When you have a craft blog you should constantly be thinking of ways to create value for your readers. Writing a project tutorial, showing a special technique or tool, or explaining your design process helps readers know that they can turn to you for expertise. A look at your studio space or a show-and-tell of some new supplies you’re working with provides inspiration and motivates your readers to tackle their own creative projects.
Reviewing a craft book can be of terrific value to readers, too, especially if the topic of the book is something you’re knowledgeable about. Most of us learned one craft technique or another from the pages of a book. Craft books, like craft blogs, are visual and instructional and we like that. But like craft blogs, craft books are numerous. An expert’s evaluation of
a new title is tremendously valuable.
How can you get publishers to send you review copies of new books? The simple answer is to write well-written reviews of craft books. I’ll bet you’ve got a favorite craft book on your shelf right now. It could be an old one that you’ve treasured for years and could never part with. Review that book. Or maybe it’s a new one that you find exceptional. Review it. Consistent, high-quality writing is key to building a large readership. And that reach is key to attracting the attention of publishers.
Craft publishers create a media list for each new title. The list is made up of magazine editors and bloggers and probably other people, but I don’t actually know because the list is proprietary. It’s not shared with the book’s author. In fact it’s often not even shared with the editor. There was a 100 person media list for Stuffed Animals that I was not allowed to see. A portion of the 100 were craft bloggers who were deemed likely to be interested in writing about my book. It was a fun surprise when many of them emailed me saying they’d received a copy!
Although I had no access to the list I was allowed to add a few extra names. So, one way to get a review copy of a forthcoming craft title is to ask the author for one. Another way is to contact the publisher directly and ask to be added to the list. I received a review copy of a book a few months ago after contacting the publisher and asking for one. Dig around and you can usually find someone in marketing to contact. Then write a convincing and professionally worded pitch email. Write a quality review and you just might end up on the media list for future titles.
What makes a quality review of a craft book? Certainly not, “Oh, look how pretty!” New craft books are universally pretty. You’ll need to dig deeper. When I get a new craft book here’s what I do:
- Read the author profile and dedication. Who is this person and
how did they come to write this book?
- Read the introduction. This sets the tone and tells you what
the author is hoping to achieve.
- Read the table of contents. Craft books have an overarching
organizational plan that’s spelled out for you in the table of contents. What
does this book cover? How does the information unfold?
- Look at all of the sections. Browse. Read the sidebars. Get
a feel for the author’s design aesthetic.
- Read at least two projects start to finish. I’m a nerd for technical directions. I enjoy
reading cookbooks and sewing instructions. If you’re going to review a craft
book you need to read the directions.
- And now pick a project and make it. A book can
go from “pretty!” to “ack!” very quickly once you begin to put it to actual
use. Or maybe it stays “pretty!” but you’ll never know until you try.
Then write about your experience. Tell the story of this book and you. Illustrate the story with images provided to you by the publisher. If they didn’t give you any, ask for some. The media plan includes a set of images that are okay to be posted online. Illustrate the story with pictures of what you made. Nothing is more compelling than the word “I”. “I made the project on page 23. I think it came out so pretty!”
What if you didn’t like the book? You’ll need to decide how to proceed. I once asked a publicist at a big craft publishing house about this. She said to donate the book to the public library rather than say something negative. It’s acceptable to be a book critic if you write for the New York Times, but it’s unacceptable to be a book critic in the current craft blog culture. Of course, I think this should change. I’ve written some critical book reviews. One thing I’ll say, though, is that you don’t stay on the media list if you do that. It’s up to you.
How do you approach reviewing craft books on your blog? What makes a book review compelling to read, in your opinion?