14 Tips For Working With Publishers
Day 16 of the A-Z challenge.
P is for Publishers
In a world where coverage of new books is on a markedly downward trend, book bloggers have become an increasingly important element of a publisher’s marketing strategy.
From a book blogger’s perspective, a strong relationship with publishers and publicists can result in opportunities to read books before they hit the street. Not all bloggers look for advance (and free) copies of books but for those who want to go down that path, it’s essential to know how to have a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.
Jen Lucas and Cathy Johnson enjoy good connections with publishing companies. What do they see as the dos and the don’ts.
Here are their key tips.
Jen Lucas @ jenmedsbookreviews
I am by no means the most prolific of Twitter users or Instagram posters but they are the place to be if you want to connect with publicists and enhance your profile. Here are a few rules of thumb from my perspective.
1.Follow publicists and publishers on twitter and Instagram.
Interact with them and for more than just requesting arcs. Share their posts, help to publicise books and give more than you expect to receive back.
2. Make sure that you are producing good quality reviews and tagging the author/publisher in your tweet some how.
I know that may seem simple but many don’t do it at all. And a review should be more than just “I liked it – buy it.” It doesn’t need to be War And Peace length (like mine) but your review should make readers want to read the book.
3. In the early days you may need to review books you bought yourself, or got from the library.
Publishers like to see consistency as well as quality and writing about the books you love, even older titles, is a good way to show you are serious about books.
4. Keep an eye out for publicists offering ARCS via Twitter.
They regularly ask for readers and if you are quick and savvy you may be one of the lucky ones. Just make sure you do a quick “thank you” tag when it arrives (another good ad for the book) and REVIEW THE BOOK . Again should be obvious but too many people take the books and run. Even that first bookpost picture or a simple promo post if you don’t get on with the book is better than nothing.
5. Sign up to publisher’s newsletters and read them.
They often have the book giveaways in them and are sometimes the only way to get the ARCS.
6. Use but don’t abuse Netgalley.
It’s easy to get caught like the kid in the candy store and become overwhelmed with books. Never ask for more than you can feasibly review or when you spot a book you really do want, you may find the pr guru says no!
7. Just keep sharing the book love.
That’s why we do this and really is the best way to get yourself noticed. for example – If you love a book drop onto Amazon and share a link to the book on Twitter so others can buy it. Tag the publisher and author and they will see it and they will remember.
There are no guarantees to getting books and I get/accept far fewer books than many other bloggers (I’m rarely sent them on spec) but this is how I’ve managed to ensure that at least I keep being asked.
Cathy Johnson @ WhatCathyReadNext
Here are my tips on working with publishers and attracting their attention. I’ve confined my advice to getting physical copies rather than digital copies via NetGalley, as that seems like a whole separate subject.
1. Identify publishers who publish books in the genres you enjoy.
2. Follow them on social media and share and comment on their posts.
If you can, identify the members of their publicity team and follow them too
3. Tag publishers on Twitter when you share reviews of books they publish.
These could be books you already own but you can also use this technique when you have borrowed a copy from the library.
4. Ensure your Twitter profile includes your blog URL
Also make sure that your “About Page on your blog has details of the genres you read and how to contact you.
5. Try to build followers by being active on social media.
This is an important step because publishers are more likely to work with book bloggers who have a good reach. They are not going to be interested in a blog that few people read no matter how well written the content.
6. Establish a reputation as a responsible book blogger.
Don’t accept offers of books or invitations to join blog tours unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll be able to meet review commitments. If an unexpected event occurs that makes it impossible to post your review on the agreed date, do tell the publisher as quickly as possible. They may be able to jiggle their schedule.
7. If you are sent books by a publisher, post a picture and a thank you on social media before you do your review.
Let Me Ask You A Question
What has been your experience of working with publishers and publicists? Do you agree with Cathy and Jen’s advice or is there something else you’d like to add?
12 thoughts on “14 Tips For Working With Publishers”
Sue makes a good point about ‘gifted’ books, and although I’m not on Instagram my guess is that it’s like what i occasionally see on Twitter: a picture of a book, with or without cat or cup of coffee… and (apart from the fact that these Tweets are boring and not what I’m there for) I think they arise from a fundamental confusion about a blogger’s role.
(Though just to clarify, I’m using the word ‘blogger’ to talk about the bloggers I follow, that is, serious, committed reviewers who are honest about the very interesting books they read.)
It’s as Sue says, we are not doing what we do to make people want to read a book (i.e. buy it) we are doing it because we love books, and we talk about them on our blogs because that’s what we like to do. It’s in our DNA. Of course it’s nice to get a free book, (but if I’m not buying that one, I’m buying another one, so I’m not saving any money). That’s not why I take on new releases. I do it because I want to support my favourite Australian authors and the new ones trying to break in, and the little bit I know about marketing is that a thoughtful review will generate interest in their books. And it must be working because ‘my’ publishers come back again and again.
Would these circumstances apply in a much bigger market like the UK or the US, or with genre books with a different readership entirely? I have no clue!
Lots of Instagram posts do include coffee (I’ve been known to do the occasional one myself). But that’s a fairly basic set up – some people spend a considerable amount of time and effort to stage their photos with props etc. it’s not my style at all…
My situation is pretty much like Lisa’s – though I don’t read anywhere near as much as she does. Over half my review copies come from publishers approaching me because they know what I like, and a few are situations where we have an agreement that I read their newsletters and ask for books because they know I don’t want a lot of books sent to me on spec. I am always months behind, and I always tell them that, and that if they don’t want to send me the book then that’s fine. I think only once, in many years now, has a publisher decided not to send me a book, because I think they know they’ll get a proper review when I do do it!
I really hate the posting of lots of pictures of books “gifted”, as many Instagrammers do. They are NOT gifts! They are books sent to you for you to promote in some way. This coy notion from “influencers” that the books, food, clothes, whatever, that they receive are “gifts” has me muttering under my breath.
However it’s a fine line, because I don’t agree with your first blogger above that “your review should make readers want to read the book”. That does sound like you are a publicist not a reviewer! The only should for me is that it should be my honest appraisal. In writing my review, my rules are that I should be fair, reasonable and not give endings away. My goal is not to make them want to read it. My goal is to encourage interest and discussion which is good for literary culture. That said, I am hope readers will want to read books I’ve liked and am thrilled when they say they want to read the book!
Good relationships for me are based on trust. Being upfront with publishers as you’ve described is one element that builds to that trust. I always take the line in situations where I am in direct contact with the publisher that I won’t accept a book for review unless I have a clear intention of reading it.
I shall join you in your aversion to “gifted” items. We are not alone – in a meet up of bloggers in Cardiff earlier this year, we all groaned about this trend…
Same line here, Karen. Sent on soec is. Different matter.
I’m so glad re the “gifted” stuff I was starting to worry it was just me.
Definitely not just you. Even the incorrect grammatical usage irritates. It gives a completely different meaning to the word gifted.
I think it depends on what kind of books you review. I work in a niche, reviewing books that can’t always get publicity in the mainstream media. And the people who follow my blog are readers who like those niche books too.
So it’s usually publishers and publicists who approach me, and because I always have more requests to review than I can reasonably manage, and I’ve got hundreds of my own books to read anyway, the smart ones keep an eye on my blog, know what kind of books I like, and send me a personalised enticing email suggesting that this is a book I’d really like to read because….
I have good relationships with these publishers and publicists (and have worked with some of them for years now) because they don’t treat me like an unpaid component of their marketing team. And they know that I value them because they publish the kind of books I like to read. From time to time I get really lovely thank yous from publishers which means even more to me than the thank yous from authors).
(This is why I review many more books from small publishers. The big companies seem to churn through their (probably unpaid) publicity interns so quickly that they don’t have time to develop relationships with anybody.)
As always, some excellent insight Lisa. Your comment “the smart ones keep an eye on my blog, know what kind of books I like, and send me a personalised enticing email suggesting that this is a book I’d really like to read because….” is evidence of a good marketer/publicist. That’s how it should work but I get too many approaches from people who have clearly never looked at my blog or taken the trouble to see what I enjoy and then try to sell me on a book a million miles away from my tastes
I don’t deal with a huge amount of publishers and publicists, but of those I do 99.9% are lovely – particularly the smaller publishers. I got screwed over once when I took part in a blog tour and I’m not likely to ever do something like that again. This was an occasion I was approached, and I was a little unsure about the whole process. Nowadays, I tend to deal with particular publishers who put out books I love and try to stick to requesting ones I really want to read. I mostly don’t bother with NetGalley because I hate e-reading and I end up leaving the books lurking forgotten somewhere electronic…
I don’t blame you for avoiding book tours if you had a bad experience. You also make a good point about loyalty to certain publishers. Hard to build a relationship if you constantly flit among th companies I would think.
Typo catcher in chief here. P is for Publishers!
You’ll be wanting a salary next time I imagine 🙂