The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Help me help you

Yesterday, two people who asked for copies of books failed to include mailing addresses in their original requests. In other words, they wanted me to send them books, but I had to chase down their addresses?

For those times when book publicists do not, in fact, desire to jump through hoops to send out free books, here are some suggestions for bloggers and journalists to make the review copy request process more efficient.  (Those of you in book publicity — feel free to forward these tips to all and sundry.)

Requesting a Review Copy of a Book / an Author Interview

Include:

— An electronic signature containing your snail mail and email addresses as well as a link to your organization or website.  You may know a publicist well (and may know they have your contact information, but you never know when they may need to forward your message to someone else who may not know you from Adam).

— Your first and last names.  Unless you want to be addressed as “Dude / Dudette,” signing “J. Doe” doesn’t help much.  Many writers prefer their esignatures match their professional names — which in some cases may be something along the lines of “J. Doe” — but in that case, make sure to sign off with a first name so you can at least be addressed in some fashion.

And briefly:

— Explain why you are requesting a review copy of a book or an interview with an author.

— Include your deadline (or mention that you don’t have one).

— Provide some information about your media outlet or show and some circulation information.  This can be empirical, e.g., “circulation of 72,000” or “30,000 hits a month” or it can be subjective, e.g., “most popular hunting and fishing blog in Montana.”  Make a compelling case for yourself.  (To make it easy for yourself — set this information as Autotext and simply insert it into each request.  If you’d like to provide further details that you think are pertinent but don’t want them to bog down your message, link to the “About” page on a website.)

***

Here’s a tip regarding author interviews: when I receive interview requests for backlist, i.e., not current, authors, I respond to the journalist thanking them for their interest and letting them know that I will forward their request to the author.  This is the key: I do not forward the request.  I am blind copying the author on my response.  (I guess that makes me less than truthful if you’re prone to splitting hairs, but I can live with myself.)  Doing this enables me to kill two birds with one stone — responding to the journalist and getting in touch with the author — which I need to do because time is scarce and I’m concentrating on current and upcoming titles.

This means that I’m not compensating for any shortcomings in the request: the author sees any and all typos and misspellings of the book and / or author name.  It also means that if you don’t include a subject line, the author won’t see one.  And lastly, the author won’t see details that are not provided.  In other words, if you send in a one-line interview request with scant information about your media outlet, that’s all the author sees; while I will “fill in the blanks” for current or upcoming authors, I don’t have time to Google and / or trawl through our database for that information for every request for every author with whom I’ve ever worked.

In publicity, we often get email messages asking for the name of an author’s book publicist.  Instead of simply asking for a publicist’s name, ask for the name *and* include the full request — you’re going to have to provide all the details eventually; get your ducks in a row from the beginning and speed up that process.

For (loads) more information about this topic, check my posts about the science of requesting review copies.  (Yes — it’s a science, right up there with particle physics and microbiology.)

***

Book publicists: what else do you like to see in review copy / interview requests?  Bloggers and journalists: What do you always make sure to include in your requests?

June 16, 2009 - Posted by | review copies | ,

20 Comments »

  1. It’s not often that I request a book (I can hardly keep up with what’s pitched to me) but when I do, I like to include why I’m interested in the particular book. For example, I did request Shannon Hale’s new book because I had already reviewed several of her books, interviewed her, blogged about several book signings of hers, and even blogged about a soup recipe that she gave me. On top of that, she lives nearby and I love to feature my local authors. I included a link to all of the previous posts. Needless to say, given my previous support of the author, I found a copy of the book in my mail shortly thereafter.

    Regarding backlist titles, I was under impression (at least for the average book blogger)that it’s in bad taste to request a backlisted title. Especially when it’s been available for such a long time either for purchase or at the library. Or is this just in reference to requesting an interview?

    Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books | June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • It’s not so much bad taste on the journalist’s / blogger’s part to request older titles as it is simply not feasible for the publicist to accomodate all requests for all books. As long as resources are limited — both manpower-wise as well as from a financial perspective — our priorities will naturally lie with current and upcoming books.

      I do sometimes send out review copies for older titles (published more than about six months previously), but I also vet those requests more carefully — is this a serious reviewer? (We do need to weed out those people simply gunning for free books.) If the person is writing for a website, are they careful to include buy links or links to authors’ websites? If the requester is a print / broadcast journalist, are they able to provide some information about their assignment (that would explain why they’re asking for a backlist title)?

      The more information a blogger or journalist can provide, the more likely a publicist is to try to accomodate a request in a timely fashion (whether it’s a current or an older title). As you point out, when you provided the links to your coverage of an author, her new book promptly appeared in your mailbox!

      Other times, however, I don’t send out copies of older titles — it is a balancing act between trying to figure out how many more copies of a book we might be able to sell and the cost of providing the free book (and postage) and the time it takes to fulfill that request.

      Which is the *really* long way of saying that publicists look at review copy requests for backlist (and frontlist) titles on a case by case basis!

      Comment by Yen | June 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. When I requested a book last week, you responded within 10 minutes and I got the ARC yesterday. I was thrilled! Not only did that make me think I did something right (I used guidelines you’ve provided here), it shows you’re super efficient when people don’t waste your time. Thanks.

    Comment by Pop Culture Nerd | June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • Ah — it works! It works! 🙂

      Comment by Yen | June 16, 2009 | Reply

      • Your response here is BRILLIANT – I don’t know who you are, but from one fellow book publicist, to the other – Cheers!

        Natasha, Saw your comment about backlist titles and wanted to add that there are lots of books that don’t get tons of coverage the first time around. If everyone is covering the same 100 or 200 titles, there are thousands that go unreviewed and stay undiscovered.

        When you begin to contact lesser-known authors, they tend to be very receptive to these requests. Of course the trouble is finding lesser-known authors who write good books.

        Comment by Shanna | June 26, 2009

  3. Natasha, Saw your comment about backlist titles and wanted to add that there are lots of books that don’t get tons of coverage the first time around. If everyone is covering the same 100 or 200 titles, there are thousands that go unreviewed and stay undiscovered.

    When you begin to contact lesser-known authors, they tend to be very receptive to these requests. Of course the trouble is finding lesser-known authors who write good books.

    Comment by CJ West | June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • Oh yes, I do review a lot of backlisted titles and have participated in interviews with authors who have had their books out for a while. (I like to think that the best kind of blogs are the ones who have a good balance of new releases and obscure, lesser known titles.) I don’t request those books though, they come from my personal collection or the library. My question is, if a book has been out 2-5+ years, isn’t it in bad taste to request a physical review copy of that book? Of course, requesting an interview for said book is different. Curious on thoughts.

      Comment by Natasha @ Maw Books | June 16, 2009 | Reply

      • I wouldn’t call it bad taste–publicists appreciate publicity all through the life of a book (thank you!)–more a matter of feasibility in-house. In the case of very backlist books (2-5+ years old), most publicists don’t have copies in-house to send. It works differently at different houses (for example, some send review copies from the warehouse), but most of the houses that I’ve worked at maintain a library of books from the last 2 years to send out in case of review copy requests (we live in constant expectation of that urgent review copy request and running down the hallway with it). Publicity libraries generally consist of a bunch of shelves not always well-placed in limited office space with books that are hopefully in alphabetical order and actually there because someone remembered to order more when the last one went out. Once the two years are up, the backlist books get packed up and sent to the warehouse or charity. So it’s really difficult to fulfill an older book request because chances are there is no book at hand to send.

        I really hope that paragraph made sense.

        Comment by Alice | June 17, 2009

  4. These are fantastic tips. As a new blogger, I don’t have a lot to offer a well-established author, but hope to be able to one day. Thanks for the wonderful posts!

    Comment by Emily Ellsworth | June 16, 2009 | Reply

  5. It seems obvious, but I’ve had bloggers requests books, and fail to include a link to their blog.

    Comment by Kama Timbrell | June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • Good point! On the one hand, you think it would be pretty easy to Google something — and it is — but on the other hand, imagine getting dozens of requests daily.

      Links to blogs’ home pages are the very least a blogger can provide. It also helps to direct publicists to a specific section of the blog. Some bloggers, for example, provide details about what types of books they cover — it doesn’t hurt to include an additional line in an email message saying, “For more information, check here: [URL].” And if a blogger has written a post(s) they think is pertinent to the book being requested / author with whom they’re requesting an interview and if they’d like to share this information with the publicist, include that link(s) as well (as Natasha from Maw Books mentions in a comment above). Additional information that is prominent and explicit is always welcome.

      When you’re dealing with as many requests as most book publicists are, easy goes first.

      Comment by Yen | June 16, 2009 | Reply

  6. Wow, as a blogger who is not a professional in the book industry, this article was very helpful. I have had a book blog for about a year and a half now and I didn’t even know you could request books! I always wondered how other bloggers received so many ARCs. It is nice to have a quide to follow. I love books and I am an avid reader, but I am not very knowledgeable about the book industry. Your blog is very helpful. Thank you!

    Comment by Jill D. | June 16, 2009 | Reply

  7. One question: How far in advance can a review copy be requested? Would asking for a book two or three months in advance be acceptable? Are there rules regarding time frames?

    Comment by Jill D. | June 16, 2009 | Reply

    • There are no rules about when to request books, but here’s some information you might find helpful.

      Galleys / ARCs (advance review copies) are usually available four-six months before a book’s publication date. However, publishing houses have limited quantities of galleys since they’re expensive to produce. This means that we typically (but not always) reserve them for long-lead publications — magazines — as well as newspaper book sections that need to plan ahead (even if they are daily papers) or broadcast shows that also have very long lead times.

      Although a blogger can request a book six months before the publication date, chances are that we’re not going to be able to fulfill that request for a few months.

      About six weeks before a book’s publication date, we receive finished copies of books. At this point, we have the freedom to send out the books more widely, and that’s when we’ll be “catching up” on all the requests that have come in over the previous few months. Organized publicists will have created lists of the people who have requested books and will automatically send books to them, but if you’re feeling antsy about your request, you can always check in with the publicist about a month before the book comes out.

      And one last note: most publishing houses assign books to publicists six-nine months before books come out. (I know what I’m working on through the end of the year, for example.) Sometimes, Amazon posts information about books before this, and bloggers and journalists will start requesting books based on what they see online. But unless you’re from a 60 Minutes or a Vanity Fair or another similar outlet that plans stories a year or more in advance, wait to request the book — without a specific publicist to whom your request can be directed, there’s a good chance it’ll get lost.

      Comment by Yen | June 17, 2009 | Reply

  8. One thing I’d like to add: When the reviewer asks for a book AND INTERVIEW, but will remain vague as to when they want to interview. So then as a publicist I go back and forth with the producer a few times before even reaching out to the author, only to find out that those dates don’t work after all.

    This is especially frustrating with backlist authors. In which case, I will apply the bcc tip. But how do you prevent your author from spamming the reviewer unsolicited?

    Comment by cincindypat | June 17, 2009 | Reply

  9. As a blogger, I like to read the book before an interview. So it’s really hard to nail down an interview time frame because I don’t know when the book will come (I get a lot of “have you received the book yet?” emails before I actually get the books) And I can’t exactly schedule when I will read it.

    I think it’s much different for TV shows or radio shows, though!

    Comment by Amy @ My Friend Amy | June 18, 2009 | Reply

  10. I love it when Authors are straight and to the point. Send us your best chapters, all your contact information and then call it a day. Getting bombarded with email and email of authors explaining over and over how their book is going to “change the way people look at money” or “be the next Da Vinci Code” is frustrating. Simplicity works best!

    Comment by Mark | June 18, 2009 | Reply

  11. […] -Tips on how to obtain a review copy of a book […]

    Pingback by Appeasing the Nagging Submit Me Voice « The Living Poet | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  12. As a new writer hoping to nab more review assignments, I find this post — and the follow-up commentary — especially helpful. Thank you!

    Comment by Christine | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  13. […] 2) And once you’ve targeted a book for review/obtained an assignment, you need a review copy. Sometimes, review editors do the requesting. But if you’re the one tasked with that job, be sure to check out the super-useful Book Publicity Blog’s advice. […]

    Pingback by The Wednesday Web Browser: Book Review Edition | ErikaDreifus.com | July 28, 2010 | Reply


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