Blogging, which started out as a simple way to post online personal journals, is now all grown up. Bloggers move opinions, appear in other media with regularity, build huge communities of like-minded people, and go on to become authors, too.
In fact, according to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are now the third-most-influential digital resource for consumers making purchases, behind retail sites and brand sites. Of course, that’s one of the reasons we include bloggers in our book launch and ongoing marketing plans, and why the “blog tour” has become a regular part of the marketing authors do for their new releases.
The problem is that many authors don’t understand how to approach bloggers. In fact, some authors make crucial mistakes in pitching bloggers.
This is no abstract study for me. I run a popular blog and receive more than 5,000 emails per month. Many of these are misinformed, mistargeted, or pointless messages that waste my time and don’t do the senders any good at all.
Below are some tips on how to pitch bloggers and how to avoid the mistakes that too many new authors make when approaching bloggers.
Research the Blog’s Focus
Make sure you understand what the blog is about—and that it’s a subject that’s relevant to your book. Just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been pitched books on European travel, a children’s adventure tale, several memoirs, and a picture book of threatened African wildlife for review. The problem is that I write about book design and publishing, so every one of these off-target pitches is a waste of time and effort and just leaves me shaking my head. This is the most common mistake I see.
Evaluate the Blog’s Current Status
There are a number of simple ways to find out if the blog you are pitching is still an active site with real people reading the articles. First, check the date of the recent posts. You want blogs that are publishing continually. Look to see if the blogger has an email opt-in form, which will tell you that he or she is building an email list. And have a look at the comments on some recent articles. Are people engaged? Those are the best signs that you’ve found a site that can help you spread your message.
Send the Blogger a Short Query
Recently I received a pitch from an author for her new book, a memoir. She sent it via email, but, when I opened the mail, I was confronted with a message that must have been 800–1,000 words in a big gray block of type. It was such a daunting task that I didn’t read it. I knew it wasn’t a book for my readership, so why would I spend 10 minutes reading the mail?
It’s far better to work on writing a powerful, compelling, short letter to gauge a blogger’s interest. Introduce yourself as someone who is addressing the same audience and someone with whom the blogger shares a goal and a mission. Then tell him or her about your book in one or two sentences and make your pitch. Ask directly for a response and note the time frame in which you are operating. Leave it up to the blogger to request more information if desired.
Follow Best Practices for Commercial Email
I can be certain that I’m dealing with an author who knows nothing about online marketing when I open an email and find half of my screen taken up with a long list of email addresses to which the message was sent. That’s what happens when you just dump lots of email addresses into the To field. Instead, enter them as blind copies so that no one will be able to see them.
Build a Site for Marketing
Another mistake I see too often is that authors don’t have websites or blogs of their own. A website of some kind is essential nowadays. It may be only one page—that’s fine. Sites give authors a place where they can send bloggers who want to know more about them and their work. Without a site to refer to, bloggers are much less likely to be interested in helping authors promote their books.
Blogs play a huge role in influencing buying decisions, in helping readers discover new books, and in building communities that can make all the difference for authors’ careers. So, find the blogs that best match what you write about and pitch those bloggers so that you, too, can get a piece of the action.