Tip #1: Don’t be this guy.
With self-publishing and small-press publishing on the rise, many authors who aren’t already being “handled” by “people” (agents, PR representatives, et cetera) are rightfully taking their futures into their own hands and building up their own fan bases on various social media networks. Bloggers, too, are providing an outlet for small presses and self-published authors to get the word out about their newest works. Since we opened up IB to receive pitches from authors and presses to review their books (what, you didn’t know we did that? Check the FAQ for more details), we thought this might be a good time to list some of the things that would keep us from reviewing your book. Because, believe me, there are things. Oh, the things there are. I’d be willing to bet, too, that we’re not the only bloggers who care about these things; so, if you’d like to find out how to get more people to review your book, here’s a handy list of things to do when sending out pitches to reviewers:
The number one way to make sure that your pitch gets fast-tracked to the virtual trash bin is to ignore the directions that we set for you. The same directions, verbatim, can be found on both the F.A.Q. page and the contact page. I know they’re the same because I copied from one page and pasted to the other. They’re very simple directions–include a summary, a sample chapter or two, keep any deadlines you may have in mind by giving us at least two to four weeks of actually having the book (not shipping the book off two weeks before the deadline and we get it a week out from having to publish the review), and please, do not send us pitches for genre fiction (unless it’s some kind of amazing genre-bending work). Simple stuff. We have it set up that way for a reason, so ignoring the directions is like questioning our reasoning, which doesn’t make us particularly inclined toward working with you.
We got a pitch the other day that had roughly a zillion words to read because it included both a summary and a synopsis, plus several chapters of the work. We really don’t have time to read that many words unless we’re committed to reviewing it, because we have to read quite a bit to keep up the content of our blog (plus a secret project we’re working on–NO I CAN’T TELL YOU, it’s a secret). What we’re looking for is a sample of the writing style and a brief (brief!) overview of what you think the story is about.
On the other hand . . . . while brevity is important, you’ll be a lot more successful if you do submit a writing sample to us, so don’t leave it out! We’ve gotten pitches with only synopses before, and sketchy ones at that. I’m willing to go track it down on Amazon to see if there’s a first-chapter preview, but no sample likely means no review. First chapters are always important; we want to see if we’re going to be sucked into the story.
Also? Pleeeaaaaaassseeeee do not give away the ending in your summary. I want to be surprised if I decide to read it, and I’m certain my comrades agree. If you give away the ending, we will summon a pack of ghost wolves to prowl around your house and dig up your garden while you are asleep. Also, they will get right under your bedroom window and howl. They will howl so loud that you’ll need to put extra gin in your martini to knock you out cold so you can sleep, and then you’ll have a perpetual hangover. Don’t. Spoil. The Ending. Or, ghost wolves.
Don’t pour on the flattery.
I like genuine compliments as much as the next person. Amy paid me some very nice compliments the other day and they made me all warm and fuzzy. If you love our blog, then sure, I want to hear about how much you enjoy it; but if every other sentence is paying lip service to us because you think that will make us more likely to review your book, I hate to tell you, but that’s going to be about as transparent as . . . . well, I guess everything that is transparent has the same degree of transparency, since it would otherwise be translucent, so, let’s just say it will be transparent. Then we feel manipulated, and not so much warm and fuzzy.
Using flattery to get us to review a book is sort of like using flattery to get into someone’s pants. We know it’s insincere and it makes us feel cheap. We’re bookslutty, sure, but we’re not easy. A few fawning phrases won’t make us open our blog and take you into the fold.
Totally not us. Although I love those boots.
Don’t nag us via e-mail or social media, and/or back us into a corner.
If for some reason you need us to make a decision within a certain time frame–say you only have x number of copies and you want to know if you should reserve one for us–please let us know privately that you have a time frame and you would appreciate a decision. But if it’s more of a “HEY ARE YOU GONNA READ MY BOOK?!?!?!” every time we “bump” into you online, that’s going to get old fast. I mean, really fast–the first time you do it fast.
Write your summary or cover letter as well as you wrote your book.
It should go without saying, but if you want us to take you seriously, all correspondence should be up to the same quality as your “real” writing. It doesn’t all have to be roses and caviar genius prose, but words should be spelled correctly, sentences should be grammatically correct, and everything should make sense. The writing should be engaging enough that I want to read more–if I’m rolling my eyes while I’m still reading your letter or summary, I’m less likely to give the chapters underneath the full attention that they might deserve.
On the other hand, even a perfectly-spelled and grammatically-correct letter and summary could still be badly written if it’s gimmicky. Do not be gimmicky or overly pitchy. Do not. No. There’s a pretty fine line between creative and gimmicky, so make sure you know where the line is. I care about exactly one thing when it comes to reading, and I’m sure a lot of book bloggers (if not all of them) agree with me: is the book written well? Everything else is just lipstick and rouge–plus, if I get blasted with a lot of pitchy language, you’ve immediately lost my trust because I now view you as a huckster. I find that being sincerely enthusiastic about your work has the best overall chance of making me curious and possibly enthusiastic about your work, too.
Be kind–and don’t have a cow if we turn you down.
Here’s something you should know about me: almost nothing in life irritates me more than an encounter with a condescending person. If you are uncontrollably condescending, just plan on us never having a positive interaction right now. I may not say anything while we’re interacting, but inside, the rage will be building. If you continue to interact with me and be all condescending, my anger will become so focused that it will be overwhelming and probably set you on fire, like in Firestarter. Don’t do it.
“What am I doing? I’m quietly judging you.”
Acting like you’re doing us a favor also probably will not fly, unless you’re actually doing us a favor (ie, you’re a hugely popular author and you’re giving us some sort of exclusive or an interview or something that will be hugely beneficial to us–which, by the way, we’re always open to, hugely popular authors!). One of the major aspects of the kerfuffle I wrote about before, when I was contacted by an author, was that he acted like I was being rude and turning down some huge favor that he did telling me about his book. I just . . . no. Even if they would be my favoritest new books forever, that kind of approach leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Be confident, but not aggressively so.
Also, try to keep your own anger in check if we can’t accept your book. We’re not turning you down because we get some sort of maniacal glee out of rejecting others; it may not be good timing for us, or maybe a couple of books down the road, you’ll hit on one that fits our needs better that we can accept. But if you douche out all over us because of the first book, we won’t be able to consider you for the one we would have read.
Look through some of our past reviews to see what we like.
As an aspiring reviewee, you have a fantastic resource available to you: our past blog posts. (Also, if you look closely, you can find our Goodreads and Shelfari shelves. Just saying.) You can see what we like and what we don’t like. I’m not saying you need to make an intensive study of our past reviews, but you can see if we have liked or disliked any books similar to yours. (This? Works for all blogs. Skim through the archives before you contact and you may have a better success rate.)
Here’s your condensed, handy checklist for sending out those review pitches to blogs:
- Be courteous in your conversations, even if you get turned down. We book bloggers tend to talk.
- Be respectful of our time, because it really does take time to create blog content–as you well know, being a writer! And many of us have “real” jobs and families on top of it; our lives are, unfortunately, not devoted to reading and blogging from waking til sleep.
- Write genuinely and passionately about your work, rather than using gimmicks or flattery to “sell” your work. Also, don’t be spammy. We know when you’re being spammy. Let your work speak for itself.
- Having a free copy to provide never hurts, especially since we don’t all make money doing this (but you may make some sales from the review). At the same time, we can get free books from the library, so don’t consider this as much an “enticement” as a courtesy.
- Write well, all the time.
- Be familiar with the venue to which you’re sending your book–what their tastes are and if your work fits in.
- Be honest to yourself about what your book is and what it is not. Is it literary fiction? Or is it genre fiction or general fiction? Knowing what category your will falls into will help you target blogs that will be most likely to review you and who have audiences that are most likely to buy your work.
What do you think, fellow book bloggers, if you’re out there? What kinds of things do people do to put you off reviewing their work? Or, are you a writer who has had some experiences in submitting your work for review? Talk to us in the comments!