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 notrequest 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 notask 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 timeand relationship.
  4. On the topic of asking reviewers for things, do notswamp 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. 😉

42 thoughts on “A Writer’s Guide to Book Blogger Etiquette

  1. Yes. Yes to all this. I review non-fiction books on my blog (how-to books for writers) and I somehow thought that non-fiction authors would be less touchy. Not so. I once got a 3000 word reply in my comment thread from the author of a book. My original review was only 600 words. Youch.

  2. Thank you for the well thought out and considerate post Linda! Yes, we book bloggers do this as a hobby (even if we try to make it as professionally as possible), we don’t get paid for this (to this day noone offered me), but some authors don’t understand that we are reading, reviewing and spotlighting authors besides our demanding day job(s), family and other real life occupations. We try to make our best efforts but sometimes it’s too much to juggle everything at once. Thankfully it’s not a personal experience but I’ve seen some authors make demands of fellow bloggers, it was shocking.

    Oh yes, and those review policies are there for a reason, not because I just wanted to make another page on the blog, I contribute to another blog where our review policy is very specific, listing the genres we do and do not review, but sadly about half of review requests are completely off base, making it clear they did not read it.

    Oh yes, nothing irritates me more than a “Dear Blogger” e-mail or sometimes even that is missing. It is common basic courtesy to start your e-mail by addressing the recipient, how would authors feel if we sent out e-mails requesting review copies and it was clear we had no idea about the author and their books? Same thing.

    I always accept friend requests on Goodreads because it is always fun discussing our current reads there, so I find it particularly irritating when authors spam me there with constant recommendations of their books! (there were 2 authors who did this on a weekly basis, which as you said ended them in my unfriend/spam folder)

    Yes, negative reviews are hard. Hard to write and hard to read. Yes authors do not think that we write those lightly and easily. Usually they are much harder to write because we most definitely don’t want to hurt the authoR’s feelings but as the book did not resonate with us we want to state why. I have read some books based on other bloggers’ negative reviews, because once I saw why they didn’t like the books, I realized that I had no problems with those issues, same goes vice versa. The biggest compliment and best thing that can happen is when after a negative review the author acknowledges it with a “thanks for your time and not everyone can like the same books” comment. That feels the best. Why? Because when I didn’t like a book and am writing a negative review I am conscious that I’ll be saying not positive things about a story someone spent months/years dreaming anhd working on, and we most definitely don’t want our personal opinion to be construed as judgment on their dreams and works. It just means that it wasn’t to our taste. Not everyone likes chocolate cake (hard as it might be to imagine that 😉 (oh and on a personal note: I am on good, friendly terms with 3 authors who were recipient of my negative reviews, one of them actually asked me to become her beta reader after seeing my issues with the book, saying that’s exactly what she needed to hear before the story gets published – so as you can see negative reviews can be taken as constructive criticism but never as personal slanders)

    Anyway sorry for the lengthy, rambling post I just wanted to let authors know the blogger side of the story :-) Thank you Linda for the nice post!!

  3. What a great post Linda!

    Book Bloggers work really hard on their blogs and even though we try to be as professional as possible, some people forget that it’s a hobby. Not a job. And that our lives takes priority as well. As you know, I’m awaiting my first baby (due in under 2 weeks squee!) and I’ve been working hard and scheduled posts and reviews for up to July already to try and make my absence as unnoticed as possible, but those are things people don’t see.

    Tynga’s Reviews offers 2-3 yearly huge event with tons of interviews, guest posts, and giveaways to help promote authors and their books. Those big events have the benefit of having multiple authors featured, thus making them known to new potential readers. Those events takes literally MONTHS to plan. I’m already working on our August event, but this is something else people don’t see.

    We also get insane numbers of review requests, and I really wish authors would take the time to read our review policies. I state clearly that I don’t review self-published books, yet I receive multiple requests a day by those authors. It’s not that I think all self-published books are bad books, but I have 2 full double-stacked bookshelves of books to read… that’s over 400 titles. If I manage to read 100 books a year, that’s 4 years worth of reading right there. So we must make choices and stick to those. Having this many books to read also make it hard to review some books in a timely manner and as you mentioned it’s really appreciated to not be harassed for our reviews.

    And last but not least, negative reviews, or even so-so reviews, are really hard to write. I know there are disrespectful bloggers out there bashing authors for the heck of it, but that’s the minority. For the majority, we take great care not the hurt the author’s feeling while stating why a book didn’t work for us, simply because someone else might like this book for that very same reason. When writing a negative review, I always ask a fellow blogger to read the review before I post it, making sure my opinion doesn’t come out harshly and I link to a more positive review, so that my readers can see both sides of the medal. If I committed to feature the author of a book I didn’t like before reading said book, I’ll wait until the end of the feature/giveaway to post my negative review, in an effort to not mess the promotion. I agree to feature an author only when I’m interested in their work, so why shadow their moment in the spotlight because in the end, their book didn’t work for me?

    Anyway, sorry for the long post as well lol. You did a great job with this post Linda! Thank you!

  4. sharonstogner

    this is great advice for authors and bloggers. Most traditionally published authors know all this, it is the self-pub authors who are new to the game that tend to make these mistakes. This would be a great panel at conventions for self-pub authors. They have tons on how to self-pub and promote, but not on etiquette. might be time to start suggesting it :)

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  6. Great post!
    I hate it when authors/publishers don’t read my review policy!!! It is so frustrating, sucks away our time when we have to explain our reasons and wants me to mark the email as spam.

  7. Thanks Linda, you really got it. I think my biggest pet peeve is people who don’t read my review policy or have clealry not even looked at my blog. Sooo frustrating. When I want to request a book from an author or publisher, I make sure to read and follow directions and I try to be polite.

    Wonderful post Linda, thank you!

  8. Great post! I’m a student nurse so I’m doing 37.5 hours per week in the hospitals as part of my training plus the essays and whatnot the university assigns me. On top of that I have a part time job to fund my studies (plus the serious book habit) but I love my blog and enjoy hearing from readers and writers alike. I wouldn’t give it up for the world but I get extremely frustrated when I am harassed (one name springs to mind). I’ve even been called the wrong name repeatedly by one person… despite constantly signing my e-mails Vikki they continued to call me Becka which isn’t even close!!
    It’s great to know that the vast majority of authors realise that to most of us blogging/reviewing is a hobby not a job. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything but sometimes I want to e-mail people and say ‘look…if you can’t be bothered to spend 5 minutes of your time reading up on who I am and what I do, how can you expect me to give my time to you?’…. I never have written that but it’s very tempting 😉 I just bang my head against the table and mutter ‘why…why must you do this!’

    Anyway, fab post :)

    • Thank you, Vikki (you’ll note that I refrained from the temptation of calling you Becka!). I’m glad you liked it. And just for the record, I wouldn’t blame you a bit for sending that email! :)

  9. Great post! Book Bloggers are a very special and dedicated breed of book lovers! Authors and other readers should definitely show them a lot of courtesy and love. :)

  10. I really enjoyed reading this. And I have to say it’s nice to have someone say Authors should learn the Bloggers names. I mean I know I’m just an amateur offering opinions and I don’t think my words are as important as a writers’, however when they’re asking me to review their work nothing drives me nuts more than getting a form letter addressed to Dear Blogger which isn’t a request even but includes the actual book without even asking if I have the time to read it. If I have the time I don’t usually turn down requests but bloggers, even small blogs get so many requests that it’s not long before they’re buried in books. Most of us post whether or not we’re accepting requests at this time because of that. For me it’s not that I don’t want to read or review all the books people want read and reviewed its simply that I just don’t have the time and never saying no got me so buried in books that I think it will be a couple years before I get through them all. So I stopped accepting requests for now and I’ve started saying no to the people that email me anyway. But I have to say it’s hard to bring myself to even respond to a request addressed to Dear Blogger. My name isn’t Blogger, that’s a website powered by Google, my name’s Jenn and there’s a big difference between Jenn and Blogger. I’ve gotten requests that sound like orders to read their book and don’t even use my name and emails like those make me not want to blog. Anyway I enjoyed reading this and I really, really loved that you mentioned authors should learn the bloggers name before requesting. That was just awesome, :)

    • Linda

      Glad you liked the post, Jenn, and I agree…names are a must! (And finding out a blogger’s name isn’t rocket science!) :)

  11. Wow, I’m so glad I read this…:) I’m getting ready to self-pub, and it’s nice to have etiquette guidelines to go by, before I anger someone unnecessarily. For instance, compensating a reviewer for their time, in my mind, made sense. But, the way you explained it, made it clear how that could look like a bribe. *wipes brow* Really glad I didn’t do that. Anywho, thanks for a great post!

  12. Wonderful and timely post, Linda! My fellow bloggers Tynga and Stella summed up why this post is so wonderful and to echo their sentiments, it’s essential for authors to take the time to do their research, to make sure they’re targeting the right bloggers for their book and to check whether the blogger is open to review solicitations at the time. I can’t tell you how many times an author or publicist hasn’t bothered to read my review policy or has skimmed over it but still sent me an email anyway despite something I have clearly stated in the guidelines to review before submitting. If more authors took your approach, we’d have a lot more happy authors and happy bloggers :-)


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