A Writer’s Guide to Book Blogger Etiquette

In the course of two book releases over the last six months, I have been privileged to ‘meet’ many wonderful book bloggers who have reviewed my books, allowed me to guest post, interviewed me, and participated in my online book tours. Did the blogger always like my book and give me a positive review? No. But regardless of his/her opinion, I have always, always, always remained professional. Sadly, not all writers can make this claim…and the negative review problem isn’t the only complaint that book bloggers have with us.

In fact, the number of author issues raised by bloggers on my Twitter feed is staggering—and I’m not talking petty nit-picking here, I’m talking serious (and sometimes mind-boggling) faux-pas. I don’t know if it has to do with the anonymity offered by the Internet, plain bad manners, or honest ignorance, but there are an awful lot of authors out there who seem to need a quick course in proper etiquette when dealing with book bloggers. So pay attention, because here goes:

  1. Book bloggers are not paid to review your book. Offering to pay them is an insult. They will see it as an attempt to buy them and they will consign you to their spam folders. Rightfully so. (There are some paid review sites out there; if you’re comfortable with using that kind of service, the choice is yours.)
  2. Not all book bloggers review all books. Before you contact a blogger for a review, take the time to see if they’re interested in your genre (the information is on their Policy page). Asking sci-fi or non-fiction bloggers to review your erotic romance novel will not get you a favorable response and you will land in their spam folders. Again, rightfully so.
  3. First impressions count.
    1. Do not request an interview/review via Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter. If you’re about to ask someone to take the time to read your book, at least take the time to visit their blog (therein making sure you see what they review per #2 above) and follow their contact protocol (email or form). Most bloggers also give their names on their About pages…visit those, too, and address them by name in your email.
    2. Do not ask the blogger to become your beta reader, find other reviewers for you who might be interested in your book, and/or provide free editing. Especially not all in the same introductory email. You wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger on the street and ask him/her to do any of those things, and you shouldn’t ask a stranger-to-you blogger, either. If you build a relationship with a blogger over time, he/she may be willing to help out with more than just a review—the key words here are time and relationship.
  4. On the topic of asking reviewers for things, do not swamp them with emails asking them to hurry up with your review. Or asking them when the review will go up. Or what their rating will be. Or if they liked your book. Or for any other reason. Patience is a virtue. Practice it. Most reviewers have day jobs just like most authors do. And lives. Harassing them will not endear you to them, and multiple requests for anything will count as harassment.
  5. Book bloggers are not free PR sources. If you want to know how to run a blog tour, Google it. If you want to know what other blogs to contact, do your own research. Most blogs have a list of other blogs they follow or that follow them; this is a good place to start.
  6. Never, ever, ever badmouth bloggers (or other authors/editors/publishing houses/agents) on social media. This isn’t just bad manners, it’s stupid…and it will come back to bite you in the butt. No, really. It will.
  7. That last point holds true even if a blogger has given you a negative review. The hard truth is that not everyone is going to like your book and if you want to be a professional author, you’d better learn to deal with that. Do not ask a reviewer to take down a negative review. Do not comment on it. Do not try to change the reviewer’s mind. And do not ask to preview a review before it goes live. Cry on your best friend’s shoulder, whine to your writer’s group, scream into your pillow if you must, but do not respond to the review no matter how wrong you think it is. To reiterate: Not everyone is going to like your book. Now is the time to learn to turn the other cheek—or, as my sister likes to say,  ”Suck it up, buttercup, and put your big girl panties on.”
  8. On the very touchy subject of whether or not to thank a reviewer, I say tread lightly. Opinions on this vary even among the reviewers themselves. Many appreciate a “thanks for your time” note even if their review was less than positive, others don’t want to hear from authors at all, even if their review was positive. If you decide to go the route of acknowledging a review, keep it simple: “Thank you for your kind words” for a positive one, “thank you for taking the time to read and review” for a negative one.

In short, fellow writers, a little courtesy goes a long way. Be polite. Think twice before you hit “send” (or “post” or “tweet”): have you done your research? Presented yourself positively? Remembered that the blogger on the receiving end is a person? Good. Now you’re a professional.

Addendum (added April 13, 2012): If you’re a blogger, check out today’s post from Wicked Little Pixie on the other side of the story, A Book Blogger’s Guide to Etiquette. ;)