review books 11 decI’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.

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