Dec 12, 2010

Garden Bloggers and Book Reviews

Garden blogger book reviews
One of the benefits of being a garden blogger is receiving products to review. Garden books are common items given out to garden bloggers to write about. They are one of the most popular topics I field questions about from garden bloggers. Probably the most common question regarding books I get from other garden bloggers is how to go about getting books to review. Below I will offer some tips based on my experience and tips from others that will help you get started in becoming a garden book reviewer. 

Asking for review copies of garden books.

I have only asked for a book to review twice. I was eager to read Grow Great Grub and Grow Your Own Drugs and asked for copies of them by emailing the PR department of the publisher months before they were scheduled to be published. In both cases, I prepared a justification for my request. I started by answering the following questions. Who am I? Who reads my blog? How many readers do I get a month?  Do I promote my own posts on social networking sites? Have I done product reviews before? Once I had the answers I worked them into the Email where I introduced myself and requested a copy of the book. 

How your garden blog is discovered. 

Internet searches are the most common method publicists use to discover garden blogs. Publicists may just search for keywords like gardening blogs or gardening bloggers. Last year when I was offered Anna Pavord’s book Bulb and the chance to interview her over the phone when she was here in the U.S to tape an appearance on the Martha Stewart Show I was flabbergasted. Why me? After learning that she was scheduled to speak at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Chicago Flower and Garden Show it made sense to offer it to a garden blogger with a blog titled “Chicago Garden” who wrote about gardening in Chicago. Your garden blog’s name, the topics you blog about, and the keywords you use are organic ways of being discovered. Less organic, but no less effective is putting yourself out there. Publicists can find you are on blogrolls, the comments of other blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

A couple of years ago at a gathering of garden bloggers and writers Beth Botts, who writes for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, mentioned that being part of the Garden Writers Association would be beneficial to bloggers looking to review garden books. The reason being that their member list is the go-to-resource for publicists looking to promote gardening books and magazines. 

Danielle Marshall, Publicity Manager at Timber Press, suggests registering with a professional database like Cision for garden bloggers who have blogs associated with large media outlets. 

VP of Veg Plotting says that she just started reviewing books she owned and that she now has publishers regularly offering her books to review. That is pretty much my experience too, I have only asked for two books to review and the rest have been offered to me. Probably because of Google Alerts for mentions of competing book publishers and titles, I wrote about. 

Pictures of books.

Nature Assassin asked me recently about the use of images in garden book reviews. In particular, she wanted to know about copyright issues that could arise from posting photographs of books on your garden blog. When you’re offered a book to review the person contacting you will usually inform that that high-resolution images are available. However, I have regularly posted my own images of a book’s interior without any problem. That is not to say that every book publisher will be ok with this practice but so far I have not encountered a problem. For older books, you can see if a clipping of text or images is available from Google Books that you can embed in your blog post. 

If you are the kind of garden blogger who is too shy to directly ask for a book to review, take VP’s approach and start by blogging reviews of garden books you already have in your collection. Make sure to use a single tag or label to archive your book reviews and point to them from your About page. Do you have any tips to offer garden blogger who want to review gardening books?

Related: From Garden Blog to Garden Book.


  1. I'd like to note a couple of things I left out of this for the sake of brevity. The Bulb review lead to two more books by the same publicist. Each time I published a review I made sure to send an email to the publicist noting that the review was up and thanking them for the book. Which I believe is what kept the books coming.

  2. Hi MBT, I would like to be able to review some garden books. Right now, I am just reviewing childrens books for out of Canada. They never have a garden book on their site, must already be spoken for from other reviewers.

    I would like to join the Garden Writers Association but I noticed that you need a sponsor to do this. At this time, I do not know anyone who belongs.

    Thanks for the informative article.


  3. Thanks for the link love :)

    I started doing book reviews because I love books, so getting review copies has been a delightful side effect.

    Like you I've only asked for a copy of a book a few times: once when I was offered a 40% off deal for my readers (I felt I couldn't offer the book if I didn't have a good idea of its contents); the next time was when a fellow blogger's new book was offered for review via twitter and the last time was when I had a Press Release sent to me a couple of weeks ago, so I cheekily asked for a copy. It's just arrived :)

    It certainly helps having a body of work to point to when requesting review copies.

    My idea of heaven happened a couple of months ago: a publisher contacted me and asked me to select a couple of books from their latest catalogue. I was like a child in a sweet shop :)

    Like you I always write to thank the publisher and send them the link when the review's up. It's good to keep in touch with the publisher: I had some questions about one of the books I was reviewing because it was originally published in Australia. I was able to ask about the amount of work that had been done to re-edit the book so it was suitable for the UK. The publisher responded very quickly and I was able to put that information in my review.

    I'd certainly recommend book reviewing to any garden blogger. The only problem is despite the purchase of 2 new bookcases, I've now run out of space for all my books!

  4. that was very interesting! good tips on how to get the word out about your own blog, and lucky if someone then wants to use you as a resource, too! thanks!

  5. Thanks for the great post. I did my first book review this summer and really enjoyed it (an opportunity I found through your blog!). I would love to be involved in more book reviews. I thought about starting to review the gardening books I have in my personal collection, and now you have inspired me to do it! Great idea for winter posts especially!! Thanks for the inspiration!


  6. Just had this back from a publisher after I'd warned them my review wouldn't be a good one:

    Thanks for the update and your honesty. I was expecting some differences re the UK and USA as we do have more stringent standards, but not being a gardener at all (long-distance running is my thing) I’m in a cloud of ignorance. At the end of the day it’s your review, and all we can expect is a honest and open assessment, and it sounds like you are certainly giving us that! – it’s all good feedback, even the negative stuff as that helps focus future titles, and I am looking forward to reading your comments.

    So a good publisher to deal with and it illustrates that honesty is the best policy re reviews (and that a polite heads up re a poor review is also a good idea!)

  7. @Gatsbys Gardens, Make a post on your blog and see if there's a writer that reads you that would sponsor you.

    @VP, Yeah those discount offers are kind of a hard to handle. On the one hand it would benefit book buyers, but if you don't read the book, could you actually recommend it? Your idea of heaven is pretty close to mine. :0)

    @Janine Robinson, Glad you found the post useful. Thanks for commenting.

    @Amy, Glad you took advantage of the book review offer from this summer and that you have plans to continue doing more garden book reviews.

    @VP, Excellent. Although I wonder if the review is less than stellar if most publisher would rather you not publish it at all.

    Which brings me to something that happened last year. I was offered a religious gardening book and turned it down. But I offered the publicist the opportunity to introduce them to a couple of garden blogger who are religious, who would've liked the book but never heard back from them. Oh well.


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