Self-Publishing & Merchandising : How to Give and Get a Blog Review

We’ve examined several facets of the merchandising machine in light of our platform as self-published authors: the background, extras and special editions, book covers and jacket design as well as interior design, the all-important blurb, and even, in summary, the book review.  This week, I’ll be examining the book review–or more specifically, the book blog review.  As I promised in last week’s review, I’ll be examining the blog dos and don’ts, the ins and outs of diving into the pool of self-published authors looking for a good review in the blogosphere.

Perhaps I should preface the body of this post with a quick proviso: getting and giving book reviews is an incredibly simple process.  It is so very simple, in fact, that it almost seems too simple, deceptively simple, the kind of simple that an incredibly obvious villain in an incredibly obvious film might whisper into the ear of incredibly obvious innocent.  The fact of the matter is, there is only one rule to blogging book reviews, both as giver and receiver.  And that is ….


The Golden Rule of Book Blog Reviews:

Review others as you would have them review you.


Everything else follows from this one precept.  For example, if you’re looking for a good blog to request a book review of your own novel, look for fellow authors and bloggers who deal with the same sort of material as you, or evidence a similar perspective on key issues you’re concerned with.  Look for other authors and bloggers who are in the same position as you–self-published or otherwise independent writers with a need to raise publicity about their work.  Shoot them off an email suggesting a book and book review exchange, whereupon you will review that person’s book in exchange for that person reviewing your book–and honestly.

Honesty is important, here.  Remember that Golden Rule?  Something in you, something deep and inherent, rebels against the notion of a falsely enthusiastic book review even as it similarly rebels against an unnecessarily harsh and critical book review.  We, as humans, don’t enjoy being misled.  So how can we pursue honesty, even when a book we’ve been asked to review isn’t to our tastes?

First of all, we can admit the reality of the situation.  Saying, “This book isn’t my cup of tea” is, in the end, an acceptable alternative to florid prose or undue despair over a book’s failings.  A better response still might be to forego expressions of taste and opinion, and instead fasten upon elements of the book you’re reviewing that you can engage with.  Analyze the scope, subject, genre, and context of the book.  How does it fit into current social or cultural trends, or intersect with the greater publishing world as it exists in this moment?  Your personal reactions may find a more fitting framework in this sort of big-picture review.  A lot of book bloggers right now are turning to what’s loosely called a “reaction gif” or Graphics Interchange Format file that serves as an emotional touchstone for their reactions to different plot twists and so on.  This sort of out-of-the-box angle on the book review can infuse an otherwise ho-hum post with a zesty stab at storytelling (but do watch out for copyright issues!).

So where do we look for fellow authors and book blog reviewers?  We look to the internets, of course!  The first step is to make yourself “findable,” and the second is to stake your claim as a voice with something to say.  You can get your own blog listed at places like bookbloggerlist.com if you review other peoples’ books more than once a month, and there are simply loads of websites that serve as compendiums of book bloggers.  Book bloggers also tend to hang out in one of three places: Twitter, Goodreads, and WordPress.  (Though this isn’t to say there aren’t quality book bloggers on, say, Tumblr or Facebook.)  The third step is to take the time to go through these websites looking for bloggers with similar tastes and concerns–to put in the research legwork, so to speak.  And last but not least, the fourth step is to go out on a limb and initiate contact.  Fire off a tweet, an email, or a message by carrier pigeon, to all kinds of writers from all walks of self-published life.

The key is not to be afraid–literally, every indie or self-published author is coming from the same place, and both understands what you’re trying to do and the reasons why you’re doing it.  People, for the most part, want to help.  And if a book blogger is extremely popular and overburdened with requests, their silence or quiet nay is not meant to sting.  As you know, life sometimes doesn’t allow us to be as generous as we’d like; still, for the most part, you’ll find that your fellow self-published strugglers are eager to welcome you into their networking communities.

I’m realistic, or I like to think I am.  This topic is bigger than just me and my own thoughts.  I’d like to open the floor to you, dear reader.  If you have any thoughts to share on the topic of merchandising, or questions you’d like answered, send them my way via the comments box below!  I want to hear from you, and I love nothing more than a good excuse to do a little research if I don’t know something off of the top of my head.  Jump on in!

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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