Hello from Marlene, host of The Write Spot Blog,
Today’s guest blog post is longer than my usual posts. Take it in small bites. There is a lot of content here. All good stuff.
I learned so much I didn’t know about things such as bookstagrammers and influencers (the book kind).
Guest Blogger Julie Valerie:
From Book Blog to Book Deal
Julie asks: Does a book blog still land a book deal?
Of course they do. Great writing and great content will always find an audience, and where there’s an audience, especially a sizable one, there’s typically a book deal waiting to happen. Think Julie Powell, Candice Bushnell, Jen Lancaster, and Jenny Lawson.
Not to mention, entire empires (with books launched along the way), have been built on the humble foundations of blog sites that just wouldn’t quit. Think ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse and Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi.
Getting Visible is an Uphill Battle – Bookstagrammers and Influencers
For published and unpublished writers, whether traditionally-published, hybrid, or self-published, it’s often an uphill battle to garner attention for our work.
Working with influencers such as book reviewers, bookstagrammers, and book bloggers is an excellent way of reaching both a wider audience as well as an audience that may lead to signing with an agent or landing a traditional book deal. (If this is something you are seeking, not all authors share the same goals.)
Many authors invest considerable time networking with book influencers. Some have worked to build influence and audiences for their work by becoming professional book reviewers, bookstagrammers, and/or book bloggers.
Julie is one of those authors.
How Her Book Blog Worked For Julie
Though I do work closely with bookstagrammers now that the first book in my Village of Primm series is releasing with Lake Union Publishing December 2019, I do not have professional experience as a bookstagrammer.
Note from Anne R. Allen: Bookstagram is a book-related platform on Instagram. Here’s more info on becoming a bookstagrammer.
Back to Julie: As a former book-reviewing book blogger, I reviewed 200+ books in my genre while writing my debut novel, seeking an agent, and signing with a publisher.
Technically speaking, I was not “discovered” solely because of my book blog, though many authors have been. I did, however, cite my work as a book reviewer and book blogger in the query letter that ultimately led to signing with my agent.
And I believe the body of work I produced on my blog over the course of many years helped with that. So did the audience I built and the network of fellow writers I nurtured, as well as the market research and knowledge I acquired reviewing 200+ books in my genre. They helped to strengthen my credentials as an author in today’s competitive book publishing industry—whether I had pursued a traditional or indie path toward publishing.
I signed with an agent who sold my women’s fiction series to a publisher based on the merits of the manuscript, at the time, I was an unpublished writer.
Having that book blog demonstrated I could meet deadlines, produce a lot of writing on a timely schedule, and sustain a writing life that not only built readership (very important) in advance of the first book, but also one that built relationships with other writers.
When You Have to Step Aside from Your Book Blog
Unfortunately, I had to give up my book blog in 2016. The development of the Village of Primm series, coupled with the launch of the 85K Writing Challenge, led to a redesign of my work life.
I miss my book blogging days.
But I do produce steady content for my author site at julievalerie.com, including a monthly author newsletter, and I will continue to do so for as long as I’m in the industry. I feel it’s a necessary part of conducting business.
Why Bother with a Blog or Website?
There are many benefits of hosting your content on your own website. One, unlike content shared on social media, what you write on your site isn’t fleeting and isn’t bound by the rules of someone else.
Two, you own that content – not so with content published to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
And three, as long as you keep your domain name and web hosting services active, no one can pull the plug on what you want to present to the world. Your author site is your space, your portfolio, your home.
If you’re pursuing a publishing contract, be mindful of copyright law before publishing excerpts of your unpublished work. A publisher may consider what you post as already “published” and in the public domain.
Was book reviewing and book blogging a lot of work? Yes, it most certainly was.
Was it worth it in the end? Absolutely. But enough about me.
Let’s Talk about You
I’m here to share a broad overview of the “influencer” sector of the publishing industry so that you can decide how best to proceed according to your goals. Who knows where your work in this sector of the book industry might lead you?
Are you interested in reaching readers, building name recognition, increasing awareness of book titles, and driving sales? Of course, you are. Who wouldn’t be? But how does an author do that? Let’s drill down, starting with why any of this should matter to you.
Should You Start a Book Blog or Become a Bookstagrammer?
What are the benefits of working with or becoming a book blogger or bookstagrammer who posts book reviews?
Though the what, the why, and the how of book reviews, bookstagram, and book blogs differ slightly, what they all have in common is their exceptional ability to reach an author’s end consumer, whether that end consumer be agents, publishers, other industry professionals, or the most coveted end consumer of all: readers.
Many authors have enjoyed careers that skyrocket after receiving coverage in the book review, bookstagram, and book blog ecosystem. And many writers, while writing their first novel, have gained meaningful access to the book industry through their work as a book reviewer, bookstagrammer, and/or book blogger.
Book reviews, bookstagram, and book blogs are important constituents within the book industry because they offer authors the opportunity to attract attention that:
- builds name recognition
- raises awareness for book titles, and
- drives sales
How Does an Author Maximize these Opportunities?
Start by considering the people behind the book reviews, bookstagram, and book blogs as well as the role those people play as influencers in a crowded book market.
A great place to start is understanding influencers and influencer marketing.
What is an Influencer?
An influencer is anyone who uses their knowledge, authority, social position, audience, or relationship with others to affect the decisions of an audience.
Types of influencers:
- industry leaders
- industry experts
- thought leaders
- content creators
- book reviewers
- social media mavens
- vloggers, podcasters, booktubers, etc.
- other authors
Celebrities are typically considered the original influencers. They play an important role within the book industry, especially celebrities with book clubs. They carry a lot of clout due to their large, already established, and loyal fan base, which helps to move the needle on sales.
Industry leaders, industry experts, and thought leaders are often executives, brand or genre specialists, and often work for publishing companies, trade publications, professional organizations, and the like.
Content creators and journalists provide a steady flow of information consumed by broad audiences.
Book blog reviewers, bloggers, micro-influencers, social media mavens, vloggers, podcasters, and booktubers all fall under the focus of this discussion but differ from the above types of influencers due to their unique ability to speak directly to their audiences with peer-to-peer “voice,” which lends authenticity to their influence through active, often daily interactions with their fan base. With these types of influencers, fan bases are treated as a wide web of interconnected friends.
Because of this “extended conversation with friends” and the unique blend of highly niche book chatter and its resulting word-of-mouth book recommendations, agents, publishers, industry professionals, authors, and most certainly, readers, take notice.
I have experience as a book reviewer and book blogger and would love to share a few insights with you.
The Inside Scoop on Working with Book Influencers
1. Know what you’re asking.
The behind-the-scenes life of a book influencer is hard, time-consuming work.
When seeking a book review on either Instagram, a book blog, or some other media like a podcast, vlog, or booktube, keep in mind you are asking someone to commit about five to eight hours of their life to you.
I estimate it took me about four to six hours to read the book, about an hour to write a thoughtful review, and then another hour creating a blog post, scheduling social media to support that blog post, and then finally, uploading the book review to the various book review sites. And that doesn’t count time spent monitoring the published post to engage with readers in the comment section.
Taking all of this into consideration, what are my tips?
Be courteous. Submit all materials in a timely manner. Remember to thank them, share their coverage on your social media channels, and be sure to engage with their readership in the comment section of the post.
2. Research first.
No one likes a cold call. And it’s frustrating when someone asks you to review a book from a genre you clearly don’t cover. It shows they took no time to get to know you, your work, and your audience.
My first name is Julie. My last name is Valerie. I make this distinction clear on my website and sign off on all emails as simply “Julie” (with a notation in my email signature that clarifies my first and last name).
But there was one author who kept swinging by my site whenever she had a book release, asking for coverage (remember those five to eight hours I described above?), and she simply could not stop referring to me as if my first name was Valerie. Now, I typically don’t care if you get my name wrong. Truly. (It happens all the time.) But this one particular author really bugged me. It seemed selfish on her part. Not to mention unprofessional.
If you’re asking someone to devote possibly eight hours to your book, and you’re asking someone to share your book with their readers, please, spend meaningful time researching their platform, don’t send a form letter, do nurture the relationship, and for goodness sake, get the person’s first name right.
Some tips: Start by interacting with their platform. If they’ve posted something you enjoy, leave a comment, or consider sharing their post with your audience on your platform (author Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, your website, etc.). Get to know them as people. Try to establish authentic, meaningful connections. Some of my closest friendships in the book world are with book lovers that are not authors or writers, but rather, people who love the written word as much as I do and seek to connect readers with great books.
3. Don’t show up only when it suits you.
Here’s a novel idea: be present and participate in conversations when your book isn’t launching or in promotion. I think most people understand if there’s a spike in your activities around the time of your pub date or promotion, but if you’re nowhere to be found in the “off-season” and if you don’t support others when it’s their time to shine, people will sense your interest might be a little one-sided. By the time my first book will be released, I will have spent seven years participating full-time in the book community. Seven years.
My tip? Always remember that more often than not, it’s not about you. It’s about someone else. So help each other out. Celebrate. Do onto others. You know, that stuff you learned in kindergarten.
4. Tips on how to ask.
Be polite. Write a courteous, personalized letter addressing them by name (the correct name.) Write a few sentences that either reflect your current relationship, or, if your query is the attempted start of a working relationship beyond baseline social media interactions, then include a few sentences that indicate you know who they are, what they do, and what they are seeking to cover on their platform.
Include enough information about your book to help them decide if it’s a match for them and their audience. If they indicate a preferred format (ebook, paperback, etc.), try your best to accommodate them. If you can provide a signed book giveaway (or similar), say so. Also, indicate if you can answer interview questions and the like.
Note from Anne R. Allen: And here’s a post on how NOT to query a blogger.
5. Be prepared with a complete media kit.
Some items to include in your media kit: book cover, jacket copy, early endorsements, an excerpt if available, publisher name, pub date, buy links, author press photo, author bio, social media links, and a subscribe link to your author newsletter. The goal here is to anticipate ahead of time and then gather in one place everything that book influencer may need.
6. Follow up and work to maintain the relationship.
After coverage of your book goes “live,” thank the influencer in the comment section of the post. Keep an eye on the comment section of the post so that you can interact with the influencer’s audience (when appropriate and with proper etiquette).
Be mindful of the valued and very important relationship the influencer has with their audience. If you’re a guest on their platform, then please, first and foremost, be friendly, be active, and be kind and considerate to the influencer’s audience.
That’s a Wrap!
I hope you found this discussion about book reviewers, bookstagrammers, and book bloggers useful. I’ve always felt that through the work of these influencers, authors have great potential to reach agents, publishers, industry professionals—and especially, readers.
I hope you’re having a great day and I wish you every success.
So what do you think, scriveners? Do you have any tips you’d like to share about reaching book influencers? Julie would love to hear what you found helpful and she’ll answer any lingering questions you may have. Did you know about the importance of bookstagrammers?
For more on how blogging can lead to big success in the publishing industry, see Anne R. Allen’s post on How Blogging Leads to Many Career Paths.
Julie Valerie writes upmarket contemporary women’s fiction and is developing a series set in the fictional Village of Primm.
Her debut novel, Holly Banks Full of Angst, Book One in the Village of Primm series, publishes December 2019 as part of a multi-book deal with Lake Union Publishing.
A voracious reader, Julie has reviewed 200+ books in her genre, won the BookSparks 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Grand Prize, and founded the 85K Writing Challenge (85K90.com), providing writers with a supportive, enriching forum to pen 85,000 words in 90 days followed by 12 months of writing, editing, prepping to pub, and publishing support.
With a master’s degree in education and a bachelor of fine arts degree in fashion, Julie earned an editing certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School and enjoys testing her knowledge of the Chicago Manual of Style. Connect with Julie at julievalerie.com. On Facebook and Instagram @JulieValerieAuthor. On Twitter and Pinterest @Julie_Valerie.