There are A LOT of posts out there about how to request ARCs from publishers, but I’ve yet to see a single one that covers the topic of requesting books from authors. And you know why that’s a problem?
Because not every author has a publisher.
I don’t have to be an author to understand that it’s hard to find reviewers. Many self-published authors can’t afford putting their books on sites like NetGalley or promoting their books with things like blog tours. So many authors put a lot of time and effort into searching for book blogs, reading through review policies, sending out personalized emails, all to get probably more negative responses than positive ones in the end.
But, as someone who loves reading and reviewing self-published books, I’ve got a whole list of books I’d love to read but cannot get review copies of from any publicity site. These authors might be out there contacting bloggers and trying really hard to get more reviews, and here I am wanting to give reviews, but am I just supposed to sit around wait for them to maybe possibly stumble upon my blog one day in the future and send me a review request? (To be honest that has actually happened to me twice, but think of how much sooner I could’ve gotten those books had I made the first move!)
It’s like this great big gap exists between reviewers who want self-pub books and the authors who write them. We have a symbiotic relationship, but that’s only if we actually find each other.
I was always afraid to contact authors if they weren’t explicitly offering because I never want anyone to feel obligated to give me review copies, but I finally decided that staring longingly at books I couldn’t afford wasn’t helping anyone. So I stuck my neck out there and gave it a shot, and you know what? It went well! I’ve also had a few authors tell me they’d love it if reviewers would contact them. So now I’ve got some tips that will hopefully benefit both reviewers and authors by putting more books into the hands of the reviewers who really want them :-)
Should You Request That Book?
Ask yourself these questions before sending that email.
– Does the author have a publisher? Because if they do, you should probably contact them instead. I know that many authors still give out copies themselves anyway, but to be honest, I’m winging this just as much as you, and I don’t know if it’s considered ok to request from authors who do in fact have publishers. Just to be on the safe side, I don’t, but anyone is welcome to weigh in on this in the comments.
– Are you willing to accept an ecopy? Because that’s what most self-published authors will have to offer.
– Do you truly want this book? This should apply to every review copy you request, but please, don’t request from an author unless you genuinely intend to read the book. And please don’t start sending emails out to every single author on your TBR. Choose wisely the ones you really absolutely want and will have time for.
– How many reviews does the book already have? There’s no magic number here, but the fewer the reviews, the more likely you are to get a copy since those are the books that need the promotion most. I wouldn’t expect to get a copy of a book that already has hundreds of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads each. You might, but, like I said, I don’t have the magic numbers, and every author is different. But I can tell you that all of the ones I’ve requested so far had less than 60 on Amazon.
– Are you prepared to be turned down? As with any request, there’s always that chance. But remember, the worst they can do is say no or simply not respond.
– Not a question, but one more good thing to do is check the author’s website. They may have information about a street team or a review team you can apply for, they may state somewhere that they do or do not give copies to reviewers, they may give the email for someone else to contact if you’re interested in review copies, etc. Checking for this before emailing can save you and the author time.
What to Include in Your Email
Requesting from an author really isn’t that different from requesting from a publisher or from review copy websites. I include basically the same things and keep everything professional and respectful.
– A brief intro with your name, your blog name, and a link to your blog.
– What book it is that you want and why (even something as simple as, “I love vampire books,” shows them that you’ve looked into their book and do have an interest).
– A brief description of the genres you review and where you post reviews to. (The same kinds of things you include in your NetGalley profile, if you have one.)
– Stats about your blog and social media followers, # of monthly unique visitors, # of monthly comments, or any other info you normally include
– What formats you accept.
– If you have a review policy, let them know so that they can check it out.
– I like to conclude by letting the author know that I completely understand if they choose not to give me a copy, and that either way I thank them for their consideration.
What Not to Do
This should go without saying, but do NOT harass authors. You probably get review requests from authors, right? Well, anything you wouldn’t want them to do to you, don’t do to them. Let’s call it the Golden Rule of Book Reviewing. Treat them with the same respect you would treat a publishing contact. You are not guaranteed a copy, and they have every right not to give you one for any reason. Some authors might not give any review copies at all, or they may give very few, or they may only give ARCs but no copies of backlisted books, or they may make their decision on a case-by-case basis, and all of those things are entirely within the authors’ rights. That means…
– Don’t pester them if you don’t hear from back from them. It probably means the answer is no.
– Don’t try to convince them if they turn down your request.
– Don’t be rude.
– Don’t take advantage of an author’s kindness.
Of course all the general review copy rules still apply too, like not sharing the books, not reading them just for pleasure without writing a review, etc.
And I think that about sums it up!