Welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging! If you’ve never been here before you can catch up on previous posts in the series here.
I first published this post (then titled “How to Get Review Copies”) nearly five years ago. Since then it has remained one my top five most popular posts every month and is my third most read post of all time, so I thought it was time for an overhaul. Here is a new version, fully revised and updated for the novice book blogger in 2016.
Every once in a while I get an email or comment from a blogger who wants to know how I acquire review copies, so here it is, spelled out in one place. I will outline the three primary methods of obtaining review copies–review programs, blog tours, and direct request–in both the Christian and general markets.
“Just what is a review program?” you ask. A review program is where a publisher or company offers free review copies in exchange for your honest review. You must apply and be approved for the program before you will be allowed to request a review copy. You cannot request just any book. You must choose from those that the publisher is offering at the time. Bloggers are usually limited to requesting one or two books at a time, and must submit a review before requesting another book. Different programs have different review requirements. Some require a blog post of a certain length; others require reviews posted to certain retail websites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Review programs are a great way for book bloggers who are just starting out to easily obtain review copies.
Amazon Vine – Amazon Vine is a by-invitation-only program where members receive books in exchange for reviews posted on Amazon.com. The best way to be invited to join is to write lots of great book reviews on Amazon and hope that people vote them “helpful.”
Blogging for Books – Blogging for Books started out as Waterbrook Multnomah’s exclusively Christian review program. Now it’s run by Crown Publishing (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and offers books in a wide variety of genres. If you work for a professional media outlet, you may obtain special permissions. Blogging for books is the only blogger review program I still use. Here’s a little more information about it:
Book Nook – Book Nook is Hay House’s review program for bloggers who love self-help and inspirational books.
First to Read – First to Read is Penguin’s social media platform for readers. You don’t have to be a blogger to join. Members earn points, which can then be used to secure egalleys. Members can also enter drawings for egalleys if they do not have enough points to secure them.
LibraryThing Early Reviewers – Members enter drawings for a chance to win review copies. LibraryThing offers a huge selection of books, but of course the disadvantage is that there is a limited quantity of each, with lots of people entering the drawings.
NetGalley – If you prefer ebooks to hardcopies, NetGalley is where you want to look. They have an extensive selection of egalleys from most of the major publishing houses–general market and Christian. Anyone can sign up for an account, but individual publishers have to approve you before you can receive egalleys from them.
Story Cartel – Story Cartel is my least favorite review program. It has a great platform, but most of the offerings are self-published.
B&H Publishing Group Blogger Partnership Program – This is a pretty straightforward email-based blogger review program. Simply fill out the form and wait to be approved.
Baker Publishing Group Blogger Programs – Baker Publishing Group has six different blogger review programs for their various imprints. These are, Baker Academic Bloggers, Baker Books Bloggers, Bethany House Blogger Review Program, Brazos Press Bloggers, Chosen Blogger Review Program, and Revell Reads.
Beyond the Page – This is Crossway’s ebook review program. As a member you will be required to post reviews on your blog and one retail site. You can request up to 2 ebooks per month and 12 per year.
Book Look Bloggers – Book Look is Thomas Nelson’s blogger review program–probably the most popular one out there. They have very specific review guidelines, but it’s fairly easy to get into the program.
First Words – First Words is Faith Words’ blogger review program. They publish a lot of mega-televangelist types like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and T.D. Jakes.
Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program – This is a pretty straightforward review program. They do require you to read the whole book before posting a review (which, if you really hate it, might be challenging).
Tyndale Blog Network – Tyndale has a nice setup, but their selection can be on the small side. That said I’ve always liked working with Tyndale–both through the blogger program and with their publicists.
Blog tours are generally run by publicity companies and are a great way for newbie book bloggers to build credibility with publishers and the blogging community. Once the company vets you, you may sign up for blog tours. There are usually a limited number of slots open for each tour. Participating bloggers are required to post a review during the specified tour dates. Failing to post on time could result in being kicked out of the program.
TLC Book Tours – There are a lot of general market blog tour operations out there, but most of them offer self-published numbers with covers that look like a kid with Photoshop designed them. TLC Book Tours is the only general market tour company I know of that consistently works with major publishers and bestselling authors.
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance – The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance offers books from a number of major Christian publishers. You are not required to write a review, but at the bare minimum you must post a prewritten book blurb and author bio written by the tour company.
Kregel Blog Tours – Kregel is the only publisher I know of that runs blog tours. They have very low requirements for acceptance into the program. You just need 30 followers and 300 hits a month, so it’s a great starting point.
Litfuse Publicity – Litfuse is one of those publicity companies you just wish there were more of. They’ve done blog tours for all of the major Christian publishers and a number of bestselling authors. To join, you must have at least 800 unique monthly visitors to your blog.
Once you have established yourself as a reputable book blogger (at least six months after you start your blog), you may want to try requesting review copies directly from publishers. How successful you are at this will depend mostly on the size of your audience, and also on your credibility. Some publishers are more blogger-friendly than others. Generally speaking I found that when I was still in my first year of blogging, Christian publishers were far more accommodating than general market publishers. This could have to do with their [usually] smaller size.
If you plan to request review books directly from publishers, I recommend creating a review policy and posting it on your blog in a highly visible place. I also link to my review policy in my email signature, so that when I contact a publisher to request a review copy, it’s right there for them to see, and they know what to expect from me. Things you might want to include in your review policy are: what genres you like and what format you prefer to read in (ebook or hardcopy), how you feel about receiving unsolicited review copies, whether or not you guarantee a review, your blog and social media stats, and whether or not you post reviews on retail sites such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. See my review policy for more ideas.
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How much clout you have (based on your audience size, etc.) will influence your review policy. Four years ago I always guaranteed a well-timed review and almost always made sure to deliver (nobody’s perfect, so don’t beat yourself up), thereby building my credibility as a small-scale blogger. Three years ago I started writing for Book Riot and my audience has multiplied by a factor of two hundred since then. As a result, I pretty much have access to any new or upcoming release I want without having to go through the rigmorale of blog tours or review programs, or the stress of promised deadlines (though I do still occasionally use Blogging for Books). I no longer guarantee a review at all, but accept all review books on the basis of coverage consideration. That said, I never request books frivolously.
Okay, so how do you know whom to contact for the book you’re interested in? First of all, identify who the publisher is and visit their website. Then look for a link (often hidden away at the bottom of a page) that says something like “media” or “publicity.” That’s probably where you’re going to find contact information for the company’s publicists. Usually these contact emails are pretty generic, for example, email@example.com. Oftentimes you will receive a reply from a much more specific email address, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org. This is how you build contacts in the publishing industry. The next time you want a book from that same company and imprint, email the publicist you worked with last time instead of sending a generic email to a generic email address. When I receive a reply from a publicist I have never worked with before, I put it in the “publicist” file of my contacts and note his name, company and imprint, email address, and what book request he fulfilled. The reason I note the book is because sometimes a publisher has different publicists for fiction and nonfiction, different subjects, etc. If I notice that my contact keeps forwarding my fiction requests to another publicist, but fulfills my nonfiction requests herself, then I know which one to email depending on what book I want. Building a rapport with publicists is helpful if you plan to keep blogging for the long haul.
For quick reference, here are the publicity contact pages for a few major publishing houses.
Hachette Book Group – Imprints include Grand Central Publishing, Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay, Mulholland Books, Reagan Arthur Books, Hachette Audio, Hackette Books, Orbit, Yen Press, FaithWords, and Center Street.
HarperCollins – Imprints include Amistad, Avon, Dey Street, Ecco Books, Harper Books, Harper Perennial, HarperOne, William Morrow, Thomas Nelson, W Publishing Group, Zondervan, and Harlequin.
Penguin Random House – Imprints include Avery, Ballantine Bantam Dell Books, Berkley, NAL, Ace, Roc, Daw Books, Perigee, HP Books, Celebra, Jove, Onyx, Prentice Hall, Prime Crime, Signet, Blue Rider Press, Crown Publishing Group, Doubleday, Nan A. Talese, Currency, Black Ink/Harlem Moon,Dutton, Gotham, Knopf, Pantheon/Schocken, Penguin, Plume, Portfolio Sentinel, Putnam’s Sons, Random House, Villard, Modern Library, Riverhead, Tarcher, Viking, Vintage Books, and Anchor Books.
Scholastic – Scholastic’s media contacts are a little fuzzy. I would try the trade books publicist.
Simon & Schuster – As of this writing, the Simon & Schuster publicity contact page is having some technical difficulties. Hopefully that will be resolved soon! Imprints include Aladdin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Atria Books, Beach Lane Books, Folger Shakespeare Library, Free Press, Gallery Books Group, Howard Books, Little Simon, Margaret K. Mcelderry, North Star Way, Paula Wiseman, Pimsleur, SAGA Press, Scout Press, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Threshold, and Touchstone.
Baker Publishing Group – Imprints include Bethany House, Revell, Baker Books, Baker Academic, Brazos Press, and Regal Books.
Crossway – Crossway is a small publisher specializing in Reformed literature and Bibles.
FaithWords – FaithWords is an imprint of Hachette Book Group.
InterVarsity Press – InterVarsity Press is a small publisher of a wide range of Christian living books, academic theological texts, and study guides.
Jericho Books – Jericho Books is a small publisher specializing in progressive and non-traditional expressions of the Christian faith.
Thomas Nelson – Thomas Nelson is an imprint of HarperCollins.
Tyndale House – Tyndale is an independent Christian publisher. They generally publish conservative voices.
Waterbrook Multnomah – WaterBrook Publishing Group is an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Zondervan – Zondervan is an imprint of HarperCollins.
Where to Find Upcoming Releases
Of course, if you’re going to be requesting advanced review copies, you need to know which books are going to be released ahead of time. There are a few ways to do this. The first and most obvious is to visit the websites of individual publishers. Some publishers have a “coming soon” or “catalogues” section. Another way is to use Edelweiss, a massive database of catalogues from virtually every publisher you can think of. Edelweiss can be a bit confusing, so if you need help you might want to refer to this handy-dandy screencast how-to guide. Another great way to track upcoming books is to use Amazon Advanced Search. Publishers usually put their books on Amazon months ahead of time and you can search for books coming out in a specific time window and narrow it down even further by keyword, author, subject, or publisher. Personally, Amazon Advanced Search is my favorite way to find out about new and upcoming books.
Once you’ve identified which book you want to request, you have to decide when to request it. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t request an upcoming book more than three months before its release date. Publishers often don’t have advanced review copies printed before then. If a book has already come out, I prefer to request it within three months of its hardcover release date or within three months of its paperback release date. Generally speaking, this follows the timeline of when publishers are trying to create buzz about a book, but it’s definitely not a rule. I reviewed The Omnivore’s Dilemma four years after its paperback release date. When in doubt, if you really want a book, just ask!
If you know of any review programs or tour sites that are not included in this list, feel free to link to them in the comment section for others to see.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging for more tips and tricks on how to become a book blogging wiz!