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Review Request System Basics

February 6, 2011

I just thought I would make a quick entry to celebrate after completing the review request process for my latest book, Catalyst (co-authored with S.L. Armstrong). This is our fifth release from Storm Moon Press, and the fourth time I’ve gone through what I’m now calling the Review Request System.

In this case, all I mean by ‘system’ is my step-by-step process. I can’t just press a button and make it all go — how cool would that be? — but I have refined things to a point where it only took me a few hours to draft my e-mails and send out all the requests for the book. How does it work? Here’s a peek at what I’ve learned through this process!

First, you have to look for reviewers in your genre. This can definitely take some time, and some reviewers you find might be outdated or prefer a different genre, even if they’ll take the type of book you have to offer. Most of the reviewers online will accept ebooks for review, but you definitely have to look out and make sure you know before contacting them. This means really looking through their websites, which you’ll be doing anyway to double check that your book is compatible with what they review. Also take a look at their actual reviews of other people. Are they long and well-thought out? Are they no more than five sentences? Are they snarky or playful? Find out what each reviewer’s style is and pick and choose whichever you find compatible to you.

Once you have a list of possible reviewers, it’s time to go way in depth with their review guidelines. Every reviewer is different. Some will want only the title and publisher website, while others will want the ISBN numbers, cover art, blurb, and/or buy links. Some reviewers will even want a detailed explanation of any content in the story that might be interpreted as offensive. Whatever the reviewer lays out for guidelines, be sure you follow them! I made it easy on myself by making a list in a document that summarizes what each reviewer will accept for review (genre or content), their specific guidelines, and any special restrictions that might impact my sending one book but not another in the future. It might sound like common sense, but sometimes it can take a lot of research to compile and organize your list. Once you do, though, it makes later review sending infinitely easier. ^_^

I usually type up a kind of form letter after that, but I make sure it’s really easy to customize for each reviewer. Once you get to know the reviewers, this is especially nice, since you’ll be able to customize the letter to include a bit for the people you have contacted in the past or know really well. With the letter, you’ll want to look at all the details the reviewers ask for in their guidelines and get them all in one place. When you have all that information in one place, it makes it very easy for the reviewer to take whichever details they want and use them in their review. They might even use some of the details that they didn’t ask for specifically, so it doesn’t really hurt to include all of them in each e-mail.

(Also, keep in mind that some reviewers will have online forms for you to fill out instead. Those will obviously have to be done individually, but if they contact you for more information on your book, at least you’ll have all the details organized and ready to go for them, just in case.)

The only thing you’ll want to be careful about is including the electronic copy of your book. Some reviewers don’t want the story itself until they have assigned the book to a specific reviewer. Only send a PDF (or other format, when applicable) to the reviewer if they tell you to in their online guidelines!

With all of your information compiled and your main letter written, you can then go through your list of e-mail addresses for the reviewers and send a thorough, professional message to them, including all the information they need and the electronic copy of your book (for those who request it in their guidelines).

I typically BCC (blind carbon copy) the messages to myself, just to keep a record of those I sent requests to. After I’m all finished, I cross-check them with my list to make sure I didn’t miss anyone, and then I put little notes or highlight in my own color code what the status for each request is. At this point, most of them are labeled “Sent” or “Sent + PDF” for me, but if you end up doing this for your own book, you can definitely come up with your own labels or way of keeping things organized.

All in all, it’s gotten to the point that I’ll take about an hour to draft the letter and get all the information filled out, an hour to double check that the list includes all the right reviewers for that specific book’s genre or content, and then another two hours to send it to my list of e-mails (or fill out the online forms).

So there you go! A peek into a bit of the marketing aspect of independent publishing! If anyone has any questions, by all means, ask! ^_^

Catalyst will be released in e-book in just nine more days! February 14th, 2011. Woot!
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