Friday Feelings is a weekly post where I will be having my say about the latest news, books and other related things! This week, I am going to be having a rant about Empty Follows. As always, what follows is my opinion! However, this week, I think there is pretty useful advice in there too!
I log on to my email account and am greeted with forty new emails every morning. About ten of these emails are notifications from Twitter. I find this is a really useful way of keeping track of which blog posts and tweets are garnering attention in the Twittersphere. However, when I open Twitter, my follower count has only gone up by two or three people during the night. Why is this? An annoying thing I like to call EMPTY FOLLOWS!
What is an empty follow?
An empty follow is where a person follows and then unfollows a person on Twitter to gain their attention, normally in order to sell something. Authors in particular seem to give me empty follows, possibly due to the fact that my Twitter account is directly linked to my book review blog. So why is this a bad thing?
If you are following me on Twitter purely to get me to read your book and then review it, prepare to be disappointed. Just look at my TBR list on Goodreads. It has almost two hundred books at the moment. Why should I go out and buy your book over all the other books I really want to read. Furthermore, why should I create space in my already hectic reading schedule to read your book? I blog because I love to read. This means that most of my spare money will be going towards the books I am eagerly anticipating, and believe me, there are plenty. In fact, I participate in a weekly meme which highlights the books we are waiting to be released.
Let me give you a hint, one follow on Twitter is not going to be enough to pique my interest in your book. In fact, it could even turn me away from your book. How? Well, I have had one particular author who has followed me twenty times on Twitter! The first time, I checked out his profile and I actually thought his book looked interesting. I might have picked it up if I had seen it at my library. By the twentieth time I deleted the notification with a growl.
Don’t you like authors though?
Don’t get me wrong, I adore finding new authors to read, and I am honestly not a mean blogger. In fact I think I give quite nice reviews- even if a book isn’t entirely to my taste, I generally recommend it to people who might like it. What I don’t appreciate is an author trying to sell me a book in order for me to undertake the hard work of publicising it. Why should I make more effort than you to sell your book?
So how might I persuade you to buy my book in order to review it?
It is really quite simple…talk to me! I don’t expect huge conversations, a few favourites, retweets and replies on Twitter will do. Connect with me. Maybe even check out the blog on which I post my reviews and comment on a few of my posts which I have worked so hard on. I am far more likely to pick up your book if I think you post funny original comments, or even mediocre ones. The point is, you have made the connection.
I think this advice is especially tailored towards debut authors. Most serial authors have a loyal following who will help them advertise their book. Most of my empty follows come from debut authors or self published authors, who are doing most of their publicising themselves.
But it takes up so much time writing replies and clicking on blog links!
I understand completely, you want as many people to see your book as possible. However, if you follow one hundred bloggers in a day, I would be surprised if one or two of those bought your book and read it. On the other hand, if you connected with thirty, probably five or six will buy your book. After all, most bloggers are proud of their blogs, they have spent hours on the design and content, so if you stroke their ego, they will think kindly of you!
What if they refuse to buy my book?
Have you thought about sending them a free copy of your book? I know this might seem like a backward way of selling books, but if you can persuade a blogger with a loyal following to review your book, and then post that review on Amazon, Goodreads or any other site your book has a page on, more people are likely to buy it. I buy lots of books because bloggers I follow and respect have raved about a book. Also, a well known blogger commenting on a book on Goodreads has an authority and following which, as a first time novelist, is far more likely to sell books than the comments of your friends and families!
When I say a free copy, you don’t have to send them a finished paperback! I have read and reviewed books in PDF format before! My review criteria is based on my enjoyment of the story. You could always attach a picture of the cover if you want a review of that too? (I tend to only comment on a cover if it is especially pretty!)
You must remember that in asking a blogger to buy your book in order to review it, you are asking them to not buy another book they have been wanting to buy as soon as they get the money. Not many book bloggers make enough money from their blogs to afford a book. And all book bloggers love reading, which means they all have books they really want to buy. Your book would have to be REALLY special for me to not buy the next, say, C.L. Stone book. Speaking of C.L. Stone…
Are there other reasons asking book bloggers for reviews could be good?
YES! If a book blogger loves you book, they are very likely to become your biggest fangirl/boy. This means they will be shouting about future releases, featuring your book on Twitter and possibly setting up chats on book forums. Bloggers love the internet, and they love talking about their latest finds. A loyal following of book bloggers is just as valuable as one good review in a magazine or paper. You have a band of people who patrol the internet shouting your name! Honestly, C.L. Stone even has her own tag on my blog- I love her books that much.
Is there anything I should do before approaching a blogger about my book?
YES! Read their blog. If possible, comment on it! Even if you just like their review style or have read a book they reviewed, comment. You are creating a connection!
You should also read their review policy, probably before you waste time with anything else. This is especially important if you are a self published or “indie” author. This is because lots of bloggers won’t accept any books to review from indie-authors, although other blogs only review indie authors. The review policy might also mention genres the blogger reads and if they are accepting titles for review at that time. Ignoring the review policy and sending your book anyway will result in it just being thrown in the bin! These bloggers are busy people! (Personally, I welcome indie authors! See my Review Policy)
Finally, write them an email! Make it good, after all, this blogger will be performing a service for you! You wouldn’t write to a newspaper on a scrap of paper or not bother to use spell check! However unintentional on the bloggers part, you will be judged on this initial correspondence! If you can’t write a one page letter, how did you write a book? Try and personalise this letter, if the blogger is fun, make it fun, if the blogger is serious, tone it down a bit. Try to show that you have done your research, maybe mention how much you like their review style or that a particular review made you really want to buy a book. Make it short, snappy and to the point. No more than three paragraphs.
Isn’t all this a bit too much work for one blogger who may or may not review my book?
Yes! You are right. This is far too much work. Much better to let that book sit in your garage or on Amazon where it will only ever be bought by friends and family! NO! You have spent months on your project, your baby, now do your best to get it seen! In one day you could connect with twenty bloggers that you think are right for your book. Say five of those review that book, the important thing to remember is that BLOGGERS FOLLOW OTHER BLOGGERS! And when they also buy your book and review it, more bloggers will see that review. A good review, written well, can set off a chain reaction. That is why it is important to choose your bloggers wisely!
Once you are a famous author you will probably have a publicist to do all this for you. You might already have one! But often, for debut authors, they will share a publicist with twenty other authors so will end up doing a lot of marketing themselves. Unfortunately, being an author these days is about more than just being able to write well. There are lots of really good books out there which are unread just because other authors were louder or better known. Sorry! But you can do this, especially once you have read this post and know the do’s and don’t’s!
This also means that book blogs are even more important for you. Book bloggers review your book for FREE!! They are generally people who love books and their passion shows in their reviews. Lots of them will attach themselves to new authors and will be your biggest cheerleader for future books as well. Treat them nicely and you will be rewarded!
So what should I look for in a blogger?
Well firstly, look at their followers. This may be more obvious on some blogs, others you may not be able to tell. But even if a blog doesn’t have a huge following, don’t discard it yet!
Next, look at their reviews. Are their reviews well thought out? Do they also post their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads? It is pointless sending your book to a reviewer who can barely write. If their review is littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, however much they rave about your book, who will take it seriously?
Also, look at their bad reviews. You should be able to find these by searching for their one or two star reviews. Are these reviews fair or do they slam an author, and their book, parents, dog, cat and goldfish? Of course, you hope your book will garner a good review but you cannot be sure, so if they post a bad review, you want it to be constructive and positive. Maybe they recommend it for a different audience, or give a specific reason why they don’t like it, such as a hatred for love triangles. This means readers who adore love triangles will still pick up your book. So, to summarise, you want specific criticism.
Finally, look at their other activity. Do they participate in weekly memes with other bloggers? (A meme is a feature hosted by a blog in which other bloggers all write a similar article and then link up with each other. A popular one is “Waiting on” Wednesday hosted over at Breaking the Spine . More info in glossary below.) Why is this important? Well, if I post a list on my blog that features your book and then link it up to one of these memes, lots of other bloggers will then click on that link and read about your book. Extra advertisement! Lots of books have ended up on my To-Be-Read (TBR) list due to other blogger’s Waiting on Wednesday posts! I take part in three memes per week, so there is a fair chance a book I have just read will end up on one of them!
Yes! If you are an indie author, you may not be able to persuade bigger bloggers to read your book just yet. Lots of these bloggers will have publishing houses like Penguin and Harper sending them free ARCs of the most anticipated books of the year. So search for smaller bloggers who are active and on the up and up! There are new book blogs being started all the time, and some of these bloggers might be huge in a few years. If you can persuade them that you are their next favourite author, it could be the ultimate long term investment.
Finally, there is another brand of book bloggers called Booktubers. These are the cool kids on the block, the ones who stand in front of a camera and rave about their new books and then post the video on Youtube. Booktubers often have followers in the thousands and are not to be ignored! To find them? Go to youtube and type in Booktube into the search engine. Some well known ones are Little Book Owl, ABookUtopia and Jesse the Reader.
I don’t understand the terminology I found on a blog!
Fair enough! Us bloggers are a weird bunch! However, there are a few terms and acronyms you should really know to persuade those bloggers you are down with the lingo!
TBR – To Be Read! This means the books a reader has lined up to be read! This could be books they own and haven’t read yet, or books they want to buy.
ARC– Advance Reader Copy – A copy of the book that is sent out to reviewers and professional readers for review before publication. This helps create buzz around the book in the weeks leading up to the release. This copy often is not in the finished format, is uncorrected and may not have a cover.
Book haul – The books a blogger has recently bought, borrowed or been given. If you give a blogger a copy of your book, they may well feature it in their book haul!
Wrap-up – A post that summarises all the books a blogger read that month. Again, another chance for your book to be featured.
Memes/Weekly Features/BlogHops – In blog-speak, this is an idea that is spread from blog to blog. This surfaces in the book blogging world as a feature which is hosted on a site, that lots and lots of other book bloggers do their own version of on their own blogs. They then post links on the host site so other bloggers can see what they wrote on that same topic! It is a way for bloggers to connect to each other and share booky love! Bookshelf Fantasies have a very useful Meme Directory which lists most of the booky memes that exist!
So I hope this helps you! The main things to remember is to Connect, Ask Nicely and don’t Empty Follow!
Much Booky Love
E. St. C.