Recently I’ve been on a mission to find out how, as an indie author, I can connect with readers in a more meaningful way. I consider myself a reader, first and foremost – the “writer” label always comes second.
As a reader, I find book groups and bloggers are my best source of what books I should be adding to my TBR pile. Book bloggers are avid readers and extremely passionate about books, and I am constantly discovering new book recommendations that I probably wouldn’t have heard of had it not been for bloggers sharing them.
So how, as indie authors, can we have more meaningful connections with bloggers?
I’ve asked Ellie from Read to Ramble a few questions about the author-blogger relationship.
Ellie started her blog after seeing her work blossom and her reading expand when she set up her Bookstagram. Scrolling through her account, it’s not hard to see why her account has been so successful with her photography and gorgeous flat lays.
Here’s what she had to say:
1. A lot of indie/self-published authors seem to be confused about how/whether they can approach book bloggers. Are you happy for indie authors to reach out to you?
I am absolutely more than happy for indie authors to approach me to help them by reading, reviewing and promoting their book. I think it’s really important for indie authors to know that it is okay for them to approach reviewers and bloggers because without us they won’t have the same amount of publicity as conventionally published authors.
Also, it makes no difference to me whether it is an indie author or a traditionally-published author who is contacting me. All authors are in the same boat, they have all written a book and their different methods of publication do not make them any less of an author.
2. What advice would you give indie authors for connecting with a blogger for the first time?
I would give indie authors the same advice as I would give traditionally published authors: introduce yourself, explain why you are contacting the blogger or reviewer, ask them how they are doing (it is horrible when an author starts talking to you and goes from “Hi” to “Can you read my book?”), interact with them and show them that you have seen their social media pages (be it Twitter, Instagram, their blog, etc) and that you know what they specialise in (their preferred genres or reviewing methods) or have a good opinion of whether they would enjoy your book.
Try to get to know them a little bit before you leap to the book review request because there is no quicker way to make a blogger feel unappreciated, yes, reviewing is our job, but most of the time, it is a lot better to get to know one another first before getting to the nitty gritty.
Some bloggers/reviewers may want the authors to cut straight to the point, but I enjoy interacting and building a connection with an author or publisher because it just makes communication easier and less robotic. Just generally try to gauge their likes and dislikes from their internet presence before you spring a horror novel on a person who only ever reads romance and who makes it clear on their profiles…
3. What advice would you give to new book bloggers being contacted by authors for the first time?
I am a “new book-blogger”, I’ve been in the book community and reviewing books for a year and I’ve only just set up my blog, but, I still consider myself as a type of “hybrid blogger”, even though I’ve only just gotten my blog, I still review the books I read on both Instagram and Goodreads and I put a lot of work into writing my reviews. However, I was contacted by a few authors only a couple of weeks into my bookstagram journey and I think I handled it perfectly fine and I had a very good and polite experience with each author from the get-go.
New people to the book community have to remember that authors are not some divine presence that bloggers have to be in awe of. I don’t want this to seem rude, and yes, authors are extremely talented people, and as bloggers and reviewers we feel appreciated by being contacted by them, BUT, there is no need to feel intimidated.
In my experience, a lot of the authors I have interacted with are new to the game too and are just as intimidated by talking to bloggers/reviewers. As a new “bookblogger”, but not new to the bookish community, I think I would give myself and any other new blogger starting out the following advice: do not panic when an author or publisher comes to speak with you, as long as they are being friendly and taking you into consideration there is no need to worry, you should interact with them politely and everything will be fine.
Lastly, I would tell new readers/ reviewers/ bloggers to the community to not seem desperate over the desire to review a book or be in contact with an author. A lot of people get into the bookish community with the sole aim of bagging free books and then running off with them, never to be heard of again, but that isn’t the way to go. If you have joined this community, it should be because you have a love and a passion for reading, for all bookish things, and that you want to be part of the family and get your voice and opinions heard; free books and interactions with authors and publishers are a bonus. But if your intentions are not genuine, then if I was you, I wouldn’t jump onto the reviewer/blogger bandwagon. If you want to become a book blogger, just think about the reasons why, don’t panic, be kind and polite and finally have fun.
4. How would you like to see authors and bloggers working together more? (e.g collaborative posts, giveaways, anything!)
I think that it could be really beneficial for both parties to interact more, not solely for book requesting and reviewing but also to create genuine friendly bonds in this community. I think that too many people are intimidated by authors and get scared about interacting with them, but if authors and bloggers alike join more closely within the community, I think that it could help a lot of the tensions and unhappy feelings that are going about right now.
A good example is the #WritingCommunity on social media. The overall majority of people in this community are so kind and are genuinely trying to help people out, to improve their follower numbers, to give them the maximum public attention and just generally make them feel welcome and a part of the family; but I have the distinct feeling that on Instagram particularly, there are distinctions between “Bookstagrammers”, “Book Bloggers” and “Booktubers”. In my opinion, Booktubers are especially compared to authors because of their audience and popularity on YouTube, when the truth is that they are the same as any other reader, they just have a different or “extra” level of publicity and therefore a wider audience.
I’d really like to see more big book bloggers/booktubers/bookstagrammers work with some smaller accounts, the same way as I would like to see more publishers and authors reach out to people with less audience. I think that giveaways and collaborations would really help the community to feel more bonded and to reduce the feeling of “hierarchies” within the bookish world. Maybe if authors picked more diverse bloggers/reviewers, or people in the community with less of an audience it could help to dismiss this sensation and also help one another out.
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a platform in which all book bloggers/reviewers/bookstagrammers/book twitters and booktubers join together with authors and publishers in a type of hybrid social media network in which each person gets turns in hosting giveaways, readathons, readalongs, challenges, book reviews and much more bookish content so that everyone is in the same boat and has the same opportunity.
5. What are your thoughts on book blog tours? Do bloggers enjoy taking part, or would you like to see a change in the format?
I think that book tours are AWESOME. BUT, they don’t get enough coverage/audience! I’ve participated in a few book tours over the last year and they have all been great experiences, but sometimes, some things get “lost in translation”. For instance, last year I applied to be part of a book tour, every single person got the physical copy of the book except me and I had to buy it on Kindle in order to be able to post on my stop. I didn’t want to let the author or tour organiser down, but I personally felt let down and it did dampen the fun.
I also have the feeling that a lot of people starting out in the community don’t know about blog/review tours and think that because they haven’t got a blog that they won’t be chosen. WRONG, I only just set up my blog and in the past year I participated in 3 blog tours, posting solely on Instagram.
Also, I really enjoyed taking part in the other blog tours I have done but I think it is a shame that the blog tour organisers and the other bloggers/reviewers taking part don’t set up like a group discussion, with the author, to discuss the book, to give their opinions, to generally interact and have a bit more of an inside view of why the book was written, what the author was striving for and what the blog tour organiser had in mind when accepting to tour the book, it could be a bit of a faff, but I also think that this could be a really nice addition and because I feel that unless there is the opportunity to ask the author some questions for an interview spot on the tour, other tour hosts don’t get a chance to interact with the author. I also think that the author should rely on the blog tour organiser to find some different bloggers and reviewers, who maybe don’t have as much of an audience but could help both in promoting the author and their book, but also help to gain coverage.
6. Do you think book bloggers should be paid for tours? (authors pay a tour organiser, so I always wonder about this!)
I don’t really know about this question, I am inclined to say “no” because at the end of the day, a blog tour is a bit like a normal review and bloggers very rarely get paid for just reviews and also if you have applied for a blog tour, it is because you are interested in the book and want to read it and share your opinions, and you are not in it for the money because that is not a given right from the start and everyone knows about this. However, I do think that nowadays, monetisation is an important aspect to take into account, a lot of booktubers earn quite a lot of money from their videos but I get the feeling that it is either not understood or not promoted in the same way on other social media networks.
As reviewers and bloggers, we spend a lot of time reading, researching, writing, reviewing and generally just “being” with the author and their book, we concentrate a lot of our time, energy and money into the bookish community, and a lot of the time, we don’t get anything back. Now, it is a given to argue that we read for pleasure and that we have jobs or other ways of funding our reading, but a lot of people rely on their income from their blogs or their channels and maybe it should be taken into account that even if it is not our “chosen job” for which we get a set salary every month, it is an important part of our lives. Yes, we do get a lot of fun and enjoyment out of reading, but fun doesn’t earn us a living.
7. What’s the best way for authors to ask for ARC readers?
I think the best way is to just go on social media, scroll though different bookish accounts, interact with a few people, get recommendations from popular bloggers and booktubers for people that they know in the community who would be a good choice.
I think that sadly, a lot of ARCs go out from publishers’ offices and authors’ homes to very well-known bloggers and booktubers because they know that they will get maximum publicity, and they don’t take into account that not every single one of those who receive these ARCs will enjoy them, and therefore, be beneficial to the author, and also to the person who is reviewing the book.
I would also recommend authors to not stick to the people they have already relied on, or to a few they have been recommended, to do their own research, not just on influential people in the community at the time of the publication of their book, but look for people with less of an audience and following, look for small accounts, because they are maybe small, but very many of them are mighty and deserve a chance to be given an ARC from an author/publisher.
If there was an enormous platform (mentioned in my answer to question 4) that all authors, bloggers, booktubers, reviewers, etc. could access, regardless of the following or success of their accounts, then authors could reach out to as many people as they want and maybe even randomly generate a list of people on this platform to find potential readers and then check their likes and dislikes. I think that requesting and receiving ARCs should be made easier for people who are only just starting out in the book community.
8. How long should authors give for ARC copies to be reviewed?
I feel that this depends largely on the reviewer/blogger, whether they are busy or not. Obviously, people shouldn’t push themselves to read every single book they are sent or buy because there is no point in making yourself sick or diminish the enjoyment from reading, so they should tell authors when they are unable to review their books because of their workload. But generally I would say that authors should maybe allow between 1 and 4 months… I know that this may seem like a long time to wait for a review, but at the end of the day, if your book is out there, it isn’t going to disappear just because reviews are not out yet, if the reviewers and bloggers are serious about reading and reviewing your book, they will do it when they can, and the book will still get the attention it deserves.
I also think that information about when ARCs are available should be made easier to come by, this is where my platform idea would be good, because as soon as an author or publisher has arrived at the ARC step, they can make it known to all the people in the book community and then it will probably also be easier to gauge the time which is given in reviewing the ARC copies, because the moment the ARC is released can be superimposed to the date on which the book is going to be released to the general public.
9. Are there any groups you’d recommend to authors looking to connect with bloggers (e.g Goodreads or Facebook groups)?
I would definitely 100% recommend the book club group I am in on Goodreads! It is called Coffee Break Book Club, and once you join this group, you do have to be quite active and participate every month, just so that the moderators know that you are interested and that they are not doing the work for nothing, however, it is such a safe, caring and enjoyable space that for people who are genuinely searching for connections and bonds with fellow readers, I don’t think it will be a problem to participate. Every month, everyone in the group votes on the books for the subsequent months and we read about 2 books a month, there is absolutely no obligation to read the books, they also have really fun discussions, readathons, buddy read sign-ups (I’ve buddy read with one of the other members and it was SO much fun). This group is great for fellow readers who read and have things to say, every month, the leaders for the discussions change, in February I’ll be leading the group discussions with another member for Aurora Rising and I’m really looking forward to it. This group offers so much to the bookish community and there are so many other amazing groups on Goodreads who are just waiting for people to join their ranks and chat for hours on end about books.
I am not in any bookish groups on Facebook because I prefer to keep that social network for my private life, but I’m sure that loads of other bloggers and reviewers could probably recommend some good groups, as you have for the beta readers and the fantasy ARC group. I’m sure that if you just type book group or club on either of these websites, you’ll find loads of results. I think that Goodreads is especially important and mostly overlooked, a lot of people only use it for recording the books they have read and the books they want to read but this website and app offers so much more, new bloggers, reviewers and even authors just have to take the time to do some research and I’m sure they’ll find a wealth of information and help!
Now, groups specific to bloggers, I would recommend TheWriteReads, I follow them on Twitter and every day they repost blog posts from fellow bloggers, enabling them to get a wider audience. The bookish community on Twitter is very strong, I want to say that it is even becoming stronger than Instagram. I have met some amazing blogger friends on Twitter, for instance Noly from @theartsyreader, she is an amazing blogger and such a kind person, every single blogger who is just starting out needs a Noly in their life!
10. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add about how authors can build better relationships with bloggers?
To any author or blogger/reviewer I would just say to look for what is out there, to search on the internet about bookish communities, to scroll down on Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest to see what is out there. Just be kind, polite and considerate to one another and don’t forget that behind the screen there is another human being, do not do to someone else that which you would not want to be done to yourself and remember that the people who you are talking to have feelings and a life apart from social media and the book community.
For both parties, do not come on too desperate, annoying or rude, because the person you are talking to is either going to be intimidated by you or just generally annoyed. Always remember that reader, author, reviewer, publisher, bookstagrammer, blogger, youtuber, any and all of these people are alike, no matter their status, follower count, audience, popularity, number of views/videos/photos, experience, or title, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
We are all linked together in this beautiful community for the LOVE OF BOOKS, quite literally, we spend every day of our lives being ground down by life, being torn down from our ambitions and dreams, being walked on and degraded by an awful job or an awful teacher, so please, I ask every single person in the bookish community out there, to come together in this safe environment and help one another, look out for each other and always, always, be kind! <3
So much great advice here, thank you so much Ellie. My favourite takeaways:
I love the platform idea – you read it here first everyone, it was Ellie’s idea!
And I think the suggestion about having a group discussion for blog tours is a fantastic idea – exactly as Ellie says, it can be a space to give those participating in a tour the chance to discuss the nitty-gritty of the book and to share favourite quotes and scenes.
Authors, when reaching out, please be nice! Follow Ellie’s advice: explain why you’ve chosen that blogger to reach out to. Spend some time getting to know them.
And above all, be polite, respectful, and kind.
Thanks again to Ellie for taking part in this interview. You can check out Ellie’s blog Read to Ramble or follow Ellie on social media here: