As newspapers have slashed book sections, we’ve been really lucky that blogs have allowed lots and lots of people to talk about books. At the same time, publishing houses can be tricky for bloggers to navigate (given that we ourselves sometimes find other houses — and sometimes our own — tricky to navigate).
Here are some suggestions for book bloggers looking to obtain review copies of books from publishing houses (and if you are a book publicist, author or literary agent, feel free to pass on this information if you find it helpful):
- Know your imprints. Contemporary publishing houses are behemoths made up of a number of different imprints (departments). If you are regularly reviewing and requesting books, it is important you learn who is who. In most cases, there is no one contact person (or email address) for Penguin or Random House or Simon & Schuster — you’ll need to distinguish between the different imprints and know who to contact. Also, remember that all Children’s / YA imprints are separate from adult imprints. Here are some links to lists of imprints and email addresses at some of the largest publishing houses:
Simon & Schuster (List of divisions and imprints — no emails listed)
- Include a buy link for the book and, if applicable, to the author’s website. Most book publicists don’t care too much whether the buy link is to a publishing house or to an e-commerce site like Amazon or Indiebound, but we do want to see a link.
- Feature the most recent edition of the book. Check the publication date of a book and the cover (and buy link) for the most recent edition of the book. It can be discouraging when we see a review a year after a book has been published … with no mention of the paperback. Keep in mind, too, that many readers prefer to purchase the cheaper paperback edition of a book, so this information is valuable for them, too.
- Feature your country’s edition of the book. Assuming most of your readers are located in the country in which you live (which is often but not always the case), feature the cover of and buy link to the book in the store in that country. So, for example, if your readers are primarily in the US, make it easier for them and feature the American edition of the book; if you readers are primarily in the UK, feature the British edition.
- Be mindful of the book’s on-sale date. In an ideal world, all reviews would be published on or around (within a week or so of) the book’s publication date. Although readers can preorder books, they often will not unless the author is well-known and the book is highly anticipated, so most early reviews don’t generate too many sales. We realize we cannot dictate when someone can run a review, however, but if the review does early, we do appreciate your making a note of this. (Also, keep in mind that just because you receive a finished book from us, it doesn’t mean it is available in stores — we receive finished books six weeks ahead of time and we send these books to journalists, bloggers and others who need to receive books ahead of time.)
- Request current / upcoming titles. In publishing, we’re focused primarily on current and upcoming titles. This means we often don’t have the budget to provide (complimentary) review copies of books that have come out years (or even months) previously. This doesn’t mean we won’t ever provide them — and you can always ask — but it does mean that you will need a pretty good reason for needing / wanting those older books.
Book publicists: what would you add? Bloggers: questions / comments?
One of a book publicist’s jobs is to get reviews for books. Which is tricky these days, what with the shrinking book sections (accompanied by shrinking staffs). According to an April post on GalleyCat, traditional publishing houses published almost 300,000 books in 2009. Now count the number of book reviews in your local newspaper. Or on your favorite book blog.
This isn’t news, of course. We’ve all known for years that book sections were getting leaner. But the other day, Murderati had a post by Tess Gerritsen about what book editors are up against and I thought it was really informative and fun because she took some photos. Gerritsen visited the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer, where an editor told her that the newspaper receives 800 books for review consideration every month. Once the book department has weeded out the books they won’t cover, this is their “under consideration” pile.
And then I found more photos.
Over at the Dallas Morning News, book editor @mmerschel tweeted that he receives about 400 books a week. Which means that if he neglects shelving books for a couple weeks, this is what happens.
The upside is that book editors and bloggers LOVE. BOOKS. Their efforts to champion books and reading are much valued by those of us in the publishing industry. But as the pictures illustrate all too well, there are a lot of us and not a lot of them, and that can create log jams.
One day, all (or at least most) galleys probably will be available electronically (as well as in print for those reviewers who prefer hard copies of books), searchable not only by publication date, book title and author name but also by genre and key word / phrase. (Netgalley is a service that provides electronic galleys and has signed up several publishers as partners, but it’s been slow going.) Book catalogs too will also be available online one day (and also searchable by publication date, title, author, genre, key word, etc.) If reviewers can quickly, easily and securely search for what they want, that will obviate the need for book publicists to send out thousands of books — most of which end up discarded.
But until then, book reviewers, feel free to send me pictures of your “to be read” piles / shelves / bins / rooms and I will add them to the Flickr set. Also, what are publicists doing (with regards to book mailings) that you love / hate? And what do you think about electronic catalogs and galleys? Would you use them? Have you used them and what do you think?
Comments can be posted below or sent (with or without photos) to bookpublicityblog[at]gmail[dot]com. (Let me know if you’d like your photos and / or comments to be anonymous.)
Holiday spirit notwithstanding, I’m going to go for the curmudgeonly and say that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to say “no” more. This post was partly inspired by a reader who suggested the topic a while back, so I’m clearly not the only one with the problem. The average person (which includes me and I’m assuming most other people) wants to helpful and courteous and that means it’s hard for us to say no. But the reality is that we can’t do everything for everyone and it’s better to be realistic — and up front — rather than string along people with endless platitudes. So here are some suggestions (and, as always, feel free to add your own in the Comments section).
Authors: if you’re approached by a journalist for an interview and know that you probably won’t / can’t / don’t want to do the interview, do *not* say, “Sure, I’d be happy to do the interview — you can schedule it with my publicist,” and then leave the book publicist to sort out this mess. (Yes — it is a mess. When an author has agreed to do an interview, the journalist assumes the publicist is stonewalling when the interview is not scheduled.) Instead, a polite way for you to respond to an interview query if you’re an author is to ask for more information, but remain noncommittal with, “Thanks for your interest. I’ll have to check my schedule, but I or my publicist will get back to you.” We’re fine with being the ones to say “no.” But we’d prefer not to have to do it after you’ve lied — albeit with good intentions — and expressly said yes.
Publicists: We’ve all heard the saying “all publicity is good publicity.” Somehow, this doesn’t always quite work out. In theory, the best way for a book publicist to turn down an interview request for an author (whether because s/he is incredibly busy, fussy or otherwise unavailable) is to be as honest as possible as quickly as possible (but I realize situations sometimes require a little, shall we say, finesse).
Certainly, an exception to the “all publicity is good publicity” rule is when it comes to doling out review copies — they may be free for the recipient, but the publishing house has to foot the bill. So before sending out books far and wide, we do need to consider whether the cost of the book (and shipping) is worth the potential exposure and let’s face it: sometimes it’s not (whether because the book has been out for months — or years — because the site has virtually no traffic or because reviews are written like my second-grade book reports).
First off, it’s important for both journalists and publicists to understand that publishing houses are never required to provide review copies of books. We do so because we think the potential exposure (“potential” because a reviewer should always have the right to not cover a book they’ve received) could help our books and authors — and ultimately, readers. In other words, we don’t need to provide books for free … if we’re willing to forgo the potential publicity. The reality is that this is a decision that needs to be made.
It helps if the publishing house’s website says something along the lines of “Review copies of books are provided at our discretion” or something like that, but I’ll say much the same thing if I need to turn down a review copy request. If the person is requesting an older title (“old” for us being more than a few months since that’s when books tend to disappear from bookstore shelves), I’ll say review copies are no longer available. With people who constantly ask for a slew of titles they clearly won’t have time to review, I simply don’t respond. A publishing house is not a gift shop — yes, we’re wise to that game.
Media: When book publicists hear back from the media (which, admittedly, is not quite as frequently as we would like), we often are told that the outlet is passing because the schedule is full at this time or because it’s not appropriate for the publication / show. If you’re a journalist, it’s in your best interest to be as honest as possible. For example, if you say, “We’re booked Tuesday,” when you really mean “There’s no way in all heck my host would ever cover that book,” you may get a publicist responding with, “What Monday or Wednesday?” It really is helpful for us to hear why you’re passing on a book / author and all good publicists will file away that information for future reference.
How do you say no? (Or don’t when you need to?)
Over the past week I’ve received no fewer than four review copy requests that were missing one key piece of information: an address. This means that instead of sending out the book immediately, I need to wait until I have a moment to respond to ask for the address and then when I do get the address I again need to wait until I have a free moment to send out the book. So basically, I need to jump over hurdles to get you something you’ve asked for?
At my publishing house, more than 100 publicists in dozens of imprints spread out over five floors in two buildings work on thousands of books each month. This means things can get really confusing really quickly. To increase your chances of obtaining a review copy of a book quickly, submit all your information. At once. This includes:
Basic information about yourself:
— Mailing address
— Phone number
— Email address
— Venue for which you are covering / plan to cover the book and a brief description if it is not well known
— Your website / your organization’s website (if applicable)
Information about the book:
— Publication date
— Imprint or ISBN
If you want, send the link to the book you are requesting rather than typing out this information. Also, keep in mind that much of the personal information can (and should) appear in an electronic signature so you needn’t retype it each time.
For a list of imprints at the large publishing houses — which will make it easier to get your request to the right department from the start — check this post, Media requesting review copies of books. And here’s lots more information about review copies in general.
For those of you who have looked through these posts about review copies — you know who you are (and I know who you are too!) — your time and attention is much appreciated. Please share this information with your colleagues (and feel free to share with me any questions / comments you might have about requesting review copies).
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
— 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.
— 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?
The proliferation of book blogs has been incredibly beneficial for the publishing industry, providing those of us in book publicity with a new tool to promote books at a time when print publications have been forced to slash their books and arts coverage and providing readers with a wealth of information about books. But the evolution of the literary blogging community has raised a few issues that bear consideration.
In this recent Follow the Reader interview with reviewer Bethanne Patrick, who blogs at Still Life with The Book Maven and hosts The Book Studio, she explored the differences between what she defines as “professional” and “amateur” book bloggers. Many others have noted that not all book blogs are created equal, that some bloggers spend a considerable amount of time and care on their sites and others … not so much. I’ve never distinguished between “amateur” and “professional” in the past (although I do recognize “well written” and “not well written”!) but I imagine this will become a recurring issue as more people jump into the game.
Also, with a limited number of promotional copies of books at our disposal, the widening array of literary blogs means book publicists, now more than ever, must pick and choose who receives complimentary copies of books. Recently, one publicist — the recipient of repeated requests from a blogger who asked for dozens of books (yet failed to share a website) — sent in the following suggestions.
First, reviewers — both for print and online outlets — are not guaranteed review copies. Publicists receive a limited amount of promotional copies to mail out at their discretion.
Secondly, depending on the book and the department, publicists may select reviewers based on the circulation and the overall reach and prestige of the publication (online or off) or of broadcast outlet. For online review sites we look for statistics including the following:
- Number of unique hits/page views per month for the blog, NOT the host site (like Blogger or WordPress or Blog Talk Radio)
- How often content is updated—daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
- How many registered users are on the site’s mailing list
- Alexa or Technorati ranking for the blog, NOT the host site
- User comments, i.e., evidence of a vibrant, interactive online community
There’s very rarely any one magic number or cutoff for determining who receives books. Most book publicists recognize there are any number of factors that must be examined to determine a blog’s popularity, several of which are listed above. (It’s also important to note that book publicists hold print journalists to similar standards. There are, for example, a number of print reporters — from large, prominent organizations — to whom I never send review copies because they have a habit of requesting virtually all titles in a catalog, yet repeated Google searches reveal no reviews or author features.)
Publicists — what else do you look at when determining whether to send a review copy to a blogger? And bloggers — how do you toot your horn?
For more information about receiving review copies of books, you may want to check:
Following up on my Sending review copies of books to bloggers post from yesterday, below is some information that book publicists find helpful to have about book bloggers. We realize that some bloggers prefer to remain off the grid — and bloggers, you are free to provide as much or as little of the following information as you’d like — but for those who would like to cultivate relationships with publishing houses, you should know that the more information publicists have, the more likely we are to engage with you (and, equally as important, to pitch you appropriate books).
Email: *Include this separately in your electronic signature. Don’t assume it will appear in your message because it doesn’t always.*
Brief (one or two-sentence) site description:
What types (genres) of books are you interested in?
How do you “use” a book — reviews? Author interviews? Giveaways?
How frequently do you cover books ?
Best way to pitch you a book — do you prefer to receive email pitches first? Or would you like to receive unsolicited review copies?
Snail mail address (if you would like to receive unsolicited review copies):
All publishing houses use media databases, so the key is to get your information in there so you needn’t provide it every time you request a book. (However, keep in mind that large publishing houses employ hundreds of publicists spread out over dozens of departments. You may work regularly with one publicist; it doesn’t mean that everyone at the house will be familiar with your work or will be looking at your record at that moment in time.)
Publicists and bloggers — let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see (or if there is information here you think is unimportant and should not be shared).
Yesterday, a publicist in another department here suggested I write a post about requesting review copies of books, but directed specifically at bloggers. After all, book publicists are wondering: with all the blogs out there, how do we figure out to which bloggers we should be sending (free) review copies of books? Meanwhile, bloggers are wondering: why don’t we ever hear back from publicists when we request books to review? A thorny problem, this.
Here are some general tips for requesting review copies:
And here’s some additional information that might be particularly helpful for bloggers. (Readers — please feel free to comment / ask questions). I will modify the post to reflect feedback.
All publishing houses want to get as much publicity for their books as possible. Traditionally, this has been done by providing free advance copies of books (review copies) to journalists. However, none of us have an unlimited supply of review copies that we can dole out gratis. Therefore, we need to be selective about the books we provide bloggers (the very same way we need to be selective about the books we provide print and broadcast journalists).
Among our considerations:
— Publication date: For obvious reasons, the best time to promote a book is when we first publish it and shortly after. We’re much less generous with review copies once the book has been out for a couple months.
— Type of book: Publishers of certain art and photography books simply can’t afford to send out lots of copies of very heavy, very expensive books very far. There may be art available from these books, however, so if you’re serious about reviewing this type of book, it’s worth checking to see what materials are available.
— Blog traffic: Depending on the book and the department, a publicist might send out a review copy to any blogger who requests one. Or, s/he might only provide review copies to bloggers who get a certain number of hits / incoming links. (Either way, many book publicists do check sites like Alexa and Technorati to get some empirical information about blogs. Of course, you should feel free to provide us with any additional information about your blog that you’d like us to know.)
— Type of coverage: As with print outlets, “book coverage” on blogs runs the gamut from a mention to a full-fledged review / author interview. Again, depending on the book and department, publicists may reserve review copies for bloggers who plan more extensive coverage of a book. However, while we’re all obviously seeking more ink for our books, most of us also realize that it’s simply not feasible for bloggers to generate that amount of content (not to mention that many bloggers don’t run reviews or interview authors). At the end of the day, many book publicists appreciate any and all mentions of our books and authors. We appreciate it even more when bloggers link to either an online bookseller and / or to the author’s website; when linking a book to an online bookseller, please make sure to link to the latest edition of the book which will always be the paperback edition if there is one.
In related matters, last week Hey Lady posted about the issue of negative reviews, particularly whether bloggers are obligated to positively review books they receive from publishing houses and whether publishing houses can refuse to provide review copies to bloggers on the basis of their reviews. The answer is that bloggers can write whatever they want … and that book publicists can choose to send books (or not send them) to whomever we please. It is true that a series of negative reviews could sour a publicist on a blog, although positive yet poorly-written reviews could have pretty much the same effect. As noted above, there are numerous considerations when sending review copies to bloggers.
Tomorrow I’ll post a brief “form” that will give bloggers a sense of what basic information book publicists need to know. Stay tuned.
A couple weeks back, I wrote about What Journos 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 things us book publicists can do on our end to make his — and other reviewers’ — lives easier. Following are his observations.
— Books with no contact info. I like playing the “guess the publicist” game as much as you like getting emails about books that aren’t yours.
— Lack of response when requesting cover art. If we’re requesting covers, we’re running the book in the paper.
— Getting new releases months after the release date, and when we put in a request months before. Makes me think you’ve milked all you can from the top-tier reviewers and are now willing to work with us.
— Any imprint that uses the envelopes with the shredded newspaper as padding. If they’ve been torn in shipping, they go into a garbage bag and wait until someone has time to take them outside and empty them.
— Don’t put me on an email spam list that doesn’t have an opt out feature.
The easier you are to work with, the more of your books we review. If we request a book, you have a decent chance of getting it reviewed. No guarantee (unless we do promise), but better than if we didn’t ask. There are 18,000 books a month being published, we review at best 300 – 400.
On Friday, @RonHogan of Beatrice.com tweeted about this Flavorwire post about How to Alienate Bloggers and Boost Book Sales. (Bloggers had another bone to pick with publicists, for the pitch for a book du jour — although, happily, Kristen O’Toole, the blogger who wrote the post, begins with a nice nod to book publicists.) Make sure to check the comments section for the robust version of the post in which bloggers argue both for and against the efforts of publicists.
Journalists / bloggers: feel free to weigh in on what you like and don’t like about what book publicists do. What can we do better? What do we do that you find helpful? Comment at will; I will update this post when I can.