Here's the text:
Congrats! You are on my list to receive an ebook version of my latest novel (Title) for free, in exchange for a positive review.
After reading (Title) please help me spread the word by posting positive reviews about it on all social media sites. This includes positive review on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other social media that you use. If you have a blog, vlog, instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Google or any other social media site, please mention it BEFORE and AFTER reading it, including links to Amazon or Barnes and Noble (if possible).
IF for some reason you really don't like the novel and don't think it's worth a 4 or 5 star review, please DON'T leave a review on places like Amazon, as 1-3 star reviews REALLY HURT the INDIE AUTHOR. In fact, promotional sites will remove the author if you don't have at least a four star average.
If you aren't a fan, feel free to write me and share with me why.
Oh, and one last thing: As a huge favor, in your review, please DO NOT write things like "I received a free copy from author for an honest review.." That's an automatic turn off in review world and discredits your review from those who need to read it, so please don't do that. Pretty please :)
(Remainder left out, but the "May you never grow up" line I'm praying relates to the book and is not her actual wish for us.)
Those of us posting this on Facebook were of course rolling our eyes, but it dawned on me that a new author or even an author inexperienced in doing her own publicity might not understand why this is a textbook illustration of what NOT to do.
Here are some things to remember:
1. Asking for a review, even when you give someone the book for free, is not a quid pro quo. The reader/reviewer is not obligated to review the book at all, let alone only in a positive light.
2. Telling the reader/reviewer where and how to post a review implies an obligation to follow her instructions. That is the actual reverse of the situation. A reviewer can post when/where s/he wants to. Or not at all. The writer not only has no control over it, it's a terrible breach of etiquette to even ask, let alone issue instructions like they are orders to be followed.
A writer CAN ask that if the reader/reviewer elects to read and review the book, a link to any post is much appreciated. (See the difference?)
3. Telling a reviewer to lie is flat out wrong. If you hand out books in exchange for "a positive review" (see line 2) not even just an "honest review" (see line 13) you can't tell people not to say that. We all howled with laughter when the FTC handed down rulings on what bloggers must say about getting free copies, but holy hell, apparently some people really do need to be told.
By way of contrast, here's what my cover letter asking for blurbs for Lee Goodman's INDEFENSIBLE looked like:
I'm writing to ask for your help with my client Lee Goodman. His debut novel INDEFENSIBLE is being published in June by Emily Bestler Books (a division of Simon and Schuster) and we are eager to build buzz for him.
I first met Lee after I was thwarted (twice!) from attending the Alaska Writing Guild conference back in 2009. [Weather over the Alleghenies kept us on the tarmac for four hours each of two days.] The next year I left a week early just to make sure I'd get there, and wow am I glad I did.
I still remember that frisson of 'holy moly, this guy can really write' when I read his sample pages in the hotel room in Anchorage. By the time I'd finished the novel I knew I had something special. One of the best things about the impending publication is hearing from other people, writers I respect, that I was right about Lee. Reading ahead of the curve can be a daunting test of self-confidence even on the best days.
William Kent Krueger offered this blurb: "Lee Goodman has created characters we care about deeply; when he puts them through the wringer, we feel their pain. Add to this a compelling insider's look at prosecution and law enforcement, language that sings, a stunning series of plot twists, and the result may well prove to be the outstanding debut novel of the year."
John Lescroart offered this: "Lee Goodman's INDEFENSIBLE is the very essence of what the crime thriller is all about. Complex and intelligent, fantastically well-plotted, stylishly written, and populated with real, flawed, beautifully rendered characters, INDEFENSIBLE is most of all an intensely and immensely human story of love, betrayal, friendship, duty, and family. Unputdownable, powerful, heart-wrenching, completely satisfying, INDEFENSIBLE is as good as it gets."
I hope INDEFENSIBLE will resonate with you as it did with me. I know you have many demands on your time and many people asking for your rare reading time. Thank you very much for any help you can provide.
A couple of points to notice:
1. Ask the reader/reviewers help: upfront and as plainly as possible.
2. Talk about the book.
3. Mention other people who love the book (which helps readers have confidence they're not getting the bag o'crap someone else sent them last week.)
4. Acknowledge that they might NOT be able to help (for any of a million reasons.) It's important to let reader/reviewers know that it's ok to say no.
5. Personalize the letter (I deleted that from this example) in some way. Using "you're on my list" says the reader/reviewer is just one of many, not special or individual at all.
Publicity and promotion increasingly fall to the author, indie pubbed or not. It's critical to learn these skills so you're not the one being mocked on the interewebz for clueless book promotion.