Why haven’t 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 for both publicity and media folk.
When advance copies of books are always in short supply, how do you choose who gets them?
First, I should probably define the oft-used but somewhat foggy term “advance copy.” This could cover anything from bound manuscripts to “vanilla” galleys (text but no pretty picture on the cover) to galleys (pretty much looks like a book but with a paperback cover) to ARCs (advance readers copies). I myself am still fuzzy on the finer points of advance copies, but basically, before finished books are off the presses, there are several early versions which are distributed to booksellers and the media. (Think of them as the beta version of the book.) For logistical reasons, publishing houses print a limited number of advance copies.
Those media venues that have long-lead times (trade publications, monthly magazines, some broadcast shows, book section editors) need books far in advance of the publication date. Beyond that, there may be some weekly magazines or even blogs that a book publicist wants to get in touch with sooner rather than later because of their reach / influence. Realistically, the greater the circulation / ratings / traffic of a media venue, the better the chances are of them snagging one of those precious few advance copies. (Sites like Alexa and Technorati can tell you how influential a blog is.)
How do you deny a review copy request?
This sounds odd — book publicists are, after all, constantly moaning about the dearth of opportunities for book coverage — but none of us have an unlimited supply of books to dole out. Often, the number of review copies available will vary from one imprint to another (and perhaps also from one title to another). If you’re uncertain about whether or not to send out a book, the safe bet is always to check with a supervisor or publicity director.
That being said, publicists and journalists should always keep in mind that no publishing house is ever obligated to send anyone an advance or review copy of a book (although, it is, of course, to our great advantage to send out review copies). Personally, I do try to fulfill all legitimate requests for my books, which begs the question: what is legitimate?
Most of the time it boils down to common sense. Are you still actively promoting a book? Does the focus and demographic of a particular media venue make sense for a book? We’re well within our rights to Google a journalist and ask why they’re requesting a book about X when they only seem to cover Y. Or query why the readers of A magazine would be interested in B. Or wonder why someone would need a review copy nine months after a book is published. There’s nothing wrong with saying a book is not available (or no longer available) for review — book publishing is a business and the bottom line is we need to try to sell a lot books, preferably not through the profligate use of free and review copies.
Reporters with a legitimate interest in covering a book are *always* able to make a convincing case; when people get nasty, it’s generally a sign they’re gunning for free books. As for those people who request every title under the sun, they pretty much get … nothing. (It’s inconceivable that anyone could legitimately use almost all the titles in a catalog — many journalists specialize in a certain subject area or a handful of areas and even book editors who cover a wide range of topics know they’ll never get to all books on a list.)
Book publicists and journalists — feel free to weigh in. What are your review copy request pet peeves? And what frustrates you the most about the process?
As most of you know, I’ve been compiling a list of freelance book publicists and have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to post the Excel spreadsheet containing the information. (The WordPress forums suggested converting the Excel file to an image file — not quite what I was looking for.) Then it occurred to me that I should perhaps read my own blog and try out Google Documents. So hopefully that will work and the list will be up tomorrow. (Feel free to comment if you have a better idea and yes, this is a reminder if you have not yet submitted your information but would like to do so.)