This topic comes from a frequently asked question, because who doesn’t like scoring free stuff? But getting free anime review copies is about more than the nonexistent price tag. It’s validation from publishers that your opinion matters, that your review will be influential enough to drive demand.
A fair amount of my 2015 book, Build Your Anime Blog, goes into how I—and some of the bloggers behind twelve stand-out blogs—get review copies. Of course this post isn’t going to be as thorough as a 170-page book, but here are some pointers on getting started.
Before you even reach out to an industry member, you’re already setting up your reputation with your blog, so keep it professional. Your anime blog is your public face. It’s I don’t mean you need to stop writing about fan service or hentai—in fact, I would love to see more thoughtful writing on those subjects—but that you need to show that you take your anime blog seriously.
Have a clean, easy-to-read blog theme, with black text on a white background. Maintain a regular update schedule. Indicate the reviews you’ve already written (of shows you already own or have bought or streamed yourself) with an easy-to-find archive section. Have a visible email address, in case just browsing your impeccable site is enough to convince a visiting anime industry member to want to contact you. Your blog is where the review is going to appear, and you want to indicate that it’s a pretty great place for people to read reviews.
People don’t realize how easy it is to contact anime industry professionals. When you look at the press release page for Funimation, or Viz Media, or anywhere else, you can find the press person’s contact at the bottom of any press release.
When you do this outreach, be clear and brief. Indicate that you’re a blogger who has published X, Y, and Z reviews, and list your traffic numbers for those reviews if you think they’re particularly impressive. (If not, just leave them out.) Then, ask to get onto their review copy list. If they accept, show your gratitude with a thank you email. If they decline, don’t take it personally. You don’t know what factored into their decision—it could be that they don’t have the finances to send people review copies right now, nothing to do with you.
One thing you might not have considered is that if you are on a review list, you might receive anime releases that aren’t quite up your alley. But this whole post is about indicating your professionalism and dedication: review those free copies anyway!
“Here’s the pro tip to anime blogging,” Evan of Ani-gamers told me in his Build Your Anime Blog review, “Whenever you review something, send a courtesy email to the publisher.” Publishers are aware that they’re taking a gamble when they send review copies. The blogger might delay a long time to review it, or not review it at all. Showing that you took the time to actually review, and to share that review with the publisher, speaks volumes, and will strongly influence your ongoing professional relationship with them for the better.
Don’t forget to disclose!
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission regulates “truth in advertising” and these rules extend online as well. When you review or endorse a product on your blog, you are required by law to disclose if that product was given to you for free. The FTC considers such endorsements as advertisements and, in the United States, bloggers have been obligated to make these disclosures since 2006. Always make it known that you received a free review copy of a show. It’s not just transparent to your readers, it’s also your legal obligation.
If you want to know more about my own professional relationships with industry professionals, well, that’s in Build Your Anime Blog where I get more personal. But when you’re starting out, I consider these four pointers to be the most important things you need to know.
Is reviewing free anime copies a personal goal of yours? How do you plan to achieve it?
Photo by Jill Ferry