Friday, 26 October 2012

How not to solicit a review #2

Okay, just recently I've been getting far too many of these form review requests, and it's making me cross. Review requests are fine. I do have a review policy that states I don't take review requests, but polite emails clearly addressed to me get an equally polite response and my Book Reviewers List link (see the tabs above to find it). Form requests don't. How do I know this is a form request and not a personalized one? Because of the format, and because at least one fellow author has received the exact same email at the same time. Form requests sent en masse are rude, lazy, and smack of desperation. Form letters are a temptation to me to go and leave a BAD review. Don't do it. It just makes me cross and, in this case, post your email as an example to others of what not to do. So...

This is the email I received, with my comments in blue.

Hey there, love your blog. (so, immediately I'm annoyed. Why? They say they love my blog! Wrong. If they 'loved' my blog they would - 

1.Know my name. Seriously, there's no excuse. It's in huge letters on my blog banner as the title of the blog. It's in the blog address and my email address. It's on every damn post on my blog. Even if you referred to me as Pip, Pippa, Pippa Jay, Pippa Jay Green or even Philippa Green (copyright holder) then I'd maybe believe it. But you don't. So you start with a blatant lie and can't be bothered to refer to me by name. You clearly haven't been to my blog and checked it out, other than to maybe grab my email. And you want me to care about your  book? I appreciate this approach about as much as the paper variety that comes as 'Dear Householder.'
2.You'd have commented at least once.
3.You'd have read my review policy, which quite clearly states I don't take direct review requests outside of the two sites I ocassionally write for. There ARE exceptions, but a blatant form request won't cut it. If you really, really want me to review your book you can try via Critique de Book asking for me, but I rarely take them.
4.You'd know my genre. The banner says Scifi. Most of my reviews, particularly this year, are scifi or scifi romance. Most of the authors I host write speculative fiction, but the books I host are generally scifi, fantasy or paranormal. About the only thing outside these genres that I review is writing advice. And I'm very, very picky, which is why I rarely take review requests. I prefer to review books I've chosen to buy myself and where I feel under no obligation to review it if I don't like it.
5.You'd have seen the last form letter I quoted as how not to solicit a review.

I have a new horror/mystery/historical fiction novella titled “title removed - no free advertising for this work on my blog.” (see point 4 above. I don't read mysteries or historical fiction. The only horror I've read and reviewed are The Crimson Pact volumes, which are demon-based, because I have a bit of a thing for demons. I've struggled with general horror and don't review it. Also, while I'm aware a lot of books cross multiple genres, that seems a bit of a mixture to me). You are welcome to a complimentary PDF file copy of the book if you like, with no obligations on your part to do anything. (Um, you have asked me to review it. There was a huge furore on Goodreads about a writer naming and shaming book bloggers who accepted free copies of his book but then failed to post reviews. There are plenty of good reasons why a book reviewer wouldn't post a review and I think the writer was utterly wrong in what he did. But I won't accept a book on those terms when I know a review is 'expected' of me, regardless of you stating there's no obligation. By sending it to me, you place me under obligation straight away. Also, PDF comes out weird on my Kindle. Again, most reviewers state what formats they can accept, so offering PDF if they clearly say they don't take it is pointless and proves you haven't read their guidelines/policy. Also, don't make it sound like you're honoring me with a special gift. YOU are asking ME for a review. I'm not requesting your book).

I wrote this after reading “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” three times cover to cover and believe it is well-written, but only 25,000 words. (This is the most bizarre statement ever. Okay, good that you include a word count - a lot of reviewers want to know that or the page count. I don't because I DON'T TAKE REQUESTS! But my immediate response is that reading a book on self editing doesn't qualify you to write a book. Okay, so I don't expect you to justify your qualifications to write, but if you put that in a query letter to a publisher/agent you'd probably go straight into the slush pile, or get an automatic rejection. What about a blurb? Maybe a quote from another review? Maybe even a sample/snippet? An award? Most reviewers want more detail, and those taking self published works want some guarantee that it's been professionally edited and/or a sample).  It is only published as a Kindle book at this time. (Right, again, don't waste your time offering a digital format a reviewer might not be able to take. Again, this will usually be in their guidelines/policy, or ASK! Secondly, if it's Kindle don't just offer PDF. If you've self published you should be able to offer a free Kindle version too. Honestly, if you're self publishing it's easy enough to be able to offer most, if not all, digital formats. This will really open up your options in terms of both buyers and reviewers).
Just reply to this email if interested and I will send back the PDF. (Frankly I want to reply and tell you what you've done wrong. But I know from experience that the writers of form letters don't generally take any notice and continue to spam people. Most recipients of your email will ignore your request. Some will jump at it for the chance of a free book and something to blog about. I know people who might even be tempted to write you a bad review on the basis of this email. The fact that I got something like this immediately puts the book and the writer in a negative light for me - and for most people that I know. So, no, I won't be replying. This will just be a great example of how not to request a review or, in fact, request anything from anybody in the publishing industry).


(writer's name removed. Even bad publicity is still publicity, and I'm not doing that.)

So, want to know how to request a review properly? First, check out my list of over 200 Book Reviewers here.  Most of them will state quite clearly exactly what they want from an author/publisher, what you need to include in your request and/or provide a form to fill out, or at least an email address for your enquiry. If you want an example of a typical review request wishlist I suggest checking out Fantasy Cookie here which sets out a very concise and probably the most comprehensive example of what reviewers want to see. If their guidelines/policy don't make it clear, I've included below what I consider to be a basic review query that I would happily receive if I took them. Bear in mind this is what I would be willing to accept but many reviewers may have different views. Also mine is probably on the more formal side, mostly because I'm British. Some people would be happier with less formal. :P

Dear (reveiwer's name here),

I've followed/read/heard of/been recommended to your blog (blog name here) and would like to request a review of my book (title here), a (wordcount/number of pages) (genre here) novel/novella/short/graphic novel/anthology (delete as applicable).

Include a blurb, perhaps another review recommending it, any awards you may have, who published/edited it, whether it's trad/self/indie/small press/ezine published, where it's available to buy/view and what formats you can supply it in. Make sure you have researched the reviewer to see if your work is a good fit (not only will this mean you don't waste your's and the reviewer's valuable time but it will also increase your chances of a favourable review) and that it is in a genre/format/wordcount accepted by the reviewer. Also take note of where the reviewer will post the reviews, what sort of time scale they review in (please don't harrass reviewers before these dates - it's not good policy) and keep an accurate record of who you submitted to and when. Only chase up if you haven't had a reply when they state they do respond, and outside of the timescale that they quote. And don't send them in bulk!

Thank you for your consideration,

(author name)

As with anything in the publishing world (or even in general for that matter) the keys to success are thorough research, politeness and giving clear information. If you can't manage those three things, don't expect to get anywhere.


  1. It's funny that they didn't even include a blurb about the book to try to entice you to read it.

    I kind of feel the same way for when new authors find my email from blog comments and send me spam about amazing deals on their books. That pretty much makes me not want to read the book. Ever.

    1. Exactly, Krista. Not even a tag line for the book, or a link to the Amazon page so I can look at it and maybe see a sample.
      I really don't understand the people who do that either. Or who DM you with it on Twitter. Sure, we're all trying to entice people to buy our books but I don't think this is the right way to do it.

  2. The writer who shamed bloggers is ridiculous. I'm not familiar with this situation, but I'm both a writer and a blogger. And if I don't like a reviewer's copy, I usually won't review it, because I feel bad. If I buy it, I will so do a neg review for a poorly written book.


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