Friday, January 13, 2012

The best way to ask for a book review

I've been going through my book review requests. I haven't done that since the end of November. Did you know that many of the same rules apply for reviewers that apply to editors? Tell us about your book in November or January, but don't expect much in December. We have busy Decembers same as you.

The first book review request email I looked at bowled me over in its complete lack of meaningful description. The next self-published author didn't even bother to try to describe his work other than to promise me that it really is different from all the others. So, I decided that I had some things to say on the subject. It's that or explode.

First off, you have to sell us on your book, same as you do for an agent or a publisher. I get a ton of requests. Again, you have to make it stand out in my slush pile the same as you did (or maybe didn't if you're self-published) for the publisher or agent. About once a month I send out the requests to my reviewers. They choose what interests them. Of course, that's after I have first dibs. ;)

So, INTEREST us. Your fantasy novel is different, you say? Tell us why. What is it about? We only need a paragraph. And please, whether you're the author, a publicist or just a friend helping to promote the work, use grown-up adjectives.

One of the requests I received contained only the following adjectives: Great (x2), new, (really) exciting, terrific. This sci-fi novel is also full of surprises and well-drawn characters. We still have no idea what the book is about!

You say you're a fan of my blog? You tell me how great it is. Or that you found me on Twitter. Super! I'm glad. But flattery doesn't really count for much, I'm afraid. And if you claim to read my blog and still don't follow the posted guidelines, you lose points. I'm pretty flexible, but flattery is no substitute for following the guidelines. Would you ignore a magazine's guidelines when you submit a story?

Someone I know from conventions wondered if I had a chance to review his book. The one he never told me about or sent to me. I don't get ALL books from ALL publishers. And I don't read minds. And then I still need you to do the drill, even if we're friends. In a way, especially if we're friends, because I won't review books for friends. It's a conflict of interest. So, again, you get one shot to interest my reviewers. Make it count.

The other thing is, the process takes as long as it takes. Nagging won't help you. Honestly.

And unlike a story submitted for consideration to a magazine, we won't email you to tell you we're not interested in reviewing your book. We just won't request it. Did I mention we get a LOT of review requests?

For those who are self-published, you're competing against the publishers who send me books for review that have already been vetted. We will review an occasional self-published book, but your pitch has to really grab one of us enough to take a chance on you.

One more note. We do not currently do negative reviews. If we don't like the book, we won't finish it and won't review it. By requesting a book, we are not promising a review. On the other hand, if we really like it, we might request to interview the author.

Don't forget to check out my list of other review sites. Many of the entries include guideline links. And here's a primer on requesting book reviews in general at eHow.

1 comment:

Clare L Deming said...

If you're a self-published author, it is helpful to me if you have a web page containing a sample of your book, preferable the first chapter. It's more difficult to convince me to look at a self-published book, so a short description in an email is not always enough to persuade me to ask for the book. If I can look at the first few pages (like I would at a book store), that may win me over.