Sending out your books for review: a few tips

I’m a very lucky person. I receive several books in the mail each week and several more offers via email. There are a lot of books being published every day, and many that interest me or that I think would interest the readers of this blog.

Literary editors, freelance reviewers, magazine and journal editors, and other literary bloggers would be in a similar position, some receiving many more books and enquiries than myself. I’m writing this post on their behalf, as well as for my own benefit.

If you’re an author, publicist, small publisher – someone who is trying to get your book/s to an intermediary who may influence sales or opinion – please read the following tips:

1. Target your niche. Never assume that your book is just ‘perfect for everyone’. Read the publications you are offering it to and get a feel for their main audience. I will often ignore emails from people who obviously have not read LiteraryMinded.

2. Address your email to the right person. Don’t send out a blanket email. Attaching a press release is fine, but address the blogger/literary editor and tell them why you think they/their audience would enjoy the book.

3. Provide information about the book. This seems like a no-brainer, but some emails I get just tell me the title of the book and don’t provide any information or links. If I’m extremely busy I might not have time to google around and see what I can find out.

4. Don’t over-hype the book. Think about the fact that every day we have emails in our inbox that say ‘the most amazing book of the year’, ‘spellbinding’, ‘a must-read’, ‘the next [insert famous author]’ and so on. We are not impressed. We know you love the book – but we end up ignoring a lot of that stuff.

5. One follow-up email is fine. We may have forgotten about or missed your earlier email. But if you email several times you seem desperate and unprofessional. That’s a cold hard fact. We get hundreds of emails a day. Do you want to turn us off? Most publicists know this but authors will often email me several times asking if I’ve gotten to the book and if I’m going to review it. I have told them I will try and that should be enough. Sometimes when I don’t review it I’m actually doing them a favour…

6. On that note: remember that we might not like your book. Not all mentions are good mentions (another reason why targeting the right publications makes sense).

7. If we say we are too busy and just have too many books to deal with at the moment, we probably mean it.

8. Try and remember that some of us are doing this for love, not money, and don’t expect too much. We have other things in our lives: other jobs, our own writing, relationships, and of course – a pile of classics we haven’t gotten to yet. Be kind, be patient. We do our best.

9. All that said, do email us with offers. Or send your books through the mail with an attached press release and follow up once via email. Do bring things to our attention. We love books. We adore them. And we don’t always have time to go through your catalogues so it does mean a lot to us when you find something that is just perfect and suggest it, tactfully, to us.

Here’s an example of one email offer I accepted:

Hi Angela, I just wanted to see if you would be interested in receiving a copy of the new book WILD UNREST: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” …especially in light of the 150th anniversary of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s life. -[name withheld]

In WILD UNREST (Oxford | November 2010) author Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz offers a vivid portrait of Gilman, drawing new connections between Charlotte’s life and work. Horowitz discusses how Gilman’s famous short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” drew on the writer’s own experiences with mental illness. Horowitz uses numerous primary sources to investigate the piece, including revisiting: Gilman’s journals and letters, the diaries of her husband Walter Stetson, and the published work of S. Weir Mitchell, whose rest cure dominated the treatment of female “hysteria” in late 19th century America. The author argues that these sources reveal that Gilman’s “Yellow Wall-Paper” actually emerged more from emotions rooted in the confinement and tensions of her marriage than from distress following the prescription of Mitchell’s rest cure.

The subject matter shows the publicist is familiar with the blog and some of my interests (literature, mental illness, feminism). It is addressed directly to me. It is friendly without being pushy. The publicist has included enough information about the book but has not weighed down the email with overblown hype about the book – the description speaks for itself.

I hope these tips are useful. I may come back and add more or refine later. In the meantime, if you’re a literary editor, reviewer or blogger who gets lots of offers and would like to add something, please leave it in the comments below.

7 thoughts on “Sending out your books for review: a few tips

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Sending out your books for review: a few tips – LiteraryMinded --

  2. The other advantage of describing what the book is about is that I can recommend a different reviewer/blogger if I don’t think it fits our blog/reading interests.

  3. I with you on the poor targeting thing, and it goes both ways. I’m sent books all the time that have nothing to do with anything I write about (for example, thrillers and fantasy fiction), but when a book that is perfectly tailored to my freelancing or blogging interests (like, say, gender or feminism) is published? I rarely hear a thing.

    The other thing I’d add to what you’ve written above is that if a reviewer contacts you, saying they’d like to write about a book you’ve published, send it to them. Some publishers (Harper Collins, Random House and MUP spring to mind) are great at this, but on many occasions I’ve had to go through the author to get a review copy for a story I’ve been assigned by a major publication, because I’ve had no response from the publicist. Authors always make sure you get their books quick smart, though. 😉

  4. Thanks for the information. As a first-time author, trying to get the word out about your book can be overwhelming, especially with social media. I’m trying to juggle Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Writer’s Market, etc. while also starting a website, contacting media, reviewers, bloggers, other authors and bouncing back and forth between CreateSpace and KDP to cover all my bases. I don’t know how other writers do all of the above and fit in continued writing. When I’ve done free days for my Kindle book, I’ve tweeted to multiple reviewers/bloggers at a time. It was never meant as an insult, just an attempt at being efficient. I was caught in a catch twenty-two, connect with possible champions of the work while getting the word out to four hundred bloggers. I’ll try to figure out a better way of balancing in the future and I guess time is on my side. I believe in my book and it has an important message, I know it will eventually find its audience.
    Take Care, Scott

  5. Only the gods know how you’re doing it, Scott: I’m too old to have that kind of energy. Having found how little support I receive from my publishers, I became paranoid; but then I found also that all first-timers are treated the same! Happily for me, I believe that my book will be of at least some interest to Angela, so I’m about to ask her if I’m right …

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