Writing from Life Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing



When Headline Murder, my first crime mystery, was

published on 28 August this year, it appeared the same

day on six book bloggers’ sites. Starting with a bang?

Well, perhaps not in the megaton class – but not a

whimper either.

With the book pages of the national and provincial

press now virtually ignoring genre

fiction – certainly published in

paperback – book bloggers offer

one of the few places where it is

still possible to start the buzz.

But as I discovered as I entered

the bloggers’ territory, this

is a strange world populated with

geekish passions, super-sized

egos and cunningly disguised elephant

traps. I’ve stumbled along,

fallen down a few times but, I

think, learnt one or two things

which might be helpful to other

writers taking the same journey.

To start with, there are hundreds

of book bloggers out there

– but they’re not all the same.

There are lots who love romantic

fiction, plenty serving the young

adult market – and, thankfully,

quite a few who have an interest

in crime. (Books, that is, rather

than burglary.) Book bloggers

seem to have between a few hundred

and few thousand followers.

The largest I’ve found so far has 8,000.

My first step was to research the market. It’s quite

simple to get lists of book blogging sites – in fact, there

are plenty on the John Hunt Publishing database – but

it’s not enough just to blast out a standard e-mail to

them. You need to research each one individually.

I’ve found that you gain a pretty good idea whether a

site is going to be one for your book simply by looking at

it. If it’s all pretty pink, kittens and cupcakes, you’re in

the world of romantic fiction. Werewolves and dragons

indicate fantasy and the supernatural. Dark streets with

lonesome figures spotlighted by street lamps suggest

you might have hit on thriller and crime territory.

Many but not all of the bloggers have a “reviews policy”

section on their website. It’s helpful if they do. And

it’s here where the egos shine through – not so much in

what they’re asking for as the way they ask it. Some

adopt a relaxed tone, others are more prescriptive. It’s

important, I’ve found, to study this section closely and

read between the lines. Sometimes you can discover a

particular interest or secret passion which might help

open the door for your offering.

It is also important to look

closely at the books they’ve

reviewed in the past. I’ve

found that it doesn’t generally

matter so much if they

haven’t reviewed books exactly

like yours, as long as

what you offer is not radically


Another element I look for on

the site is whether they carry

material other than their own

book reviews. Quite a few

publish guest posts, book

extracts, question and answer

sessions with authors,

or giveaways. I’ve even found

bloggers prepared to accept

short stories – and have actually

placed one.

When studying a site, I might

spend anything from one minute

(obviously not suitable)

up to 20 minutes (a strong

and significant prospect) before deciding how to make

my move. When I started, I made the mistake of offering

only a review copy. Many bloggers say they are

overwhelmed with review copies – the last thing they

want is more, but they may accept a different offer.

In the first 20 contacts I made, I had only one positive

response. In the nine most recent contacts, I’ve had

four positive responses (so far).

The key to getting a response, I’ve found, is to hit on

something which the site it likely to want – such as a

guest post or an author’s Q&A. But you must do more

than offer this in general terms. Study what the site has

covered before and offer a topic that seems to fit the


As I journeyed deeper into book blogging territory, I


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