Between 1999 and 2009, I reviewed a steady stream of children’s books for the website I was running at the time. That experience taught me a great deal about how publishers relate to reviewers and how well their different approaches worked.
Some publishers seemed more enthusiastic about getting reviews than others. Some sent boxes packed with books, many of which were unsuitable while others gave me a copy of their catalogue and then sent any copies I requested. The best looked at the site and suggested titles they thought might fit well on it.
The approach that worried me most was a large publisher who sent a bundle of advance information sheets and a form for me to complete that allowed me to request no more than 3 or 4 books for review. This seemed very hard on lesser known authors who were unfortunate enough to have a book published at the same time as several top name authors as they were less likely to be reviewed as a result.
Occasionally a publisher sent a gift or gimmick with the review copy. This never made me select a book I might otherwise have ignored and sometimes had the opposite effect. I imagine the person who put lots of silver stars in the envelope with their book hadn’t considered how cross the reviewer might feel when she had to pick them all up.
I often had submissions from self-published authors, either directly or via a marketing/PR company they had employed. On the whole, the submissions from the so-called professionals were no better than the ones direct from the author and sometimes they were worse as they were less likely to be personally targeted. So don’t assume that paying for PR will automatically increase your chances of reviews.
The most effective submissions I received were from people who had bothered to look at the website, noted the very specific types of books I reviewed and then submitted their book with a personal letter suggesting where their book would fit on the site. I always looked carefully at books sent that way, and many of them ended up being reviewed.
Based on my own experiences, here are my tips for approaching reviewers.
- Don’t send at random to a list of names that someone else has put together. Check out each reviewer yourself and only send your book if it’s the type they review.
- Find reviewers who specialise in your genre, read their submission guidelines and mention their website, blog or other reviews when you write to them.
- If you’re approaching them by post, send a copy of the print edition (if you have one) plus an information sheet and a personal letter.
- If you’re approaching by email, include the information about the book in the body of the email and don’t send attachments unless their submission guidelines say they are welcome. It’s best to ask if they would be interested in seeing your book and tell them which formats you can provide so they can choose what’s best for them.
- Don’t oversell yourself. Reviewers are not impressed by hype. They have already heard of too many authors who are supposed to be the next JK Rowling and too many books that claim to be bestsellers when they’re not.
- Don’t undersell yourself either. If your book is shortlisted for an award, say so and, if it’s had a good review from a reputable source, include a quote.
- Don’t include bribes, gifts or gimmicks with your book, not even chocolate. It melts in the post and sticks the pages together.
Last, but by no means least, never ever chase a reviewer to ask if they’ve read your book. It’s very bad manners and will not help at all.
This post was first published at selfpublishingadvice.org/