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.