The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

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.)


February 17, 2009 - Posted by | Freelance publicists, review copies | , , ,


  1. Yen, thank you so much for covering this. I’m hoping the comment section will foster further discussion on this topic.

    I publicise picture books, so the retail value of our books tends to be rather high compared to a regular novel – for example, anywhere in the region of $50 – $150. As is the case with beautiful books, I often have people trying all manner of tricks to furnish their book shelves at home…

    Sometimes it’s a game that one has to play to maintain relationships (mostly in the context of a relationship beetween oneself and a large newspaper or important magazine)

    But a few things I’d appreciate your thoughts on:

    . Denying a request for a book that is currently being publicised (if the publication is really just a waste of time) – will you explicitly tell them or employ the response that ‘review copies are no longer available’ ?

    In line with denying review copy requests, not all books in our list are publicised – we concentrate our resources on the books that tend to have the most weight behind them. If a request is received for a title that one is not publicising, do you openly tell your contact the book is not being publicised or do you tell them it is not available for review as you expressed above?

    Comment by Llewelyn Moss | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. I would be up front and tell people that since these are expensive books, there are very limited number of review copies available. I think you also have the right to be more rigorous about vetting requests — asking for clips / links, checking into the journalist’s background and previous work, etc. Of course, feel free to have the person requesting the book do this legwork for you! (I don’t think it’s too much to ask a journalist to include some identifying information in an email signature and to take a couple sentences to explain why they need a book. In my book that’s called common courtesy — akin to introducing yourself on the phone.)

    Depending on what your house’s plans for a book are, there’s nothing wrong with saying a book is not available for review. There are numerous ways to sell books, not all of which involve reviews and media interviews.

    Comment by Yen | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. The easy way to post your spreadsheet is to convert it to a PDF and post it that way.

    Comment by Ed Gray | February 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. […] Book 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 II. […]

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

  5. […] One reviewer, who erroneously sent her request for another department’s book to me, wrote to inform me that since the book had not been received after two requests, that it was no longer under consideration for review.  Fair enough.  (Of course, it’s easy to remain unruffled when the bypassed book is published by another divison.)  I pointed the reviewer to my company’s media contact page for future 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 II.) […]

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

  6. […] 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 irate) editor wanted to point out there are, however, a few […]

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

  7. […] Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? Part II […]

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

  8. […] Why haven’t I received my review copies yet? Part II […]

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

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