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May 1, 2014

Getting Books to Review

by Donna Huber

It has been a while since I wrote a tips post aimed about beginner book bloggers. I was reminded of what it was like starting out when I interviewed people for the staff reviewer position. One of the questions that most of them had for me was how would they get books to review. Whether you are starting your own blog or writing reviews for other sites, these steps will help you land books by your favorite authors.

Review Your Own Books

A big appeal to book reviewing are the free books you score. If you are a person that reads two or three books a week, I can only imagine what your book budget looks like. However, to start getting those free books you will need to prove yourself as a reviewer. I recommend reviewing books you already have on hand or have gotten from the library. It will provide a few examples of your reviews and will also give you a chance to develop your review policy. After just a few books you should be ready to move on to the next step.

Seek Out Authors

You will need to start small. Self-published and indie authors are always looking for reviewers. Look around Twitter and Facebook and make sure you are building your own following. Advertise you are open for reviews and join blogger directories. Do not hesitate to approach authors about reviewing their book. Most will be flattered and offer you a free book. Also check out small and indie publishers to see about reviewing books for them.

For traditionally published authors, you may need to first review one of their books that you either purchase or borrow from the library/friend. But once you have reviewed one of their books, seek the author out on Twitter or Facebook (most have a profile in one or both places). Send them a note mentioning you reviewed their book; be sure to include the link to your review. This has been a successful approach for me.

Join Netgalley

For how much I love indie authors, it is still pretty cool to get asked to review a big name. However, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door, or your name on their list. One of the best ways to get your name noticed by major publishers is to create a profile at Netgalley. You will want to include stats about how many people follow you on social media and visit your blog. Then request any egalleys that you find interesting. Remember to go back to leave feedback. And do be aware that the galleys often have archive dates and once downloaded will expire after 55 days. Even if you would prefer to get paperbacks and hardcovers, Netgalley can be instrumental in getting major publishers to pitch their upcoming releases to you. I'm pretty sure having a Netgalley profile is the reason the first publicists started contacting me.

Use Your Network

Is there a book out there you really want, yet you don't see it on Netgalley and a publicist pitch hasn't hit your email for it? Start looking at who you know that might help you reach your end. For this step to be effective you must nurture your relationships. When agents and publicists pitch books to you be sure to follow-up. Even if you don't want to review the book, let them know it isn't something you are particularly interested in. Be sure to thank them and indicate that you are open to future pitches. If possible, consider doing a spotlight of some sort for the book. Yes, it will take effort on your part but it will pay out when they are able to help you score that wanted book. I wanted to read Going Solo. As mostly a fiction genre reviewer, I knew that my name may not be on the publicist's radar. However, I had been in contact with a publicist from the same publisher and I shot off an email. The publicist was happy to pass on my interest and a few days later I had a copy of the book in my hands. Just today, I reached out to the publicist that has been my contact for Deborah Harkness's All Soul's Trilogy. I know advance copies of The Book of Life will be hard to come by, but I'm perfectly happy to read an e-galley and I let her know that by inquiring if/when will it would be available on Netgalley. *Fingers crossed that it will work*

Don't have a contact at a particular publisher? Reach out to other reviewers you are friends with and see if they have a contact. Again, nurturing relationships with people in the industry is important. In addition to agents and publicists, I'm friends with bloggers, librarians, and bookstore owners. They all have their own set of contacts and because I've been known to help them out in the past, they are usually willing to help me if possible.

By following these steps, you too will be buried under a pile of books to review.

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