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How to Get Free Books to Review on Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of February 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

The following post on getting free books for review on your blog is by Nick from the cooking blog Macheesmo.

Regardless of the subject of your blog, it is probably the case that there are hundreds or even thousands of actual books written on that same subject. If done correctly, reviewing these books can be a great resource for your readers and also offer you a simple way to expand your library and possibly make a few extra bucks if you have an Amazon Affiliate account.

Of course, books can be expensive so it doesn’t make sense to buy all the books you want to review – especially if you are doing one a week. The library may be a good solution but they might not have newly released books which are the exact books you will want to review.

Publishers want to give you a copy of the book

This is one of the easiest ways for publishers to get the word out about a new book. For each released book, a good number are printed for “review copies.” This means that they are sent for free to reviewers, like you. In exchange, you introduce your audience to the book.

No site too small

I started doing reviews of cookbooks on Macheesmo when I was getting only about fifty visits a day. Publishers were still happy to send me review copies. Access to even a small audience for the price of shipping and handling is worth it for most publishers.

Finding Publisher Information

Once you have a book that you would like to review, the easiest way to find the publisher information is to search on Amazon for the book. Once you are on the book’s page, you can scroll down to find:

Picture 10.png

These are the product details for Darren’s book, Problogger. Make a note of the Publisher, and also the ISBN-10 number.

Google the publisher to locate their website. They will most likely have a section on their website, sometimes under the contact or FAQ section where they will mention how they want to be contacted for review copy requests.

Making contact

Publishers will be very specific on how they would like to be contacted. Don’t try to trick them. Just use whatever method they ask for and they will most likely respond. While sometimes they will list a phone number or email address, the most common contact method, by far, is fax.

More specifically, they request a fax on “company letterhead.” I would say 80% of publishers will request this before sending out a review copy.

Have no fear. This request is easy to meet. Simply type up your website name and address information in a header and footer and right a concise letter that includes: The name of the book you are requesting, the ISBN-10 code for the book, a little bit about your website, and maybe why you think your readers would enjoy the book you are requesting.

Fax it away and you are all set. Typically, the publisher will contact you in a few days if they are interested.

Because I am super nice, I’ve included examples for both a letterhead and a fax cover sheet below:

Writing the Review

It should go without saying that when you get the copy you requested, you must actually write the review. If you intend to keep writing reviews in the future, it would also be in your best interest to write a good review.

Note that I didn’t say positive review. I said a good review. You should not feel inclined to write positive things about the book just because you received a free copy. If you write a fair, honest, and professional review, most publishers will respect your opinion.

Also, it is worth the time it takes to send the publisher a note via email after you hit publish. If you wrote a thorough review, they might offer to send you other books on the spot!

Keeping Track

Start a spreadsheet and keep track of all the publishers you have contacted and which ones responded positively. If there are one or two publishers who have not sent you review copies in the past, then it may not be worth the effort to ask for newer books.

Most likely, you will establish a relationship with a few different publishers and eventually they will start contacting you asking if you would like to review a new book.

Book reviews can be a real benefit on a blog, but they do require some time. As with anything, if you are going to do it, I would recommend spending the time to do it correctly. Your readers, and publishers, are not stupid.

Spend the time to request books that you really think your audience would enjoy, and then spend even more time writing quality reviews of those books, and you will be able to provide a real service.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Good article. I’m a published author myself but hadn’t considered approaching publishers for review copies. The PDFs are also very helpful. Saves time puzzling over what to say. Well done!

  2. I started out with a few website reviews and have moved on to other topics. There are a few books that cover topics mentioned on my blog and I just may give this a try. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow, what a post. The most useful post I have ever read! I sincerely thank you for this great information! I would never have imagined that I could possibly request books this way!

    Thank you so much.

  4. I’m going to try this

  5. I think this is a wonderful idea but I’m left wondering. What do you do if you get the book, read it and think it’s horrible – or at the very least find significant flaws in logic. Do you still write the post? Do you send the books back? How do you handle it?

  6. Great information. My blog is about many different interesting things and I will have to give this one a shot. Thanks!

  7. It would seem that beyond the obvious benefits to bloggers in terms of free books, content for the blog and a potential income stream, this also gives the blogger a chance to stay current on researching fresh ideas, sometimes ahead of the crowd in the case of pre-published book reviews.

    Thanks, good read.

  8. Great post, I am about to start reviewing books on learning art and art materials and this is perfect, thanks,

    Gabriel

  9. This is a great idea Darren. Definitely useful, I’ve been wondering how to request for books to review (related to my blog topics – home comforts) as a reference and also for a post topic.

    Does anyone here feels an obligation to write a good review (especially first few reviews) in order to get “approval” or more books to review in the future?

  10. Excellent suggestion and insight. I hadn’t thought of this. A good way to get books I am interested in, create content for my blog, and potentially learn new things from the books I review. Very cool.

  11. Great tip to learn more and give a review on a book but maybe this will not work for the blogger from different countries. Mostly I have found that many books are not available in my country and I have to order them on Amazon like Darren’s book Problogger which I was not able to find in India.

  12. Great post Nick. I’m def. gonna be using this!

    -Nate

  13. That’s amazing, I always assumed review copies were for big media not litttle niche sites like ours.

    I’m off to try and blag a few books now

  14. I host an author interview talk show (podcast) and companion blog called Words To Mouth. I post audio shows, written interviews, and guest book reviews. My tagline is: Where Readers Meet Authors Beyond the Printed Page…and Win FREE Books!

    I’ve built some nice relationships with publishers, publicists, and authors and follow much of what is shared here. I wanted to add that another traffic-building approach for me has been offering a book giveaway contest. You can either ask the publisher to send you two books or better yet, have them hold on to one copy and send them the winner’s name when the contest is over. They usually are happy to send the book directly and you save of postage. I have my community share comments or voice mail messages and subscribe to my e-newlsetter in order to be eligible to win.

    I invite you to check out my site. I’m always willing to consider posting well-written book reviews with a link to the reviewer’s site in an effort to help each other cross promote. Plus, it cuts down on my work to provide quality content to my readers.

    Great post! Thanks.

  15. Awesome info.

    I would not have considered this at all, and if I had, I would not have known how to go about doing it.

    I’m making it the first thing on my to do list for today.

    Cheers

    George

  16. @FupDuckTV I did consider creating a rating system, but chose not to do so. My main reason was the vast difference in cookbooks. I would have a hard time rating them and I think I would be spending too much time worrying about getting the rating perfectly right.

    If I don’t rate, I can just express my opinion on the book and readers can make their own judgments. A cookbook that might be a 5 for one reader could very well be a 1 for another depending on cooking level etc…

    That’s for the comments everyone and thanks to those of you who wondered over to Macheesmo!

    Cheers,
    Nick

  17. Great post. I love books.
    Happy Valentines Day.

  18. Wow, this is a great idea. Thank you for this post! I am going to check this out and start reviewing. I already read a lot, so this will be a good way to share with others.

    Best regards,

    Kara

    http://blog.thefoodcraivngsolution.com

  19. Dear Nick –

    This is a great contribution. Publishers are not only eager to give you books to review but you may also get on their publicity mailing list. Be prepared if you do because you will be deluged with books.

    I would just add one thing to your excellent suggestions. Call the publisher and find out the name and the fax for the publicity agent who is handling the book.

    Send the review request directly to that person.

  20. @thepyschsheet. Great idea. With the book world in turmoil, I’m sure publishers are exploring every option for publicity.

    I also know product branders/marketers are on the look out for ways to tap blogs. Perhaps some of this same thinking might apply to products.

    Thanks for revving my thinking cap.

  21. This is a very informative post and it works in areas other than just book publishing.

    We do quite a bit of reviews on my site, comic books and DVDs, the great thing is we do have not had to spend a dime on getting the review material.

  22. Perfect one!Never thought of doing this and i really thanks for your amazing idea.Sure i will implement this rules.

  23. This seems a nice job for book lovers. You have your cake and eat it too. I guess ill try this out or make a blog targeting books.

  24. Alice says: 02/15/2009 at 5:27 am

    Thanks for the great post! I work as a publicist at a book publisher and I’m constantly contacting bloggers to see if they are interested in reviewing. [It’s funny because if I contact about 100 bloggers (whose blogs I have read and thought they would be interested of course), about 10 respond, and maybe 5 post a review].

    We generally do contact by email. We like to have a link to the blog so we can look it up. Occasionally we may ask about the number of visitors/month, but we tend to focus more on the comments section — seeing that the blogger has an engaged community who values the blogger’s opinion. If you get at least 50/visitors a day, that’s a great fact to include in your query for a book. We like to know. Also if you’ve won an award or are part of a blog network, that’s something nice to include. Authors like to hear about things like that.

    We are usually happy to do excerpts, giveaways, guest posts by authors, getting involved in book blog tours, and more. We really appreciate getting an email that the review has been posted so we can make a note in our records that the blogger does reviews [I’ve sent books to bloggers and then they never review them :(].

    It is also great to have a clear review policy on the blog so (a) publicists know and (b) the readers know. Everything is transparent. We are happy to provide free books, but not to pay the blogger for a review (if we pay for something, that’s called advertising). [and yes some bloggers do ask us for money]

    We agree that the review need not be positive, but it should show that you’ve at least looked at the book (bloggers love talking about book covers). It shows you are treating our books with respect if you took the time to really analyze them.

    One final thing to add: it’s best not to request older books. Request books that have just been released. Publicists have a set number of review copies and of course most are available when the book first comes out. While they might have older books on hand, your best chance of getting one is a recent release. Check publishers websites for recent releases or a link to their catalog (all their books for a season and publication month is there too so you know when it’s coming out).

    And international reviewers: most US-based publishers have international distributors who will send you a copy from there (so their UK distributor can send you a copy if you’re in the UK for instance).

  25. I am a small children’s author & publisher who has been using the power of blogs to promote my books since 2004. Standing ovation to all the bloggers who have helped build my own “Google” footprint, leading to “number 1” rankings in search engines with over 700 mom blog reviews to date! I am trying to create a brand and those blog posts live forever on-line and some of those posts that were written back in 2004 still show up on the first page of many search engines.

    Self-published authors post information about their new books that they would like reviewed on Dan Poynter’s FREE Para Publishing newsletter – Marketplace, here is a sample, to get you started:

    http://www.parapublishing.com/files/newsletter/PP%20Marketplace-January%202009.pdf

    When you post a review on your site, also create a profile on Amazon and post it there as well. It gives you “reviewer” status and credibility. In fact, I was humbled and stunned a few week ago when my favorite author, Jim Stovall of The Ultimate Gift and Today’s The Day, personally emailed ME, after he saw my review of his book on Amazon, asking if I would like to receive his new book, Keeper of the Flame. I emailed back a reverent “yes” and have been emailing with him for the past few weeks! He was telling me about his new book coming up in April and another one in Summer. Let’s just say, I can’t wait…

    Stacey Kannenberg
    http://www.cedarvalleypublishing.com

  26. Alice says: 02/15/2009 at 5:34 am

    Here are some tips on requesting review copies from the Book Publicity Blog (publishers prefer the ISBN-13; the ISBN-10 has been retired).

    http://yodiwan.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/requesting-review-copies-of-books/

    http://yodiwan.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/why-havent-i-received-my-review-copy-yet/

  27. Right On! I have created a site for reviewers to meet authors and network. Check out freebooksforreview.com , a portal to two blogs. I am Ara 13, author of Drawers & Booths and I am trying to facilitate our grassroots efforts. Thanks. Ara

  28. I like this idea. I really hadn’t considered doing this. I’m not US based either. But many publishers would have local distributers outside the US.

    I also have an up to date amazon profile that contains all my reviews, so it may be useful.

    It’s something I’ll keep in mind – definately.

  29. Valuable information in this post. You outline another great way of monetizing blog writting.

  30. Check out http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ , where bloggers can sign up to receive free books from Thomas Nelson Publishers. It’s a new program, just launched at the end of 2008.

    (Letterblock, my company, was involved in building the web app, but I’m not otherwise affiliated with Thomas Nelson.)

  31. This is great information. I’m at the point now where reviewing books (especially cookbooks) is something I really want to do for my food blog. I just needed that first push to get me going in the right direction. Thanks for the nudge!

  32. Thanks Nick!

    Very informative +_+

  33. Nick

    Impressive, I wonder how many folks actually attempt something like this? Thanks for sharing. If I wrote a blog on theological topics I’d certainly employ these suggestions. Well done.

    -Mig

  34. This is such a good idea and feel quite excited about the prospect. I have really wanted to include some book reviews on my blog which has a very definite niche and there is clearly scope to include reviews. However, I have not had the funds available to buy the books that I wanted to review. If this works then I can see a whole new strand to my blog emerging!!

    Thanks hugely!!

  35. brilliant post , ill never buy books again :DD

  36. This is really great information- I need something to spice up my site- thanks for sharing

  37. Now this is some awesome information. I will try this immediately. The commenters have left some valuable information as well, so thank you all!

    T

  38. Hay I do this with kids books…

    I have always reviewed at least one book a week on my blog. Many of the large publishers are happy for you to blog a review, then pop the link on their review page. More traffic for you, more exposure for them – everyone wins!

    Also, I have just got going with a publisher that is very happy to send more than one copy of a book to review so that I can use them as giveaways – more traffic, more product exposure!

    Otherwise, the Picnic Basket – is a great site to get free books to review for kids: http://www.thepicnic-basket.com/
    And a lot of their publishers ship all over the world for reviews – I know from experience!!! The one’s that don’t send around the world usually email back immediately so you know where stand.

  39. this is a really good idea! thanks for the useful article this was something i was planning to do in the future on my site but unsure of how to go about it….

    now i have everything i need to get going

    it’s good to see people sharing tips and advice for the benefit of everyone!

  40. It’s great to be reminded of these simple, “old-fashioned” ways to get in touch with people and get what we need to do our jobs. It is so easy to forget nowadays that every business is run by people, and not machines, and all you have to do is find out who the person to contact is, then contact that person, act like a courteous human being, and chances are you’ll get an answer and, in this case, a book to review!
    Thanks, Darren, as always your advice is golden!

  41. I reviewed a book once for one of my sites. It wasn’t a free review copy, just a book that I had bought and liked. A few weeks after putting up the review I was “ego googling” my name and found that the publisher of the book in question had linked to my review and posted a blurb from me on their site. I got a lot of hits from that link over the years.

    The point is even if you can’t get free review copies posting book reviews is a good idea. Its like link baiting for book publishers!

  42. Great post! But I wonder how many publishers are willing to ship their books for review outside the US? International shipping is so costly these days and I doubt they even consider if I tell them I live in DUBAI.

    I have reviewed books through third party companies, however always have little chance because most publishers don’t want to send the book all the way to the Middle East.

    Great tips though, I really need to relocate to the US to be able to have all these bloggy goodness!

  43. I have been wondering how to do this for awhile now and just have not had the chance to look into it. Thank you for sharing your experience and information – I look forward to trying this and getting on my way to become a reviewer! Great article!

  44. Great Article, it’s obvious when you know how.

    I definitely have some ideas on the Books I would like to review.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  45. This is an interesting method to save cost of buying books which are to be reviewed and to develop relationships with publishers.
    Two queries I have
    a) Is there a copyright related issue if I am quoting extensively from the book in the review
    b) Does this work (i) with the publishers and/or (ii) with your readers, if the review is of a book released a while back – say a year or so. Or should this be done only with recent releases only.

  46. This was excellent advice! I followed up on it with a handful of publishers. Now I’ve got 5 advance copies coming from one publisher alone. I’d never thought of doing it before reading this post. Very cool.

  47. Thanks for the advice!
    I run a Berlin based blog about contemporary art since this is a topic I am really interested in. I really would like to review a couple of books about typography, design or contemporary art in general because I think this could find my readers’ interest. Unfortunatelly books related to art are very expensive and are published in quite small editions. Since I live in Germany I can’t imagine that local publishers would send anyone a free book for review purposes. Especially no art books.
    So is there anyone who has experiences with reviewing books in Europe?

  48. I am going to incorporate this to my blog as soon as possible.

    Plus I really love reading.

    Thanks for the great tip.

  49. I think it is great, but I live in the Netherlands, so American publishers have to ship it to Europe, will they do it (with me not having a big blog ;))

  50. I used to check out books to review from the library before reading this post. Now I’ve received review copies of some really relevant books. I’ve also cross posted my reviews to Amazon. I figure that publishers will appreciate as much commentary as they can get.

    For the questions about international shipping … I’m in America, but most European publishers have a North American office that handles these things. I would imagine that American publishers who have their books in Europe would also have European offices that you can contact and who wouldn’t have to ship to you internationally. It’s worth a shot, look around.

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