The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

When books walk

Yesterday I received two complaints from reviewers about books that failed to arrive (or, at least, there were two complaints I read.  When you whip through dozens of book and author interview requests sent to your department’s general publicity email address each day, being able to forward a request to the correct publicist or department in a fraction of a second without even reading the message in its entirety — or at all, for that matter — is a handy skill).

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.)

The second complaint was about a book my department did publish.  It’s possible the publicist didn’t get around to sending out the book initially (or that she decided not to send it out for a particular reason).  It’s just as likely she sent out three copies of the book — and none arrived.

As lovely as it would be to blame the postal service / Fed Ex / UPS, these services have actually proven quite reliable when delivering to office buildings, which we’ve discovered on the many occasions when we’ve attempted to track down missing packages.  Typically, books manage to make it across the country, only to disappear somewhere between a company’s mail room and an employee’s desk.  Who would’ve thought books could walk?

Delivery rates to residences, from which many writers and editors work, is rather less successful since delivery services typically require someone to sign for a package.  Although all package delivery services do offer signature waiver options, these are not always available to book publicists, which leaves us scrawling “No signature necessary!!!” all over the Jiffy bags in which we mail books and leaving us at the mercy of drivers who may or may not choose to follow our handwritten instructions.

Then there are the people who have receive their books but just don’t know it: many book editors / critics / producers are so inundated with books that just leaving the office at the end of the day requires an excavation.

And the last group of people who never receive their books are the ones living overseas.  Somehow, mailing books to otherwise civilized countries often proves to be an utterly unsuccessful endeavor.  I have no idea why, but I do know that my success rate for getting packages to certain countries is exactly zero.

And you thought mailing books wasn’t brain surgery …


April 7, 2009 - Posted by | review copies | ,


  1. Maybe it’s just us, but we find that books do more walking around holidays — especially Christmas and Chanukah. But seriously, more often than not, the book arrived at the media person’s location and then got lost somewhere in between the mailroom and the desk. Sometimes the best thing to do is ask the media person if there is an alternate address to send a requested book. Sometimes if they really want the book, the media will ask the publicist to mark the package “PERSONAL” so their assistant knows not to open it. In any case, cross your fingers …

    Comment by Darcie | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. When I first started out an agency, and was cutting my teeth on booking radio tours, I dreaded hearing from a client that the host/producer told them that they never received the book/materials. Especially since we were trained to confirm 2 days before, allowing us time to overnight/fax/e-mail materials if something was amiss. Thank goodness we can track packages through FedEx & UPS! You’re out of luck if you’re using regular or media mail.

    Another good idea is to stick a florescent label printed with the words “Requested Materials” on the Jiffy bag.

    Comment by Kama Timbrell | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. We have this happen quite a bit as well. I agree with Darcie — the book usually does arrive to the right location but often is taken off someone’s desk or lost in transition. We find this with radio stations as much as print.
    As far as the international shipping, it is a nightmare. Getting books into Canada is a headache and that should be easier than most other international locations. Frustrating process at times, but it is what it is!

    Comment by David | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. I work in a library and our books walk too! You can send a book from one branch to another and it disappears into a black hole never to be seen again!

    Comment by Susan | April 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. I’ve been in the writing-about-books side of things for 15 years, at my old alt-weekly books incessantly disappeared because (I think) the people betwixt mailman and me thought that free books were just compensation for slave or no wages. And there were so many of them, and they came and went so rapidly, it was a losing battle to fight. Now at my city mag a lot fewer books get lost, but the ones that do usually are sitting in a mail-crate in the wrong office.

    I get books I really want mailed to me at home now: They all arrive!

    Comment by Dara | April 8, 2009 | Reply

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