The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Why haven’t I received my review copies yet?

A little while back I put together a post with some tips for requesting review copies (and author interviews / events) from publishing houses.  I am hereby begging all readers to use / forward those instructions to writers, editors, producers, reporters, bloggers, freelancers and their cousins.  (I get a couple dozen review copy requests daily, the majority of which are erroneously sent to my department, so this is a situation that gets me pretty riled up.)

I understand that journalists sometimes have a difficult time getting review copies.  I recognize that it’s frustrating wading through the websites of house after house and imprint after imprint.  On the other hand, publicists are often on the receiving end of some requests so vague they border on the ridiculous.  Not to mention that at large publishing houses that publish hundreds of books a month, such as mine, we often get requests for other imprints (departments).  I can’t fault a journalist for failing to keep the imprints straight (I barely can), so when a writer includes the book’s complete title, author name, publication date and imprint or ISBN, I’m happy to (quickly) forward the request to the correct department.  When I only get a title or an author’s name (or often, part of a title or part of an author’s name), that means I have to look up the book.  Which in turn means I forward the request if / when I have the time to look it up.  Which could be some time between a little while and never.

Here are a couple examples of what I spend (waste) my time on.  (I reprint the subject lines and messages verbatim; I’ve only removed identifying information):

***

Subject line: Darwin and Damien Hirst

Message: … I am working on a show about Darwin, and I’d like to talk with you about your new edition of his book, and about Damien Hirst.

My commentary: If you’re requesting an interview with an author or a review copy of a book, providing the book’s title is, well, essential.  You may think it’s a big book of which I should be aware.  Indeed, I’m sure everyone is aware of this book … in the UK office that published it.

***

Subject Line: pls send review copy

Message: lords of finance by ahamed and include a spring cat

My commentary: First, I realize people use PDAs frequently, but you’re not texting your spouse asking him / her to bring home milk.  Proper spelling, grammar and punctuation is not only professional; it’s a common courtesy.  Second, an author’s full name is helpful (particularly when the book is not published by my department, which this one is not).  Third, what in the world is a spring cat?  Is that like a spring chicken?  (Actually, I realize the reviewer is asking for a spring catalog, but if they can’t even be bothered to type out the full word — to avoid confusion — why should we bother sending one?)  And fourth, I’m not listing the publication since I don’t want to publicly flay anyone, but the requesting publication has no obvious links to finance.  In a situation like that, a sentence or two about why you need the review copy can really get your book on its way. 

***

There are a couple quick ways for journalists to get publicists all the crucial information for a review copy or interview request:

1) send the link to the book you’re requesting

2) copy and paste the information from an online bookseller or from the publishing house’s own website into the message

Publicists need to do a better job of responding to review copy requests.  But if journalists can take a few seconds to include a few extra details in a message, it can make matters a heck of a lot easier on our end.

January 26, 2009 - Posted by | review copies |

15 Comments »

  1. Great point! I’ve copied this link and sent it to my writing groups with the suggestion that they have something on their website, perhaps a letter reviewers can copy and paste, with all this information. After all, the easier we make it for people to get our books, the more likely we’ll get that publicity we need.

    Blessings,
    Karina Fabian

    Comment by Karina Fabian | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is all very helpful. I am one of those journalists who requests review copies on a regular basis. I write about books every day for the Dayton Daily News and I do author interviews for our NPR station so I frequently need to obtain specific books because I am one of those eccentrics who insists on actually reading a finished book before I do an interview or write a review.

    With that being said, when I request books I almost always send an e-mail to the specific publicist who is working that particular book. My expression of interest would seem to be a solid clue that this book has a good shot at getting media exposure, right?

    I ask for the book by full title and author name. I assume that the publicist who is working that book will know what I’m talking about. I have never used the ISBN but I will try to do so in the future. Thanks, for that tip. As far as the publication date goes, I would not know it but I suppose I could look it up somewhere.

    What amazes me is how often my requests for specific books directed to publicists at major houses who I know are working that exact title end up getting no response. No return e-mail. No phone call. No book. Every year at BEA I see publicists who have ignored my requests and it is all that I can do to smile while I think: that publicist is not doing a good job.

    When I ask for review copies that means I do have some interest in the project that publicist is being paid to publicize. With all the stories we hear about the troubles publishers are having; declining sales, staff cutbacks, belt tightening; it puzzles me when I cannot obtain a book to be able to provide free publicity for it. The last time I checked book reviews and author interviews were still effective ways to publicize books.

    Please note: I have not had any problems with Penguin imprints. Penguin publicists on the whole do very well. I have been dealing with Penguin publicists for 15 years and they are some of the best that I have known.

    Comment by vick mickunas | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. Vick, if you work with small press books, I’d love to provide you a copy of any of mine, plus press packages, interviews, whatever you want! I’m my own publicist (as many small press authors are) but more than glad to help the press!

    Comment by Karina Fabian | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. Karina, I cover books that I feel will interest my readers and listeners regardless of the size of the press. Yesterday I had a two page centerfold spread for a book that is essentially self-published. So, one never knows. My address is:

    Vick Mickunas
    Reviewer/Producer
    4805 Meredith Road
    Yellow Springs, OH 45387

    Comment by vick mickunas | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  5. I’ve got it, Vick, thanks. I also looked up the Dayton Daily and sent you a copy of my press package through the website. (Naturally, I thought of it after I’d posted here.) I’ll send you a follow-up via snail-mail and if there are any titles you’d like to see, you can let me know and I’ll send them then. Thanks for the prompt reply!

    Comment by Karina Fabian | January 26, 2009 | Reply

  6. Here’s are two questions that may have been answered in another post, but I missed them:

    1. How long before a book is published will publicity agents be willing to send ARCs? The Amazon catalog now lists books that will be released 9 or 10 months from now. Is it too early to request an ARC?

    2. After emailing or faxing the publisher with an ARC request, if there is no response, how long should we wait before following up?

    Thanks for the helpful posts!

    Comment by Kat | January 27, 2009 | Reply

  7. Kat — today’s post about the publicity timeline partially addresses your first question. (Basically, ARCs will be available four-six months before the publication date.) Although requests made at any time should be recorded by the publicist, if you’re asking more than six months out, your best bet is to check again in the four-six month window. (Sometimes books aren’t even assigned to a publicist nine months before the publication date.)

    Don’t ever fax requests unless you’re specifically asked to do so. Faxes are difficult to pass on (and I’m not sure that people even check their fax machines any more). Many publicists do try to respond to people requesting their books, so the trick is finding the correct publicist in the correct department. It looks like you cover mostly fantasy literature? It would be worthwhile getting to know the publicists at those imprints publishing fantasy books (if you haven’t already done so) which would make it easier to get responses out of them. Generally speaking, you can wait a week or two if you haven’t heard back about an ARC request.

    Comment by Yen | January 27, 2009 | Reply

  8. As a publicist, how do you evaluate a request for ARCs? I can’t tell you the number of requests that come in: I just started a blog at such-and-such.com, and I’d like to receive copies of the following eight titles for review.

    I’m all for word-of-mouth buzz and promotion wherever we can get it, but sometimes I can’t help thinking people just want free books. What criteria do you use to use to decide who should get those precious promo copies?

    Comment by Leah | January 28, 2009 | Reply

  9. The number of times I’ve had unprofessional emails like that – and from staff at major daily newspapers and international magazines no less – it makes the mind balk!

    Alongside Leah, I’d also be interested in evaluating requests (from the publicists side) – I generally do this by instinct alone, but wondered if you could offer any tips of your own?

    Also if you had any thoughts about denying review copy requests, I would greatly appreciate hearing them – I always have a difficult time being direct about this but sometimes have requests which seem unreasonable (extremely large lists of titles, wrong market for the book, not a big enough audience to justify a review copy etc.)

    Comment by Llewelyn Moss | February 11, 2009 | Reply

  10. […] I received my review copies yet? Part II A couple book publicists commented on my Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? post from the other week and raised a couple legitimate issues that are would be worth clarifying […]

    Pingback by Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? Part II « The Book Publicity Blog | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  11. […] reviewers: To make it easier to get your review copies, I encourage you to check my posts Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet? and Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet? Part […]

    Pingback by The shoe’s on the other foot — what journos need to know about pubs « The Book Publicity Blog | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  12. […] reference and went about my day.  (For tips on how to effectively request books for review, check Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet? and Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet?  Part […]

    Pingback by When books walk « The Book Publicity Blog | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  13. […] A couple weeks back, I wrote about What Journos Need to Know About Pubs, a follow up or sorts to Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet? and Why Haven’t I Received My Review Copies Yet? Part II.  One very helpful (or perhaps very […]

    Pingback by What book publicists need to know about reviewers « The Book Publicity Blog | April 13, 2009 | Reply

  14. […] Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? […]

    Pingback by Sending review copies of books to bloggers « The Book Publicity Blog | April 29, 2009 | Reply

  15. […] Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? […]

    Pingback by Sending review copies of books to bloggers, Part III « The Book Publicity Blog | May 14, 2009 | Reply


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