April 04, 2011

Pitching Book Bloggers: Guest Post by Diane Saarinen

As a book blogger at The Burton Review for over two years, I've come across all kinds of pitches from authors and publicists. Some are welcomed, some are not geared towards my tastes. My blog is specifically tailored to certain genres, and when I get pitches for books that are not in my realm, I ignore them. Some authors just don't know how to look for our review policies. But some authors are pushy, self-righteous and quite frankly, rude in their own efforts to promote. Last month, I had the opportunity to participate (and vent!) in a survey for the Saima Agency who then compiled some key facts that are available in ebook format. Click here to view more details. Diane Saarinen of the Saima Agency wanted to share a few thoughts about what she found out from that survey, and she also welcomes any comments for discussion from bloggers and authors!

by Diane Saarinen

How can there be a whole back story for a little tiny ebook like the one our agency put out, Best Practices: Pitching Book Bloggers? That’s a fair question. But I’m here to tell you there is one and I hope to entertain you in the next few paragraphs.

I have been a blog tour coordinator for the past three years. Which means I work as a liaison between authors and bloggers so when a new book release comes out, it can receive maximum exposure in the blogosphere. My communications are as much with bloggers as they are with authors. And over the years, I feel I’ve gotten to know bloggers quite well. I keep up with what bloggers are reading, how their kids are doing, how their pets are faring. I genuinely love this interaction! I also can place myself, at times, in the shoes of bloggers as I volunteered a few years back for the excellent online publication Her Circle Ezine as Blog Producer. In this capacity, I would endeavor to match topics to bloggers, schedule these posts, and – in a pinch – roll up my sleeves and even write a few blog posts myself. And as a writer myself, I’ve been published not only in Her Circle Ezine, but Quiet Mountain: New Feminist Essays and Women’s eNews Daily. An essay of mine appears in the anthology, Working Women: Stories of Strife, Struggle and Survival (SAGE, 2009).

Is this guest post turning into a feminist treatise? Maybe. I will say this: I don’t know the statistics but it appears to me that most book bloggers are women. And anecdotally at least, women seem more predisposed for relationship-building; for giving freely of their time; and in general doing all these great things that we associate with the book bloggers.

But, let’s remember something. Book bloggers for the most part are not monetizing their blog. They are not getting paid. Reading – and reviewing books – is a hobby they are passionate about. Through the grapevine (i.e., Twitter) I began to hear more and more about bloggers grumbling about well-meaning publicists, even authors, taking advantage of their kind natures. By this I mean: sending unsolicited books. Or allowing insufficient lead time with review requests. What about requesting bloggers’ stats? To me, that’s just rude!

Well, now it’s clear I’ve gone off on a tangent. What does this all have to do with the e-product, Best Practices: Pitching Book Bloggers? In March 2011, our agency set up a survey that 30 book bloggers answered quite frankly about what constituted a good pitch and a bad pitch. The answers, to me, were amazing. One of the best summed-up examples of a pet peeve I read in the study was: “I know you say you don’t review self-published books, non-fiction, or Christian books, but I have a great Christian self-help book that I’ve published myself!” Publicists and authors, we can do better than this.

BIO: Diane Saarinen can be found at the Saima Agency which specializes in author services such as book blog tours, virtual assistance, copywriting and book trailers. Their ebook, BEST PRACTICES: PITCHING BOOK BLOGGERS is available here. Please note the e-guide is free to all bloggers. Just email info [at] saimaagency [dot] com with your blog URL for a complimentary copy.


  1. It actually doesn't bother me when publishers and authors request stats. Actually, I think that if we want to be taken seriously and be given books to review we should be able to show that we are actually providing a marketing service. If we are not, why should anyone provide us with books at their expense? It isn't as if any of us are going to stop reading and reviewing at that point (well, maybe a few are, but they are a subject for a whole different discussion). The books are by no means free to us, we put in hard work and, as Diane said, usually aren't monetizing our blogs, but there is an expense on the other side too, and I don't see anything wrong with people wondering if the expense is justified.

  2. I agree with everything but one statement:

    I think it is important to ask for stats. Mine are readily available for when someone asks. If someone doesn't have any way to promote the book then why should they get the book? Working hard and creating an audience is part of blogging. Just by setting up a blog and saying "Here I am world!" doesn't mean you are done. There is social media and making friends and participating in events that will give you more traffic. Without traffic you can't really promote someone's book.

    You aren't going to hire a barista that has made coffee for her dad one time are you? Then why should you 'hire' bloggers who have no way to do the things you desperately need? Like get the word out about that book?

  3. If stats are that important, I think that bloggers should put their stats in their review policy.. otherwise it is pretty easy to look at those sites that have counters installed at the bottom (I have three), and then look at the # of followers and comments as Diane suggested.
    It shouldn't have to be rocket science.
    If I am personally REQUESTING a review copy, I would be happy to provide stats when asked.

    But if someone is emailing me out of the blue for the first time with their own pitch, and then requesting stats at the same time, I will probably delete the email. It is just not the way to break the ice, so to speak.

  4. Hi Ladies!

    Thanks for your input. It's nice to see all views. When I took the survey with the small pool, I specifically got some responses where book bloggers did not seem to appreciate the stats question. In the e-report, I suggest to the "pitcher" to investigate using a site such as alexa.com or quantcast.com as well as judging popularity of a blog in a few other ways.

  5. Diane,

    I saw that Alexa/Quantcast suggestion and I think it is a good one, and I do somewhat agree with Marie that asking during the request can be off putting, but I think it is important that bloggers at the very least make that information easily accessible (mine is in my review policy) for the reasons Pam and I mentioned, and I don't think that people should be offended if they are asked, as some people seem to be.

  6. That's a good idea, Jen -- to make that info readily accessible if the question doesn't bother you. It also might be *who* is requesting. For example, if it's a major publisher who is seeking to form a relationship, that could be considered differently than an individual author asking.

  7. Definitely, although I think the individual author has a right to know too, especially if he or she is spending personal money to buy additional author copies to send out.

  8. I'm with Pam and Jen, I think that if you are a blogger requesting a review copy, you should be open about your stats. I don't think it is a huge deal to share how many hits you get per day with a publicist, it certainly isn't on the scale of Too Much Information.

  9. A funny coincidence happened today someone I will be interviewing for a small newspaper asked about advertising in that paper and he asked me to find out the subscribers/readers to the paper for him to help him make that decision. So for paid advertising, I'd say that info is required. I think my feeling though is that if an author approaches the blogger and asks, it's awkward. But you guys are the bloggers so you know! (I love hearing all the opinions.)

  10. I think the author/publicist should do his or her homework before emailing--site stat generators are free and easily accessed. Why should I take time out of my busy schedule to log into my hosting account and see how many visitors I've had lately? While I do agree that if the blogger is tracking down the publisher and requesting a book this information should be provided, I just don't agree that it is information that a blogger needs to keep a full updated report on to pass along to authors requesting reviews.

    My site comes up in the top 5 on Google when "historical fiction" is searched. That should be good enough.

  11. Yes it should ;)
    And as always, there are multiple facets to each of our views. Thanks for all the comments & feedback, ladies!

  12. I have to agree with Marie and Arleigh. I have never been asked for my blog stats in a pitch but I would think if they are pitching the book to me they should have already done their homework to check out my blog. My feeling is, if they are reaching out to me it's not my job to do their research for them. If I was to reach out for a review request I would have no problem providing the information if requested (I do have some of it already in my review policy). My biggest pet peeve is that I think many don't even bother to read the policy. I spent quality time to compose my policy to try to cover as many of the common questions that might come up, yet I still get pitches the exact things I say I won't read. As a rule I don't mind unsolicited books, as long as the person doesn't expect me to drop everything because it isn't going to happen.

  13. In regards to stats, yes they are important but most people don't know what to look for.

    Also, I worked a lot with marketers (not in the book industry) and they would rather have a small targeted pitch than cast a wide net.


  14. Hi again! I was just letting some of you know on Twitter so I thought I'd let all of you know that when the report is updated, I'll include the "Stats Debate" :) Not sure when the update will be though, it's a professional design so there's some work involved.

  15. Hi everyone! I too think that publishers should do their own homework when it comes to stats. Actually, I think a better idea, (instead of observing stats) would be to quickly navigate through the sites. This would give a better, or more general idea of what the blog is all about and what is featured-they can then decide if this is a place where they'd like their book promoted.


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