As many of you know, it’s been a really crappy week for me, and I keep needing things to distract me, and I remembered seeing that someone had tweeted me asking for book blogging tips right before all this stuff happened, and it gave me an idea for a Thing to Do to Distract Myself (other than playing games on my phone, which has been stellar for the past few days, lemme tell you).
Now, to be honest, I have zero recollection of who asked me this. I’m pretty sure it’s someone I didn’t know. It happened after I talked about ARCs, I think, and specified wanting tips on how to get them, I’m reasonably sure. Let’s just say that was it, because lord knows that’s what plenty of people who want to get into book blogging want to know. I’m gonna start from there. So let’s assume these tips are in response to, “Hey, can you give me tips on how to grow my blog to get ARCs?”
1. Don’t. By which I mean, don’t get into blogging for ARCs. First of all, ARC-grabbers are transparent as hell, and there’s no incentive to work with someone who’s in it strictly for free stuff – their reviews aren’t compelling, they’re annoying on social media, they don’t do anything of note…basically, every positive thing a blogger could provide is dead in the water. And the irony is how often these bloggers complain about others’ “bragging” by showing book hauls. PSA: that is the #2 sign you’re an ARC-grabber. (#1 being that your Twitter feed is entirely a giveaway-entering account. You know we don’t have to give away to the person whose name pops up, right? I don’t pick you when I give things away. Really.) The people posting those pictures are helping to publicize the book, and the fact that you don’t see it that way means you’re viewing ARCs and your role in the process in the completely wrong way. ARCs aren’t rewards for talking about books, or status symbols; they’re marketing tools. Until you get that, you are never going to be useful at marketing.
2. Mix up your reads with big books and smaller ones. I read BEA Buzz Books, NYT Bestsellers, and lead titles. I’ve loved them, I’ve raved about them, I’ve blogged about them. But so has everyone else, so it doesn’t make me particularly useful, interesting, or credible if my entire contribution can be gleaned from the margins of Entertainment Weekly. People aren’t interested in my recommendations because I dazzled them with the news that Anna and the French Kiss is pretty great or Gayle Forman’s written some compelling stuff; they’re interested because I’m how they “discovered” OCD Love Story or Dangerous Girls or Pointe or Because You’ll Never Meet Me or Not Otherwise Specified or Swimming to Tokyo. Want to know how to stand out? Be how people find amazing books they wouldn’t find otherwise.
And to do that, you need to go beyond ARCs of the Big Books. How? A few options:
- Create accounts on Netgalley and Edelweiss, and actually provide reviews.
- Like NA? Join a review request group and sign up.
- Enter the billions of giveaways going on at any given time – just don’t let that be all you use social media for.
- Find a discount retailer like BookOutlet, buy a bunch of books that sound interesting, and cover them. If you like NA, even better – just buy the actual books; most of them are rarely over four bucks.
The latter point brings me to:
3. Cover books after publication. I know advance copies/getting to read stuff early seems cool, but upcoming books aren’t the only ones that matter; authors want and need backlist coverage too. You think because I absolutely loved All the Rage, I’m done talking about Courtney Summers’ other books? Never. And readers don’t only want to know about upcoming books, either; many want to be able to buy a book as soon as they read a great review.
4. Don’t start and end with your site – connecting on social media matters too. Twitter isn’t only how most readers find me, but it’s also how I find authors who look interesting. It’s another place for me to promote authors and books I love, and all of that works together. I’d venture to say that Twitter’s made me a bigger blogging name than actual blogging has. And authors want to work with bloggers who actively support them. We don’t all search to see which bloggers are talking about us on their sites, if you’re spreading the gospel about our books on social media? We’ll probably see that, and be more inclined to want to send you an ARC of our next one. I know as a blogger, I’ve received plenty of ARCs that way.
Networking genuinely is a huge part of being in publishing. There’s more to blogging than just “get ARCs; write review.” To give you an idea of where my ARCs have come from:
- Publishers auto-sending
- Publishers sending upon request from an author after I’ve been loud about my excitement over an upcoming title
- Publishers sending for specific coverage/interviews
- Author friends
- Giveaways (online, from an event at an indie)
- ARC tours
- book exchanges
- Coworkers who receive books as part of Young to Pub
Cultivate relationships. Care about the people behind the books, which doesn’t just mean authors. It goes a long way.
(Examples of bloggers rocking other social media – @Cuddlebuggery on Twitter; @BookBaristas on Instagram and hosting the #NewAdultIRL chat on Twitter)
5. Be interesting. Know what bloggers authors love to be interviewed by? Ones who’ve clearly read the book and ask good questions about it. If Paper Riot had two followers, I’d still do another interview with Ellis in a heartbeat, because I loved the questions she asked me about Under the Lights so much.
Know who authors actually want to write guest posts for, even though we hate doing them 99% of the time? Bloggers who do wonderful creative series, like Jen on Pop Goes the Reader.
Know who’s fun to follow? Bloggers who do cool features that encourage thoughtful reading, like Pretty Deadly Blog’s Bookish Bingo, or the Diversity Dive by Rather Be Reading and Reading Wishes. Bloggers who sometimes go beyond books and provide windows to cool stuff, like Alexa and Rachel do with their Mabuhay celebrations.
Separate yourself from the pack, and it’ll go a long way.
And if this sounds like too much work, remember: you can always buy or borrow the book when it comes out. Like magic!