Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors

“Something truly magical happened.”

That’s how Amanda Hocking describes the impact book bloggers had on sales of her self-published paranormal romances.

When she rolled out the first of nine books in March of last year, Hocking had no idea what to expect. Over the next couple of months, her Kindle sales amounted to around 600 eBooks. Not bad for a newbie, but not enough for the 26-year-old to quit her day job.

Whoosh! Into the fast lane

Then she discovered and tapped into the world of book bloggers. Her sales took a gigantic swerve into the fast lane, tallying 164,000 books sold by the end of 2010.

“I had no idea such people existed,” Hocking wrote on her own website. “They just read books and write about them.  And I don’t mean “just.” They take time out of their busy lives to talk about books and have contests and connect with followers and writers and other readers. These guys are honestly my heroes. I’m a little in love with all of them.”

USA Today this week reported the jaw-dropping news that last month alone, Hocking sold 450,000 of her nine titles, breaking into their top 50 bestsellers list. Taking her cue from iTunes, she had priced her self-published eBooks at $2.99 (she keeps 70 percent) and .99 cents (keeping 30 percent.) Do the math. That day job is history.

Bloggers reach millions of readers

Book bloggers love to read books and to recommend them to their own followers. There are scores of avid bloggers in every genre, out there reviewing thousands of books and interviewing hundreds of authors every year. They do this for pleasure, and are a very diverse crowd: some are book people in their day jobs, some are stay-at-home moms and dads, some are students.

The book blogs, with names like Fantasy Cafe, and Write Meg, have become increasingly influential. They collectively build markets that can reach millions of potential readers and can turn books into bestsellers. As serious and discerning critics and social networkers, these book lovers have formed regional and national organizations and established huge databases, including this searchable list of more than 1,400 bloggers.

Mainstream publishers take note

“We think book bloggers are the absolute best way to get your book to exactly the right people who are interested in your topic, whatever it is,” says Samantha Rubenstein, a publicist at John Wiley & Sons. “Reaching out to specific book bloggers is a large and important part of a book’s publicity and increasing by leaps and bounds every six months.”

The publishing industry has welcomed the bloggers into the fold, including them in the annual Book Expo in New York, coming up in May.  The Book Bloggers Convention, which will follow the official Book Expo, will feature face time with authors and panels on topics like blogging for niche markets and technology for bloggers.  Authors are welcome to attend.

The future is now

Things are happening so quickly now in what was once the stodgy old world of writing and getting published. The balance of power has shifted and even the most traditional agents and publishers realize that authors have many new choices on how to present and market their work. What was once thought to be far in the distance has already happened.

This is an opportunity that authors can’t afford to ignore.

Everything is in place

So how do you begin? Here are the steps Samantha recommends:

Getting started with book bloggers

Research

Search the Book Blogs Search Engine to find bloggers in your field.  Study their sites, see whom they recommend, read their review policies and link with them for further networking.

Join the community

Remember: don’t hard sell but rather enter into a relationship, a conversation with many participants. Follow the discussion, offer your point of view.

Submit your book

Once you’ve established some kind of relationship, prepare to submit your own book for possible review. Bloggers will indicate in their review policies whether they prefer to receive books electronically or in print.

“I’ll usually send an eblast or query first, giving a quick summary, because you don’t just want to send people free copies if they’re not seriously interested.”

Offer an interview

Samantha reports that she gets more requests for interviews and actually prefers them, since that gives the author a better chance to describe the book’s contents than a review, which is often unpredictable in quality or point of view.

Be patient

“We don’t expect and rarely see a spike in sales right after a review or interview appears on a blog. But we appreciate many benefits and are very happy when we do get attention, since this is where people go to get information. It puts our author in front of readers who are most likely to be interested in their book.”

An example is blogger John Merrow, President of Learning Matters, a non-profit that produces educational reports for the PBS NewsHour and elsewhere on NPR. If Merrow mentions an author’s book about teaching or learning in his blog, sales usually jump up.

Cultivate those contacts

As in any form of publicity, the ongoing back and forth between authors and bloggers is crucial. Unlike traditional broadcast or print media however, “you can’t call anyone on the phone,” Samanthan advises. Bloggers work at home, so use email to stay in touch.

Be quick and persistent

You’ll be competing with other authors and publishers’ publicists. At the upcoming Book Bloggers Conference in NYC, for example, there’s a panel with publicists from Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, and others.

Marketing yourself to book bloggers is not for everyone. It takes time and energy you might prefer to spend writing, or cultivating other gardens. But it’s definitely one of the most powerful new ways to get your work in the hands of readers available today.

Any thoughts about all this? If your book has been reviewed by a book blogger, please tell us here in comments about the experience.  Any advice for fellow writers will be much appreciated.

61 Responses to Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors

  1. Valerie @ Life 4 me by me

    Thank you so much for this post. It is exactly what I needed to read at exactly the right time.

  2. Tweets that mention Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jose Luiz Goldfarb and Cidade de Leitores, João Baptista Lago. João Baptista Lago said: Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors, by Alan Rinzler /The Book deal http://bit.ly/fC4HrU | RT @jafurtado [...]

  3. Livia Blackburne

    Hocking is breaking new ground for indies. USA today bestseller list! It’s helpful to see how she got started

  4. Joanna Penn

    Thanks so much for sharing this post. The directory is amazingly useful. I did start trying to search online for niche fiction blogs but found it really hard going so this is brilliant. I will share this with people on FB and twitter etc. I know this will help so many authors.
    As always, your blog is massively helpful.
    Thanks, Joanna

  5. Diana Stevan

    I appreciate the helpful tips you offer. It’s overwhelming navigating this industry, when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. Thanks.

  6. Marilyn Peake

    When I discovered the USA TODAY article about Hocking through Twitter this past week, I was amazed. It actually motivated me to put some very productive hours into writing. Thanks so much for explaining the details of her experience with Blog tours.

  7. Blogs for Self-Publishers for February 13 – 19, 2011 — The Book Designer

    [...] Rinzler on The Book Deal Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors “Things are happening so quickly now in what was once the stodgy old world of writing and [...]

  8. Aya Knight

    I completely agree with everything listed on this post. It is vital for new authors to utilize multiple outlets to draw attention to their work and the realm of blogging is an amazing source for promotion. Many online book groups can also aid with drawing notice to your work.

    Thanks for the great posts on this blog! Very enjoyable.

    Sincerely,
    Aya Knight
    Author of- The Chronicles of Kale: A Dragon’s Awakening

  9. The Reading Ape

    Couple of other things writers should know about book bloggers: If we love your book, we will trumpet it from the rooftops. The flipside of that is that if we hate your book, well, we might shout about that too. So be sure you are pitching your books to people who might want to read it. For example, I write about literary fiction and get pitched paranormal stuff: this isn’t going to work out well.

    Twitter is a great way to follow what’s happening. A couple of hashtags to look at: #bblog, #litchat, #bookbloggeron, #followreader.

    A few book blogs are especially influential and/or representative of what’s going on in the book blogging world. I would suggest The Book Lady’s Blog, Things Mean A Lot, and Devourer of Books; these are a good place to wade into the pool

  10. Michelle

    Thank you for mentioning The Book Blogger Convention. We strive to provide bloggers, authors, publishers and industry professionals the opportunity not only to learn more about our craft but network. We hope you’ll join us!

  11. John E

    Bluntly, I question the premise. Amanda Hocking’s the most successful self-published author, yes. And book bloggers wrote about her, and still do. However, many self-published authors have also received attention from book bloggers, but have not enjoyed terrific book sales. Guido Henkel’s a good example. He’s done everything you suggest. Even Joe Konrath asked, “why isn’t this guy selling?”

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/guest-post-by-guido-henkel.html

    On the other hand, Stephen Carpenter’s books are selling like hot cakes. Try googling him. Where’s his web presence? He doesn’t really have one.

  12. Melissa

    Really enjoyed this article.

    It is true us book bloggers have huge mouths. When we love a book, we will spend hours tweeting, blogging and shouting about it from the rooftops. Nowhere else can you get that type of free, honest publicity.

    Melissa
    The Sunday Book Review

  13. Tweets that mention Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michelle, Jennsbookshelf, Irish / Gail, Irish / Gail, Geoffrey Plauche and others. Geoffrey Plauche said: RT @galleysmith: Another take on how useful Book Bloggers can be to authors and publishers http://bit.ly/iikZTp [...]

  14. Christine Castigliano

    Very inspiring. I so appreciate the bloggers who help feed our culture with their passion for stories.

    As an indie writer/publisher who grew weary of so many marketing tasks, and put new writing ahead of promotion, I’m ready to dive back in and rejoin the book blog community.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts!

  15. Graham Wilson

    Hi Alan,
    I met you at the SPPC in 2000 when you were speaking about editing, I believe. In the intervening eleven years I can’t believe how much the industry has changed. Authors like Amanda Hocking are challenging traditional publishing models in fascinating and unexpected ways. Two weeks ago I attended Digital Book World in NYC and was one of 1,200 book publishers trying to grasp the depth of this change. I greatly appreciated this post.

  16. Kristie Cook

    I LOVE book bloggers! They have been and always will be a crucial part of my marketing plan. People have asked how I’ve gained such a following being indie published. I credit my relationships with book bloggers. Just be patient with them. Most are doing this as a hobby, in addition to all of their other life responsibilities. They put a lot of time and love into their blogs, though, and appreciate the opportunity to work with an author. I’ve made some true friends in the book blogging community. It’s definitely worth the time!

  17. Alan Rinzler

    John E,

    You’re right. Book marketing is unpredictable and mysterious with or without book bloggers. It’s always been true.

    Guido Henkel did everything right and it hasn’t worked. If there were a strict formula that guaranteed big sales, all authors would be successful and famous like Amanda Hocking.

    There may be many reasons that Guido’s books haven’t gotten the needed buzz… YET. But stand by, more unexpected things may happen to his work in the future — a wild card, perhaps, like a film or TV sale. Nobody knows.

  18. Alan Rinzler

    Reading Ape,

    Your comment demonstrates the candor, welcoming spirit, and democratic collectivism of book bloggers.

    Many thanks for the extremely useful information and advice.

  19. Lynette Benton

    I’m at a loss for words to express how helpful this post is for my writing students and for me. Thank you!

  20. Kylynn

    This makes so much sense. It’s overwhelming, at times, because there are so many book bloggers out there, but they are very influential and reach thousands, if not millions of readers.

  21. Jaleta Clegg

    Thanks for a great post! Lots of very good information. Book bloggers are wonderful people.

    Most authors also blog and many review books. I’m one of those authors. I’m happy to feature other authors and other books. It’s another way I can reach out to my audience and make new friends. Now if only science fiction were as popular as romance, I’d be set.

  22. Sheila Cull

    Oh my! What fabulous, new for me, well written, complete, exciting information. Alan, you always open my eyes a little wider. A million thank you’s. Sheila

  23. Jeff Rivera

    It’s so true, Alan. I did a blog tour of over 100 bloggers for my first novel. It was a great way to drive traffic to the site but I suggest that when people do so that they give the bloggers’ readers an incentive to purchase the book during a one week window of time, that way it will help drive your book up the bestsellers charts easier.

  24. Julie, A Tale of Many Reviews

    Nice post! I appreciate your steps with communicating and finding the right blogger to help promote your book. For me, if I love a book/author I tell EVERYONE, not just my blog readers. I’m in the education field and have access to many school sites, do books talks, send librarians recommendations,etc. So when I promoted Amanda Hocking, it wasn’t just to blog followers or people searching for my blog. That is just one platform, which I direct people to find out more once I’ve talked, tweeted, recommended to whomever…it never fails when I’m at a bookstore, Wal-Mart, wherever books are sold, someone is walking the aisle, looking lost, and I strike up a conversation with, “What are you in the mood for?” I do tons of recommendations that way, and self-published authors are not off limits there either. If it’s a good book, it’s a good book. I agree that just having your book reviewed by a blogger doesn’t mean Hocking proportion sales, but I will say, I personally ADORE her books and she is always top of mind with me. Her books should go toe to toe with NY Times Bestsellers, she is that caliber of writer. You do have to have a quality book that strikes a cord and some will promote more than others. So, research is key. :) Twitter is wonderful as well – love the community of bloggers there. :)

  25. Caitlin Sumer

    Very helpful post. Can’t wait to dig into the Book Blogs Search (Fyrefly’s Book Blog). Thank you!

  26. Sarra Cannon

    I am so grateful for book bloggers! People like Julie from A Tale of Many Reviews and Kim from The Caffeinated Diva. As an Indie Author, it can be tough to figure out how to get my books out there in front of the people who might like to read them, but bloggers already have the audience and their readers really trust them. The fact that so many bloggers are willing to read and review ebooks from Indie Authors makes me so happy! <3 Thank you so much to all the book bloggers out there who take time out of your busy schedule to read our books!

  27. Sarah Riley

    I just wanted to say thanks for such a helpful article. Like you, I believe we are at the edge of a tipping point in self publishing and I’m hoping to join in having just published myself. However, as I’m very new at all of this I’m finding it hard to get my head around how to market my work, so you have really helped. Thanks to you, and also to all the book bloggers out there!

  28. Wendy

    As both a publisher (of non-fiction books) and a YA book blogger, I wanted to add my thoughts on what you have written in this post as well as past posts you’ve written about book bloggers.

    Book bloggers are hungry for content. Posting one review after another gets really boring. They want to include authors, but, from my experience, many authors don’t seem to be open to accomodating book bloggers.

    In my opintion, authors don’t seem to understand the importance of marketing, don’t treat their writing as a business, and many of them aren’t even that accessible.

    After reading several YA novels I ended up loving, I would try to track down the author to ask for an interview. Some of them were nearly impossible to contact because they didn’t even have a Web site! Also, on more than on occasion, authors agreed to do an interview and then never followed up.

    I see self-published authors who refuse to invest a bit of money into sending out a print version of their book and only have a pdf version to send for review (rather than an epub version which is easier to read).

    I wish authors would understand that taking the time to do a 30-minute interview, to offer an ARC in multiple formats, and even just sending a quick e-mail to say thank you for a review will, more than likely, turn a book blogger into a loyal fan who wants to see, and do what they can to help, the author succeed.

    I see so many books that get some promotion a bit before, and around the time of, the book’s release. Sales of the book are brisk for a month or two and then the book dies a quiet death. Why aren’t authors actively marketing their books all the time?

    Sure, I get they would probably rather be writing than sending an e-mail to a book blogger who gets very little traffic. One day, authors are going to have to realize the importance of reaching out to book bloggers (with big and small followings). Speaking as a publisher, we have 300 books up on Kindle and are putting up new ones every day. Publishing is easier than it has ever been, but it’s also going to become that much easier to get lost in the noise.

    In my opinion, if an author truly wants to have the kind of success you are experiencing, they had better start making marketing something they give serious attention to.

  29. Jim Devitt

    Great post and the timing couldn’t have been better, thanks!

  30. Alan Rinzler

    Wendy,

    In my experience the importance of marketing is becoming more clear and compelling for writers all the time, both for commercially published authors and for those self-published.

    At the recent sold-out San Francisco Writer’s Conference, the sessions on self-marketing, independent publishing, blogging, and twittering had the biggest attendance for the 320 authors registered. Nearly every author I met at the conference was spending one or two hours a day on marketing, without sacrificing the four or five hours spent writing. It has most definitely become a part of the difficult and complicated job of being a successful literary artist.

  31. Ponn Sabra

    I love book bloggers, they were integral back in 2005 when they helped my debut women’s networking book make self-help best-sellers list on amazon. In time, I’ve returned the favor as much as possible by reviewing books now on my mommy blog, and my homeschool girls have great success book reviewing which turned into educational software and virtual world reviews, being in beta-testers & on development teams before public launch, and they are only 7, 9, & 10 years old at http://KidBloggersClub.com So we’ve seen the success on both ends and so happy for Amanda’s great success. Our next lesson: listing ebooks on Kindle! LOL

  32. D.L. Cocchio

    Amanda,
    Congratulations on your success and thank you for the great article on marketing using bloggers. The information crossed my path at just the right time. I hope to build my success half as good as yours. Thanks. You can visit my site at: http://www.dlcocchio.webs.com.

  33. Peter Bowleg

    Loved the Information. Great Stuff. Thank you for sharing. All the best.

  34. Andrea Truitt

    Love, Love, Love this information. I have a book that should be completed in about 2 months and this will help a lot!

  35. David Abrams

    Great article. I waded into the world of book blogs last year and even though my little corner of the internet (The Quivering Pen) is a one-man operation, I can tell you that I share the passion for books like my fellow bloggers. A blog is a great way to channel my evangelical zeal for reading. I love being able to trumpet the good news about (relatively) underread authors.

  36. Nancy Hovde

    Thanks for much for this wonderful information!
    Wendy – your input was helpful, too.
    Love this!

  37. Judith Marshall

    I’m truly a believer in marketing. I, too, spend at least two hours each day getting the word out about my novel, “Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever.” My efforts paid off last June when I caught the attention of a movie producer. My book has now been optioned for the big screen!

    P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible will happen. Nothing.”

  38. j.c.sutton

    don’t have a website – yet.
    do have an indie [print-on-demand publisher] 1st novel ‘available on amazon, blah blah blah’. pub date was ’01, so my mktng. skills are ancient history. currently working past 1st draft of 2nd novel. friend who set me onthe road to first novel just sent me this think. adding to favorites even before reading all comment.
    right stuff at write time?
    write stuff at right time?
    both, thanks.

    barnum quote sure is apt.

  39. Lori Hurst

    So much information to digest. I’m an author & amateur blogger but, not only have you have given me direction- I now have some signposts to follow.

  40. CL Parka

    Found this post linked to Amanda Hocking’s blog. This article was timed perfectly for me! So glad to have people out there with so much knowledge and so willing to share with the rest of us!

  41. Lee Anne Benjamin

    Wow! Amazing post.. this is all great information. I love all of the insight I am getting pertaining to marketing for new authors. It is so inspiring to read about Amanda Hocking. If only I can do as well as she did with promoting my mother’s debut novel! I can only hope but passion is what always prevails!
    Thanks again!

    http://cherylshireman.com/my-books/

  42. “Book Bloggers Can Help Sell Your Book” :

    [...] has been in the news recently (last month alone, she sold 450,000 of her nine titles). According to this fascinating post, Hocking credits some of her success to the visibility offered by book bloggers. “I had no idea [...]

  43. Kate

    As an author, I admit my complete failing in the area of marketing. I do pretty well in sales (Not Amanda Hocking well, or even J.A. Konrath well) and I have a blog, facebook, and have connected with several of the readers that have given me appreciative reviews on GoodReads. But when it comes to maintaining a presence in the book blogging community or tweeting or connecting with other authors, frankly, I have neither the time nor the energy. My introduction into writing was unexpected and unplanned, and it is for now a part time venture. There are many like me, part time for one reason or another who have not spent the years needed to form the presence or the bibliography of Hocking or Konrath. I don’t expect to gain anyone’s notice at this point in my life. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to visit every fantasy or paranormal book blogger and take the additional time to contact each of them. Personally, I’m not concerned with making scads of money. Thank goodness, or I’d be really disappointed, hahaha. Six Keys was something I needed to write and wanted to share. I give it away for free on googleBooks, for heaven’s sakes and have widely advertised that. I will keep writing and be a part timer for now. I don’t know if book bloggers are for me at this point in my career. I will however, be bookmarking this fantastic article and passing it around to some of my friends who DO hope to be the next Amanda Hocking. :)

  44. Jay Swanson

    This was a fantastic post, and some of the followup comments have been extremely helpful as well. I guess I’m still a bit anxious about sending emails to bloggers. My fear is that they won’t have time or the desire to read my book. It’s probably from a lack of confidence as much as anything, but how much do bloggers really want to hear from me?

  45. Peaches Ledwidge

    Thanks for this post. You do deliver.

  46. Bookmark

    Great post Alan … I can’t stress enough how important it is for authors to get their books reviewed by bloggers. Done right, it’s almost as good as having your book plugged by Oprah.

  47. The New Kindle Millionaires « What's cooking at the Blue Fox Cafe

    [...] center of attention for the new phenomena. Each writer has a blog which is worth checking out, for each individual has shown a very different response to all the hoopla. J.A. Konrath’s blog is titled A Newbie Guide’s To Publishing and his counterpart, Ms. [...]

  48. Yara @ Once Upon a Twilight

    Great post!

  49. Mark M

    Have you seen the latest viral video for Tate Publishing? They seem to be great for first time unknown authors.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Ffwk4e6Ls

  50. Jacqvern

    Thank you very much for this post. :)

  51. Alexander M Zoltai

    I was introduced to this site by a post on Publetariat.

    I’ve recently sent about 60 queries to book bloggers for reviews of my soon-to-be-published book.

    With that custom search tool it looks like I’ll be querying many more :-)

    I’ve added this site to my Blogroll…

  52. Book Bloggers ~ Just for The Love of It :-) « Notes from An Alien

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  53. how to self-publish a book « Critical Awesomeness

    [...] Surprisingly, positive reviews from book bloggers actually can skyrocket you to fame and fortune. That’s how Amanda Hocking did it. Unfortunately, most book bloggers aren’t too keen on reviewing self-published books either [...]

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  55. Brenda Iovino

    I found these exchanges helpful and will be following up with some of them in regard to my book.
    Thanks

  56. Carmen Anthony Fiore

    I tip my hat to all bloggers out there doing the “Lord’s” work in getting the word out about books and authors. So far I’ve done two interviews for bloggers and enjoyed each experience and appreciated each opportunity: Kipp Poe’s Blog and Shawn Graham’s IndieReads.net. Both blogs are well done and attractive visually. But let’s not forget print sources for interviews, no matter what level of readership the source has. I just did an interview for my college alumni magazine. Every little bit of exposure helps get the word out about you and your work. The last thing a writer wants to be is a snooty elitist who only seeks opportunities and sources that he/she deems worthy of his/her talents.

  57. Sally A Wolf

    I am a book blogger if there are any authors out there that need someone to read there books and or do an interview just google my name

  58. Terri Bruce

    As a debut author (August 1st) getting ready to dive into the fray, I’ve been lurking around the book blogger community, trying to get to know the players, find sites that are a match for the book I’ve written, etc. and what has amazed me is the WORK these people put into what they do as a hobby/for fun. Their blogs are BEAUTIFUL – most of the site templates are a work of art unto themselves! – the contests and memes are fun and incredibly creative (I’ve been following the Spring Blog Carnival and every stop is AMAZING), the giveaways are incredibly generous, etc. These are people who love what they do, are passionate about books, and who seem to have limitless enthusiasm and creativity. I’m amazed! Even if they don’t give an author’s books a sales bump, I can’t imagine it’s bad to hang around people with these qualities :-) Thank you book bloggers!

  59. kea Noli

    I have just self-published a debut novel called Pearl Lover on Amazon but I do not know where to start. I did tweet a promotion and gave away free books, but I wonder if the readers value them as much as paid copies. If anyone can recommend book bloggers for contemporary romance, I would appreciate the advice.

  60. Marie S.

    Wow! Thank you so much for posting this information! Proper marketing is so crucial when it comes to successfully selling your book. Even the most talented writers go unnoticed if they aren’t able to get exposure. Visiting book blogs is such a wonderful way to network with people who can really get your work noticed and into the right hands.

    My husband and I run a Christian publishing company: http://www.instructory.com/, and we are BIG proponents of all forms of marketing. From podcasting, to eBooks, to book launches, to personal websites, and especially book blogs, there are just so many ways to get noticed today. Thanks for sharing!

  61. Book Bloggers & Reviewers | Dara Rochlin Book Doctor

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