Scary author tasks: Asking for reviews

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“Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Asking a book blogger to review your novel is a little like approaching a stranger on the street and saying: “Excuse me, if you like me, can please you tell everyone how awesome I am? If not, you have my permission to punch me in the face.”

Okay. Maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like to me. And it’s that time again: book review request time.

Every couple of months, I sit down with a spreadsheet and a copy of the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s too early in the day to start drinking, and start writing emails.

When I put it like that, it  doesn’t sound that difficult, but it is. It’s one of my most demanding tasks as an author, both physically and emotionally.

Physically demanding, because I like to send out several requests in a day, but the requests can never be one mass request. That would be disrespectful.
Every blogger has her own review guidelines, and those review guidelines have to be respected. So if I’m sending out 12 emails to 12 bloggers, I’m typing an individualized email to each, trying to follow their instructors to the letter. (Sometimes bloggers will slip something crazy into their guidelines, like a math problem, or a random phrase, just to make sure authors are paying attention and following directions.) Then there are typos. I worry about typos, and when I fret about them, I create more of them, so each email takes a while.

Emotionally demanding, because basically, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to very politely ask a stranger to give me what could be a horrible review.
Asking people for opinions is a gamble. It’s hard to say “Here, I wrote this thing. Please, tell everyone on the Internet what you think of it.”
Part of the reason it’s so difficult is because I start writing the bad review I expect to get in my head as I’m writing my request to the reviewer. I have to be careful to not write disclaimers or apologizes for the work into the request. I also have to be careful to avoid false bravado.

It’s not my favorite task, but my fears are often unjustified. Many of the reviewers who have responded to my requests have been kind (the insane review guidelines are just so that they are not overwhelmed by authors who mass email them) and have given me wonderful reviews.

But here’s the thing: word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book that doesn’t have the publicity of say, Go Set A Watchman. And on the Internet, book blogs are word of mouth. So if you want to be read, requesting reviews from people with an audience in your genres, you must ask for reviews.

And sometimes, you will get punched in the face. (And remember, you gave that person permission to punch you in the face, so don’t complain about it!) But sometimes, the book blogger will turn around and tell everyone within earshot that you are awesome.

 photo credit: 40+117 Sucka Punch! via photopin (license)

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I want five bad reviews this summer

Five bad reviews of either of my books from people I don’t know. That’s my goal for this summer. I told my husband this last week and he looked at me as if I’d sprouted an arm from the top of my head.

I do have a good reason for wanting five bad reviews: if I don’t get any bad reviews, not enough people are reading the book.

This doesn’t mean I’m eager to read a bad review of The Eagle and The Arrow. And it doesn’t mean that I want more terrible reviews than good ones. No one likes a bad review. But no bad reviews are almost as bad as no good reviews, I think, because that means only my friends are reading it. Though I treasure my friends and want them to read my work, I also want to reach readers of all kinds.

And if I reach a wide enough group of readers, I will find the haters. Not everyone is going to love my work, I know this. I mean, look at Amazon. There are people, alive and dead, who hate The Great Gatsby, Pride & Prejudice and The Fellowship of the Ring, so there are definitely people around who will hate my work. This summer, I want to get my book into enough hands that I find some of them.

Do you know of a great book reviewer? I want to know.

Eagle & The ArrowThis is a crowd-sourcing kind of post. I want you guys to tell me where to send my book.

Yesterday I started sending review copies of The Eagle & The Arrow to a few fantastic book reviewers with whom I have relationships, and also to an elite group of super-readers. (I like to call them The Resistance. Because why not.)

But now it’s time to open things up and start sending review e-copies of my book to reviewers I don’t know. So I thought I’d open this up here: Do you know of, or really like a book review site to which I should be sending The Eagle & The Arrow? Or are you a book reviewer (for this effort, I’m looking for people who write reviews for either book review sites, blogs or publications)? 

Let me know. Leave a comment with the name of the site or shoot me an email or tweet me or Facebook message me and tell me where you think I should send my review copies. Or fill out this form (I’m all about options):

You send me a recommendation and I will send an e-book galley to that site. I will write them a note and mention you by name and tell them that you loved them so much that you recommended them to me.

So tell me, who should I be emailing? I want to know.