One of the mistakes any new book blogger can make is “I’m now a book blogger, people are now going to give me free books! I don’t have to buy another book in my life!”. To a certain extent, this is true – but it is a double-edged sword and it doesn’t come without some hard work.
Quantity does not mean Quality
The “big hitters” (those people you would have previously paid money for their books) rarely give their books out for free, and then generally only to those people “in the know”. You will get approached with offers of free books – but usually from smaller, less well-known authors who you have never heard of before. It’s a Caveat Emptor moment here: some can be fab, some less so. Without some fairly strict rules – the first one is to give yourself permission to say “no” – you can be bogged down with books you don’t really enjoy and can be burned out fairly quickly.
It is a case of being selective
You do have to take a chance with some authors – it’s the same as going into a bookshop and picking up an author you’ve never read before. Don’t accept a book simply because you’ve been offered it. Accept it only if you think you’re going to give it a reasonable review (the “reasonable” review is even more important if it turns out you didn’t like the book itself).
There are only so many hours in the day, into which you need to read the book, write/record the review, publish it, tell people about it. Ironically, being a book blogger means you probably spend less time reading books than you did before.
Getting the types of books you want takes effort.
It’s not a case of build it and they will come. You have to establish relationships with authors, publishers, websites like Netgalley and Edelweiss and be prepared to read the books and write the reviews. Then tell people about the review. If your first foray into getting a free copy of a book from a publisher is to go to up and say “gizza a copy?”, it rarely works. You are likely to be ignored at best. There is a person at the other end of that email address/twitter name, and they need to be treated as one. Build up a relationship. Don’t go in always expecting a book in return for every interaction. Have conversations, answer quizzes and polls, put the hard work in, and then you *may* be rewarded.
Go to events, such as book signings, author interviews, readings etc. There are a number of authors I read for who I met several times before I started reading their books. Knowing the author (and hearing their books read out loud) will give you a good indication as to whether you’d like their work before committing to reading it.
Build yourself a review policy – it’s unlikely to be perfect on the first go and may take years to develop. Often you know what you won’t do only when you get asked to do it (I’ve been asked to review a book for free – after I’ve paid full purchase price for it – no thanks!).
Your Online Presence
Have an online presence and keep it up to date. Publish reviews as often as you can, wherever you can. Hang around on twitter/facebook/google+. Publishers are more likely (but not guaranteed) to take you seriously if you actually tell people about books for no better reason than you want to. Follow and comment on other people’s blogs both inside and outside your niche.
I’ve done it myself
Netgalley and Edelweiss (along with sites like Librarything) can be lethal to people who request books to read. It is common to be a kid in a candy store on sites like this and do a glut of requests for books, forgetting that you will have to actually read the book and review it. It took me over a year to learn to control the desire to request everything on Netgalley and work on getting my read to request ratio in a much more healthy state. It’s still a long way off what it should be – it’s currently 54% when it should be closer to 80% and it’s all my fault for requesting too many books and not reviewing them fast enough.
The world owes you nothing and it certainly doesn’t owe you free stuff. Everything comes at a cost, usually time. Time to read, time to write, time to interact….hopefully the above post will give you some indication as to the work involved, even in my small little corner of the tinterweb!
So, constant reader, does any of this resonate with you? Where are you in your blogging journey? Have you just started out? are you several years in, reading this post and shaking your head?