Media requesting review copies of books / trying to contact authors
In the past few days, a couple reviewers have written to comment / complain about the process of requesting review copies. Since this is an issue that causes some amount of grief for both reviewers and publicists, I thought I’d whip up a few pointers that can serve as a “How To” for reviewers and publicists can forward this information to anyone who might ask. Feel free to direct people to this post and / or you can bookmark it. Use the permalink which sends you directly to this post and not to The Book Publicity Blog in general: https://yodiwan.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/requesting-review-copies-of-books/).
Note: The following post applies to journalists, not necessarily to readers / the general public. Also, pretty much the same rules apply to contacting an author for interviews / appearances and requesting review copies of books.
Review Copy / Author Contact FAQs
Why don’t I hear back from publicists?
We do respond; we just don’t respond all the time for the exact same reason reviewers don’t always respond when we ask whether or not a book is being reviewed: we get too many requests.
More specifically, many — I would say most, among the requests I field — are sent to the wrong imprint. Once upon a time I used to respond to every single request, but I get upwards of two dozen a day and I simply don’t have time to get back to everyone. So I respond to the requests for the books on which I’m working and I simply forward on the rest. In other words, the best way to get a response is to reach the right person. (Publicists reading this post — consider shooting off quick responses to review copy requests: “On its way” or “Sure, will send.”)
Read on for information about how reach the right person.
What is an “imprint” and why is it so important?
Large houses like Random House, Penguin and others are divided into imprints — departments, really — that function autonomously. (At RH, the imprints famously bid against each other when buying books, so this gives you an idea of just how separately the imprints work.) Locate the imprint for the book you are requesting by checking the catalog, the publishing house’s website or an online bookseller’s site. Keep in mind — if you are looking in the catalog — that several imprints often share one catalog. (Don’t ask — I don’t understand this either.) It doesn’t mean the publicists work together (or even know each other).
Also, keep in mind that many publishing houses have eponymous imprints. So Random House the company has one imprint (among many) called Random House (or “Little Random” as those of us in the industry call it), Penguin Group the company has one imprint called Penguin Books and another imprint called The Penguin Press (with two different editorial and publicity staffs, mind you) and Simon & Schuster the company has an imprint (again, among several) called … Simon & Schuster. If you aren’t already spinning, some imprints have subimprints — the Crown group, for example (itself a part of Random House) is made up of Clarkson Potter, Crown Business, Three Rivers and other imprints I don’t currently remember. Yes. This is wildly confusing. (And I’m not being facetious.)
The best source I’ve found for navigating all the imprints is Sarah Weinman’s Publisher Imprint Report Card on her blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. This multi-part series will take a little while to read through, but it really helps you figure out all the imprints. Weinman tackles the largest, i.e., the most confusing, publishing houses: Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, The Penguin Group and Random House.
Once you have located the book’s imprint …
Should I request a book by email? Fax? Phone?
Email your request unless you have been instructed to fax it. Most reviewers have stopped calling in requests — I used to get upwards of 30 review copy requests by phone daily as an assistant (yes, I counted after one particularly trying day), although this has now trickled down to maybe one every two weeks — which is good because it’s terribly inefficient having to listen to a voicemail for a fourth time to retrieve a name and full address.
Also, for a variety of reasons, calls are inevitably routed to the wrong departments and it’s much harder to forward a voicemail than an email.
So where can I find publishing house email addresses?
Google, but I’m listing the media contact pages of the biggest houses here. In some cases, email addresses are listed on these pages; in others you may need to navigate a little (or a lot) further to find them. Hey, I didn’t design these sites.
Macmillan: Contact for a list of imprints and contact information
What information should I include in my request?
Include the full title, author’s name, the publication date and either the imprint or ISBN (the 13-digit number on the back of the book starting with 978). This information can be found in the catalog, on the publishing house’s website or on the site of an online bookseller. The more information is provided, the more quickly a request can be passed on if it gets sent to the wrong person.
Also, if you’re requesting an interview, tell us some details we can pass on to an author — what is the story about? When is your deadline? How long do you need with the author? If you’re requesting an event / speaking engagement, about how many people do you expect? Who would sell books? A paragraph’s worth of information can make the difference between yes and no. (No PDFs with requests on letterhead, though — attachments can be hard for us to open so you can imagine what authors go through. I will freely admit that I have deleted attachments sent by media people when forwarding their messages — the latest just about five seconds ago — simply because I don’t have the room in my Mailbox to send a 5 MB attachment.)
You mean you can’t send us a book if we give you just the title and author?
We can, but particularly if your request goes to the wrong imprint / department, we have to check to see which imprint publishes the book and to whom the request should be sent. When we’re dealing with dozens of requests a day, any delay at all jeopardizes your request.
Each imprint has a unique ISBN “prefix” so we can tell by ISBN alone which department publishes a book (which is why I suggest including an imprint name or an ISBN). Within departments, books are assigned to publicists by month, so it helps for us to have a publication date.
If I send a request to a general email address (and assuming I reach the correct imprint) how do I know if I’ve reached the right publicist?
The person checking the general email address will pass on your request to the correct publicist. Many publicists do respond to requests for their own books (if they are not completely swamped).
Does anyone really check these general email addresses?
I can’t speak for everyone, but at my publishing house, yes.
Am I guaranteed to receive a book I request?
No. Review copies are given out at the discretion of the publicist / publishing house, but most houses are generous with most books they are actively promoting (in the months leading up to the publication of a book and in the month or two after publication).
How long does it take to receive a review copy of a book?
It will vary from department to department as well as on the publication date of the book you’re requesting. Most publicists try to send out review copies on a regular basis (yes, I’m deliberately refraining from defining “regular” here) and current books will be sent out more quickly than older ones. If you’re requesting a book far in advance of its publication date, you may receive a galley if one is available, or you may not receive the title until finished books are available.
If your request is urgent — including if you’re writing for a long-lead publication whose deadline is, say, six months before the issue date — make sure to let us know.
I’m confused about Children’s / Young Adult books — whom do I contact to request those titles?
Always contact the Children’s / Young Adult department of a publishing house regardless of the imprint. So a Viking Children’s book request should be sent to the Children’s publicity department, for example, not the Viking publicity department.
I’m doing a story about a book that has not yet been published and I can’t find much information about it. Whom do I contact?
If you can find a contact for the Corporate Communications department, they should be able to help you out; otherwise you may just have to guess. If you can’t find any information about the book on Amazon, the publicist won’t be able to either, so include as much information as you can find in your request. For example, if you read a tip somewhere, include the link.
I’m trying to reach an author published by more than one house. Which house do I contact?
Always try the publicist at the house that published the author’s most recent title. (If you are looking for a specific book, however, contact the house that published that book.)
I read about a book in the London Times, but the publisher is saying they don’t publish the book. I’m confused.
Because of various rights issues, we (American publishers) only work with books published in the U.S. Also, the same book can be published by one house here and another in the U.K. (or Canada or Australia). So first check the publishing house website (or Amazon site) for the country in which you are located — if the book is not listed, you will need to find the country in which it is published and contact that publishing house.
Why won’t a publicist give me an author’s contact information?
For privacy reasons, we don’t release an author’s personal email / phone / address (although you are welcome to look up this information on your own online). We will, however, pass on messages. Again, the more information a message contains, the better your chance of a positive outcome.
Why don’t publishing houses simply list publicists on their websites?
Logistics. Large houses employ 100+ publicists across dozens of departments who are working on thousands of books over three seasons each year. It’s simply not feasible to post — and maintain — this list. Authors, however, often list publicists on their sites.
What else can I do to ensure I get the books I request?
— Make friends with publicists. A great way get a response (whether or not your request is going to the right person) is to know someone. This may not be as difficult as it sounds, particularly for reviewers covering certain types of books — there are only a handful of imprints / houses publishing graphic novels, for example, or mysteries, or Christian fiction. Still, I realize this is easier said than done, so here are some more tips.
— Use a specific subject line. The line that most quickly gets my attention is: [media venue] requests [title] by [author] (or [venue] requests interview / speaking engagement with [author]). If you are requesting several books at once, you can include the season in the subject line.
— Include an email signature with your full name, mailing address and website / link to your clips. If a publicist has to stop to ask for your information, you’ve just given them a reason to delay fulfilling your request. Even if you don’t know if your request is reaching the correct person, you can always ask for the request to be forwarded and when it is, that person will appreciate having as much information as possible.
— Include information about your station / site / publication if you think we may not be familiar with it. Information about circulation / ratings / hits is always helpful, as is information about accolades (official or not) — “Named best outdoors blog in the Northwest by XYZ,” for example.
— Request every single book on the list every single season. This is the best way to ensure you won’t receive any. While we realize that many editors and reviewers legitimately have wide-ranging tastes spanning say, science to literary fiction, we can tell the difference between eclectic and greedy.
— Include attachments (including clips of your work) unless they have been requested. Even small attachments take a long time to open when we are accessing email remotely. Feel free to include links to your work, however.
— Use cutesy background designs in your email messages (spiral binding, winding ivy, etc.) These designs are interpreted as attachments which means these messages also take longer to open / can get caught in spam filters.
— Send your request to multiple blind copied recipients. You’ve just multiplied the amount of work we all have to do.
— Send your request to individuals without knowing who they are. The other day “I Love Lucy” sent a request to a number of people including the president of the company, the publisher of one of the major imprints and a number of directors. This is the equivalent of emailing Steve Jobs about a problem with your iPhone.
If you are a reviewer or publicist and have any comments / suggestions, please let me know (either by emailing me or by leaving a comment) and I will update this post to address your questions / suggestions.
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Fall 2012: I’ve really enjoyed writing about book publicity and meeting (0nline and in person) writers, publicists, editors, agents and others in the publishing industry, but I’ve — reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the time to maintain this blog.
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For some time now, I’ve closely followed a lot of very informative sites about media and about the publishing industry. Since I find myself quite voluble at times about issues that pertain to my job in the publicity department at a large publishing house, I thought I’d set up a book publicity blog. The purpose of this blog is provide tips, primarily, but also information about publishing / marketing trends that will help book publicists — and hopefully others in media and publishing — do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency. Please note that the opinions expressed on this blog are my own, not those of my company.
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