have to do, it becomes overwhelming. Don’t even talk about when there’s a new title, then we could get almost a thousand requests. And we should be going through each profile.

A publicist can have up to 500 #NetGalley requests every day - which is why it's important for you to tweak your profile. Read the full interview with a publicist and learn how: Click To Tweet

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to track down information. Like links, follower numbers. While I know that keeping track of your statistics and followers can be daunting and discouraging, this is incredibly important. At the end of the day, publishing is a business. And we, unfortunately, can’t give this book or ARC out to everyone. We have to be able to justify the copies we send and if there are results/hits/reviews from these copies. By giving you an arc, we are trusting you to review it, before the release date, so that we can use it. Whether that be as a quotes, or early opinions, or things we can address. So we have to be able to justify approving your request – and this goes for every platform.

So the number one mistake I find, that bothers me the most, is not having your most important links in your profile on Netgalley. This has to be your primary link, the one we will click on to see what your content is like. That being said, having every single social media account linked is also distracting. We want to find out what your content and reach is like without having to open 5 or six new tabs. I’d keep it down to 2-4.

Additionally, we really need to see what your reach is like. What your follower counts and statistics are like. I hate when I have to go through and add them up. It just doesn’t seem like the biggest part of my job and when you have almost a thousand to go through, I could be spending hours of my day doing just the math alone. Reviewers want to make working together as symbiotic as possible. Give us the information. For us, we had a threshold of followers that they had to have before we’d even consider approving them. And we need this information. It isn’t to be mean or pick on smaller blogs, it’s because we have to justify our actions at the end of the day too.

What are the most common mistakes #bookbloggers make, when requesting a title on #Netgalley, Edelweiss or through email? A real publicist answers, with examples: Click To Tweet

So let me give you a super straight forward template below of a review copy request email I wrote in the past (as I also moonlight as a book reviewer):

I like to subject my email the title of the book Review Request, so for example, Crown of Feathers Review Request:

To whom it may concern,

My name is XX and I’m the book blogger at XX (LINK HERE) where I review primarily XX books. I post at least three book reviews per week. {{One of my biggest guilty pleasures is period piece dramas, and _____ mixes that with time travel? Sign me up!}} <- for this section I like to include a brief reason, around 3-4 sentences about why I am choosing this book in particular. I also like to put this in bold. Basically only the essentials about why I think I’m the best pick go into bold.
I realize this is super early, I’m just THAT excited and if you don’t have arcs yet, could you please put me on your list? <- This was just something I put into the email because my email was really early and so I wanted to offer this as a possibility. But make sure you don’t offer something you’re not 100% okay with happening. For example, sometimes I’ll say I’ll accept an e-arc of the title, which can be easier to approve since it doesn’t require postage.

I would like to request:
-XX by XX

As of May 19th, 2018 I have XX combined followers (just add all your followers from the blog and different social media into one number here) (I’d prefer physical so I can showcase it on Instagram, but would also accept an e-galley):

– XX blog followers through Email and Bloglovin’/Wordpress (LINK HERE)
– XX Goodreads Reviews and 328 friends and followers (LINK HERE)
– XX Twitter followers (LINK HERE)
– XX Instagram (bookstagram) followers (LINK HERE)
This creates a total of XX followers. On my blog, I have an average number of XXk visitors and over XXk visitors in the last month. For all books I review, I also cross post a review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Here are some of my latest reviews:

<- A note about reviews, I only choose reviews which are similar. This could be the same genre, or a similar author, or a topic that is similar to the book you are requesting.

If you consider me for this opportunity, my mailing address is:

Thank you for your consideration

Always wondering what you should put in that review request email? Here's a super simple template, plus more advice on requesting - from a REAL publicist: Click To Tweet

Secondly, for Netgalley, your description is incredibly important. We know you love to read. So do we. But telling us all about why you love to read isn’t helpful. In a quick snapshot we need to know why this book is a good fit for you. What genres do you like. And, most importantly, your reach there is so helpful for us. It’s a big sign that you know what we’re looking for. And we don’t have to go around the internet hunting for you.

These basic Netgalley tips also go for writing emails. Make it easy for us to find you and to know what your reach is like. Also it helps to write a specific piece of the email about why you want this title. Make sure to mention if it’s a book that has a specific connection to you. This doesn’t necessarily hinder or improve your chances, it just could factor as a factor if you’re on the border. I know that for me if a person had less followers than I needed, but matched the representation in the book, I was able to fight a little more for them. This doesn’t mean lie about the rep that matches you, but just that all info is good info to have.

And make sure we have it all. If you want a physical one, make sure we have your email. If you want an e-copy make sure we have your Netgalley email and don’t find it difficult. Just have it plainly written and not with a lot of text. We get hundreds of emails a day.

Should you follow up your email to the publisher or not, if you didn't receive a reply about a review copy request? And when should you send in the links, if you received one? Publicist answers: Click To Tweet

I would recommend following up, but don’t do it daily. Sometimes we can have the time to respond no, or yes, but it’s not a good look for you to write every day or to try constantly to appeal to us. We’ve made a decision for a reason. I would think about the timing. Don’t request too early because then we might not have made our lists. I would say that when you see a book go up on Netgalley is a good sign, or when we’re about 3-5 months away from publication. It’s often a lot easier to ask for e-ARCS so always keep that in mind.

For physical ARCs shipping to international addresses is often out of our budget. Some houses do it, but others can’t. So just be mindful of that and open to e-ARCs then. That’s not to say don’t write, because that house might send you a physical one or a e-ARC just know that this possibility or limitation exists.

That’s a good point. I (Evelina) leave every request of mine open with “I accept e-galleys as well”. They’ve never yet mailed an e-galley if they’ve mailed anything, but it’s good to keep it there. Anyway, what about tweaking your profile? And do you have any tips on the format of request emails?

So I feel like I covered a lot of that already, but to make it easier I’ll put it in bullets.

Tips to get review copies approved on both email and platforms like NetGalley or Edelweiss:

  • Make sure all the information we need is on your profile (follower counts, links, etc)
  • We want to know you are still active, so make sure you have recent content, or consistent content

Tips to get review copies approved through email requests:

    • I don’t like when I get emails constantly that are rude after the first one. This seems like it should go without saying, but I’ve gotten some that were rude. And that does you absolutely no favors.
    • Keep it professional but feel free to throw some personality in. I mean have a proper address and what not, but feel free to try to crack a joke or make a book pun.

Tips to get review copies approved on Netgalley / Edelweiss:

        • Make sure your links are up to date. I don’t know how many I clicked on that weren’t active anymore
        • How much does your approval rating matter? Well if it’s really low, I’d say below 10% that’s a bad sign. That doesn’t mean you won’t get it. But when I’m filtering requests, I’ll go from the highest rating to the lowest. If I have a threshold there’s a chance I won’t get to you if you’re at 2%. You’d be surprised at the amount of people who request who do it with 5%
        • Make sure you’re in the right category. Netgalley has a category for bloggers and I don’t like it when people say they’re media or librarians. Media is for outlets. Librarians are for those who have the power to influence the titles. If you work part time every other month, that doesn’t mean you’re a librarian. Netgalley is a tool to make sure we are sending it to people who can give awareness and coverage. So be fair to what kind of reach you have and who you are.
        • Don’t write about how much you love reading. Write about what makes your content special.

I (Evelina) will butt in here about NetGalley – do you mean the links NetGalley has us fill in (like social media, our blog), or do we also have to manually post them on the profile description?

The ones Netgalley has spots for. So the ones you can fill in yourself. I wouldn’t actually put any links in your profile description because there’s a good chance they won’t be clickable, and the person will have to copy and paste – which takes a lot of time when you have to do 200-500 requests a day.

A GIF of a man wiping sweat off his brow, with “Make Money Work” written on his shirt

So when is the best time for your review to be submitted? Two weeks before publication? Or after publication, so they can buy right away? Is there any variation when a different time is better, and why?

Everyone has different policies. Here’s what I recommend. I think you should post it around 2 weeks before because it can build buzz. If we’ve sent you a review copy or via Netgalley I think that should be the default. That’s not to say there isn’t some value in reviews afterwards to keep the buzz moving. So if life got in the way and your review is within a month after release we will understand. But just understand a main reason we provide these copies can be for early feedback. I like when people send me their review because it helps me keep track of the coverage. So if your review isn’t live when you post the Netgalley review, you can send it to us after the fact.

For books with longer lead times, like books for Spring 2019 in December 2018, early feedback is so appreciated. So feel free to send the reviews as early as you can, but you can hold the review. Make sure in the comments you tell us when you’re going to post and where. That gives us the opportunity to select quotes we may ask you if we can use, or to send to the authors.

Oh, I know a question that plagues us all. Sending in the links – especially if we’ve requested the book through email (not NetGalley or Edelweiss). Do we send in the links at all? Do we send it to the same email we requested from? What if we never get a reply, but receive the book?

I would always say better send the link than not. Especially if you have sent and email and received a copy. Even if we haven’t responded. I would just, as a default, send an email.

So is there any chance we’ll ever get on any mailing lists for unsolicited copies after working with publishers? How would that happen? And how should we react to it? Are we absolutely supposed to review the books received?

This depends on each house. There are such lists in certain houses, but it matters a lot on the titles and your content. We wouldn’t want to send everyone the same book because what if you don’t review SF but someone else does? There’s always a chance though. This would only happen after a relationship has been established. And positive experiences are key. Timely responses. Polite emails. I’m not sure, across the board, how frequent these lists are, sometimes other houses have newsletters, or some other way they structure it. But it always revolves around positive experiences with both parties.

I don’t think you have to review all the books, especially if it’s not your genre or your style. But make sure you don’t let a long gap occur before you send a review in. For example if you’ve gotten three books in a row and not sent anything, we might take you off the list because we think you aren’t interested or active. So I would make sure there isn’t so much of a gap. Even just a, “received this book and so excited to read it” email is good too. Transparent conversation is key.

Speaking of which. Does it have to be an email, or is social media handles sufficient? Like tags on Twitter book hauls, or Instagram story hauls, thanking the publisher?

Tagging on social media is always good, but I wouldn’t rely on that alone. Often the person seeing that might not be the person sending you the book. It could be the marketing or social media team. When in reality, the person you’re reaching out to is in the publicity department, often, so there’s a chance they won’t see it at all.

What are the things you’d like to school new bloggers about? Are there things that are obvious from a publisher’s view that we are just oblivious about? What would make it easier for both us and the publishers to work together efficiently?

I think it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that publishing is a business. We all want to read the books and feel strongly about them. But sometimes we run out of copies, or we can’t send them, or something else. It’ll be okay. You can read them when they become their finished products. That’s even better sometimes because minor flaws are removed and even big things can change. But because of this, you have to have an open heart and mind and accept that we have to justify our actions to our bosses too. I would try to work on your reach and your content. Great content will attract readers. Make blogging friends. Say hello at events.

Transparent information is my number one tip. I know that confronting your statistics can be hard. But, at the end of the day, it is information that we do need. Then again, some houses are different, but we do need your reach. This isn’t even a be-all-end-all factor in regards to you getting an ARC. But I think it comes down also to mindset. Are you of the mindset where you want to make this into something larger, where you know your statistics and your monthly reach? Or is this a hobby? It’s okay to not want to keep track of stats, but just be understanding that we can’t always just give copies without that knowledge.

Publicist advice on relationships with publishers for #bookbloggers: 1. Stay transparent 2. Give timely response 3. Be polite 4. Be brief 5. Have patience. Read more for more in depth advice: Click To Tweet

Alright, thank you for your contribution, Secret Agent! Things are so much clearer to me, and I hope it is to all my readers. Any last thoughts you’d like to give us before you have to dash away to another exciting mission?

Don’t get discouraged. I know it can seem daunting. But just focus on making the content that makes you happy, because ultimately if you’re just in it to read free books for the purposes of them being free, that won’t help anyone. The majority of people in publishing are in it for the love of books, stories, and characters. With time, passion, and some promotion, you can grow your platform and become more competitive, if that’s what you desire. There are people willing to help you, to form groups, and to chat, like Evelina (you can contact Evelina here to join the book blogger group chat if you’re not in it yet). Find your community, your group, and bond over your mutual love of books. That approach will make sure you remain blogging, especially as you begin before you see tons of growth.

So there you have it! I hope this interview helps and you’ll be able to tune up your profiles to be able to get review copies approved! And while we’re at it, if you haven’t read these yet, here are some more posts that might be able to help you along the way:

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