How To Ask For A Book Review

This “How To Ask For A Book Review” post has been a long time coming. Although I consider myself a microblogger or microreviewer, I still receive my fair share of book review requests. Some are well-written, but, unfortunately, most are not. So, to help authors ensure their review requests gain more traction, I put together a list of how to ask for a book review.

I can’t say I have a wholly unbiased opinion of how to ask for a book review. The review requests I received over time inspired much, if not all, of what I included here. However, I can say I tried to approach this in a constructive way rather than as a rant. So I hope readers find this approachable and informative. Like my previous discussion posts, I know this appears verbose. But I prefer to clearly and plainly communicate so that fewer questions pop up. It just so happens this means the use of more words!

If you stumbled across this post and want more “how to” guides, I have a few more for you. Consider my posts for How To Improve Social Media Interaction and ARC Book Review Etiquette. Now, let’s get to the point of this post: how to ask for a book review.

Is the reviewer a good fit?

One of the most important things an author or marketer can do is to see whether a reviewer is a good fit for the book in question. This means an author/marketer should check whether a potential reviewer reads the genre, and also the age group, of the book being offered. Every other topic discussed below becomes nearly moot if the requester does not do this. Why? Because it is not uncommon for a reviewer to ignore a request if the requester does not meet these basic criteria.

If a requester choose to bypass these basic criteria, then it passively communicates to the reviewer several things. First, the requester does not appear to care enough to spend their time researching appropriate reviewers. Yet, at the same time, they hope a reviewer will spend their time on something that’s not a good fit for them. Keep in mind that most reviewers review in their free time, not for profit. Second, it portrays laziness. Rather than emailing every reviewer to see what sticks, it is a better use of a requestor’s time (to perhaps achieve a higher acceptance rate) to contact reviewer’s who might actually have an interest in said book.

How does a requester know if a reviewer is a good fit for the book in question? Look through their book reviews. Some may state the dominant genre they read in their social media header (e.g., my blog header). However, most do not, so looking through a reviewer’s reviews is a great starting point. This will also help the requester gauge what age group the reviewer prefers to read in.

Is the reviewer accepting review requests?

Another incredibly important thing to pay attention to is whether a reviewer is open to review requests. This step can occur during the “good fit” investigation described above or directly afterward. Most reviewers state this on their social media and/or blog. While a requester may ultimately do whatever they want, here are a few scenarios to consider and their implications.

If a reviewer looks like a good fit and they’re open for reviews, then by all means contact them. There is a decent chance the reviewer might have an interest in the book. Keep in mind, though, that a reviewer has every right to decline a request for whatever reason.

If a reviewer looks like a good fit, but they are closed for reviews, then the requester has two choices. They can send the review request or not. While some reviewers may not feel similarly, I suggest sending the request anyway. If the book seems enticing to the reviewer, they may make an exception and accept it for review. But if they don’t reply, that’s ok, too.

If a reviewer doesn’t look like a good fit and they’re either open or closed for review requests, then chances of acceptance are probably slim. This is especially likely if the reviewer is not accepting review requests. Again, a requester can ultimately do what they want, but I suggest not sending a request. Your request may likely end up in the reviewer’s digital trash bin.

Method of communication to request a review

In my opinion, the best methods of communication to request a review are email or direct/private message. Social media is certainly more accessible these days. However, there is quite a lot of spam floating around, which means many platforms have spam filters. For example, I think the default of Instagram and Twitter shunts messages to the spam section of a reviewer doesn’t follow the requestor. Because of this the requestor runs the risk of their message remaining unseen. So, while direct or private messaging is certainly an option, there is a lower chance the reviewer might see it.

Email remains relevant. Perhaps it is not as relevant as it used to be for personal communication. But it is important for formal communication, such as business, volunteering, etc. If a reviewer lists their email address anywhere, I recommend contacting a reviewer via email. (If they don’t list an email address, then a direct/private message is likely the best route.)

From my own perspective, I appreciate email requests instead of direct messages for several reasons. First, it’s much easier to read a longer form of communication in my email. Email gives the requestor more “space” to more formally contact the reviewer. By that I mean properly greeting the potential reviewer (see next section). Second, the requestor can attach digital files of their book. Third, the requester could also provide a link to where their book is for sale or has reviews.

Of course, my personal opinion does not represent all reviewers. But do consider ease of access for the potential reviewer when sending a review request.

The importance of first impressions

Once the requestor decides how to reach out to a potential reviewer, they should consider that first impressions are important. Here are some elements that I consider critical and helpful to the reviewer.

Use the reviewer’s name

Start the message with a greeting to the reviewer and personalize it (use their name). Something as simple as, “Hi [name of reviewer” does the trick. Most reviewers list their name somewhere. When a requestor instead defaults to just “Hi” or “Hi [blog name]” it comes across as lazy. What it says (to me) is that the requestor is mass contacting reviewers hoping to get a response. Work smarter, folks, not harder. Refer back to the first section which discusses reaching out to reviewers who are a good fit for the book in question.

If a reviewer doesn’t list their name anywhere, then of course it is fine to use their blog name instead. It’s also true that some reviewers may not care if a requestor uses their blog name even if the reviewer lists their name somewhere. However, it is more personal of the requestor to show they took the time to find a reviewer’s name.

Personalize the email

Though this is more optional, it’s also nice when a requestor explains why they reached out to a potential reviewer. This could be something as simple as the requestor mentioning they saw their book listed in a reviewer’s “to be read” or “anticipated book release” list. Or the requestor could say they noticed the reviewer appreciates reading a particular genre, which aligns with the book they would like reviewed. This last suggestion requires more effort. Nevertheless, the requestor could even go one step further and reference some of the book reviews written by the reviewer that have similar vibes to the book they’d like reviewed.

Outline expectations

It’s very important that a requestor states what they expect from the reviewer. There are many options on the table and a reviewer is not a mind reader. In other words, does the requester want the reviewer to read and review the book, spotlight it, share an excerpt, or something else? Distinctly communicate the expectation.

Include a book summary

Another important thing to include that makes a good impression is the synopsis of the book. At a minimum include a few sentences summarizing what the book is about. Otherwise, copy and paste the official blurb into the email. Sure, a requestor can include a link to the book. But it’s easier to just include the information up front while the reviewer’s attention is on the message.

End the message respectfully

Once the requestor has incorporated the above suggestions, end the book review request respectfully. Again, something simple is fine. There are many options, some of which I list here:

  • Thank you for your consideration.
  • If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you for your consideration.
  • Sincerely

Providing epub vs. pdf vs. physical copies

Digital copies

There is some debate among reviewers about whether they prefer to receive epub or pdf file copies of an e-book. First, however, it is in the requestor’s best interest to provide a digital copy of the book. It’s perhaps better to do this in the first email rather than wait for a reply from the potential reviewer. The requestor can attach the file(s) to the email or direct the reviewer to a download link. (Personally, I prefer an attached file. Sometimes shortened links are provided and I can’t independently verify where the link will take me.)

To avoid the decision of whether to send an epub or pdf version, it’s easiest to send both. However, if forced to choose, I think most reviewers would prefer an epub file. Those are easy to send to an e-reader. It’s more complicated to send a .pdf to an e-reader; it’s not uncommon that an imported pdf file looks bad. That said, there are some readers who prefer pdf files.

The bottom line: don’t make a potential reviewer have to perform tech work to read the file. If sending an epub, make sure all the reviewer has to do is send it to their e-reader. Please don’t ask them to assemble all of the individual files that make up an epub in order to read the book.

Physical copies

With respect to physical copies, it’s ok to offer one as an option to a potential reviewer. Just consider that there are more privacy concerns with providing this format. Some reviewers are uncomfortable with providing their personal address to an author. So don’t be surprised if a reviewer prefers to stick with a digital copy. To reduce or eliminate the privacy concerns, the reviewer can add the book to their public Amazon (or wish list and the requestor could send it that way (though at expense to the requestor).

Example Email/Message

Here’s an example template that a requestor can modify and send to a potential reviewer. This example skews more toward authors who want to reach out to a reviewer. However, the sentiment is the same. Feel free to use this template or create your own.

Hello [insert reviewer name],

My name is [insert requestor name] and I’m reaching out to you with the hope that you might be able to [insert request]. I found your [blog/bookstagram/etc.] and thought you might be interested in [book title] because it looks like you have an interest in reading YA fantasy books [or insert other reason]. I’ve provided a synopsis of my book below and have also attached digital copies should you be interested in it.

If you have any questions, please let me know. If you aren’t able to read and review my book [or other request], that’s ok, too.

Thank you,

[insert requestor’s name]

And that’s all folks! Thanks for reading. If you have any suggestions, then feel free to let me know. I’m always curious to read other’s opinions on this broad topic of how to ask for a book review. How to ask for a book review is, I believe, a critical skill for authors or their marketer. This is something I believe is especially important for indie or self-published authors who may not have someone on staff to do this for them.

17 thoughts on “How To Ask For A Book Review

  1. This is so important! Many of the review requests I receive get ignored because the author didn’t do the first two things you listed. I have a clear page on my blog about what genres I read and whether or not I’m currently accepting requests, so when I get a message about something like a Civil War spy novel when I’m not accepting review requests, it’s hard not to be frustrated. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I do the same thing…most of the requests I get end up in my email’s trash bin, mainly because 90% of them aren’t within the genres I read and then most of them don’t give me enough information. Thanks for reading my post. 🙂

  2. You made so many great points. My two biggest issues are authors/publicists who don’t bother to read my review policy and offer things like middle grade books or contemporary fiction (which I don’t read). I usually delete those emails. One of my policies is the book has to be on Goodreads, otherwise I won’t consider it. I don’t want to be the first person to read a book, so I need to see other reviews before I say yes. I also don’t read self published books and still, I get a ton of SP authors contacting me. Just read the review policy already!

    1. Thanks, Tammy! My experience sounds very similar to yours. And, like you, I also have a review policy and mine is listed on my blog. It’s not difficult to find it. I think the last time I accepted anything was…maybe 6 months ago? Most stuff that comes through isn’t for me.

  3. This is such a great post, Celeste, and I wish I could shout it from the rooftops ???? Reading the review policy is just common courtesy, I feel. I know these authors are busy, but so are reviewers. And not going to lie, but every time a review requester asks me for a review and doesn’t bother to learn my name, I’m highly unlikely to accept their request.

    1. Thank you, Kate! I do agree that reading a review policy should be common courtesy, but it appears either many requestors don’t read it or they maybe don’t care. Like you, I’m also turned off when someone just mass emails requests out and doesn’t bother to learn my name. It just feels like mass marketing, like all those spam mails I get in my mailbox.

  4. Great post! It honestly amazes me that these things even need to be said because I consider most of them common sense. The requests I get clearly indicate otherwise, though. I’ve just gotten really good at ignoring requests that don’t interest me or follow my guidelines. I’ve tried to be incredibly clear about what I’m looking for and how I review, but people are often either too lazy or too bull-headed to care. I do get really frustrated sometimes, but it has been great practice at saying no. lol.

    1. You know, Chris, I feel the same way. I also feel like all of these things are common sense, but for whatever reason they’re not. I’m glad it’s at least helped you with learning how to say no!! At first I got frustrated (and still do from time to time), but I’ve learned to turn off my emotions and just press that delete button. Maybe one day those people will learn how to be more professional.

  5. This post is spot on, Celeste! I get so many impersonal emails, clearly mass sent, and sometimes not even in genres that I read. If I like the sound of the book I’ll give it a look, but most of the time I pass. However, I’ve also had some who have commented on my reviews, on my cat, and these are the emails I’ll take my time over, really dig in to see if it would work for me. I get that it’s not always possible to go too in depth, but even just putting a ‘Hi Becky’ at the top, instead of an obvious mass ‘Hi’ would make me more interested.

    1. Thanks, Becky! I think the responses to this post go to show that there are at least a handful (and probably a lot more) of reviewers who feel similarly. I pass probably 95% of the time, including the few requests I get that are actually in a genre I read. I like to think most of us reviewers are understanding…we’re all busy…it’s ok not to go too in depth, but you’re right, even including something as simple as my name really helps get things off to a good start.

  6. This is a fabulous post! I have been quite dismayed by those that just don’t seem to read the policy or then get a tad snippy when you explain clearly your policy/process. It’s difficult, especially for newbie reviewers, not to get tangled up in accepting books for the sake of it though just for the content! I’m definitely being much clearer in future. Thank you for sharing your post.

    1. Thank you, Hannah! I’m sorry you had some requestors get snippy…I feel lucky that I haven’t dealt with that. I have had to block someone’s emails before, though, because they kept emailing me in a red flag sort of way that made me uncomfortable.

  7. I’m going far enough to say, don’t consider a yes as a default yes in the future and don’t put them on any mailing lists just because they read your book!

    1. This is also true. Thankfully I haven’t encountered the first two, but I have been put on marketing mailing lists I didn’t sign up for.

  8. You list many factors that needs to be considered. The first 2 questions alone are essential to consider. You and I know of other bookbloggers who will only read and review 1 genre of literature. It’s their preference, but it makes you wonder whether or not other publishers have tried to get them to read other books from different genres because the book was said to be “excellent” by all readers and wanted an “I don’t usually read this series, but…” readers.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if publishers or self-pub authors have tried to entice readers of one genre to dip their toes in another one if they think it might resonate with the reader. I think I’ve received a few emails like that (e.g., mysteries or heists within a fantasy world), but I’ve largely declined those because they don’t entice me enough to devote time to reading them with proverbial strings attached.

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