Murder Must Advertise
Sponsored by Jeffrey Marks
Tips for Book Reviews
Thanks to Betty Webb, author of Desert Noir
To get your book reviewed -
1. CALL the publication you have in mind BEFORE you send that book. For all you know, they don't review your particular type of material, and calling will save tons of postage. Find out the reviewer's name. Talk to the reviewer -- say, "I'm a local (if this is true) writer, and my "Killing Time" has just been released. I think you'll like it because... (fill in the blanks). It's VERY important to have this little speech rehearsed in advance. Reviewers are very, very busy and don't have time to listen to a bunch of "uh"s and "er"s. If you are touring, make sure you contact reviewers in the area where you're having signings AT LEAST one month in advance - and make sure the reviewer knows you'll be in town at what bookstore on what date. That way the reviewer will know that there will be a local tie-in to her review, and most reviewers (at newspapers, at least) value this kind of thing. If you've already received good reviews, be sure to mention them.
2. If the reviewer says she's not interested in your book, believe her. Don't waste your money on trying to convince her that your book is better than it sounded to her. Move on to the next reviewer on your list.
3. If the reviewer says she'd like to see your book SEND IT IMMEDIATELY, with a letter to remind her of the entire conversation - including the dates and places of your upcoming signings. Be specific in your letter. A while back I received a book and a letter which simply said, "This is to remind you" and I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be reminded of. Most book reviewers receive from 70 to 100 books per week, and we are too swamped to play guessing games. Make it easy on us.
4. If the reviewer doesn't want to see your book -- go to Plan B. Ask for a FEATURE ARTICLE, not a review. A feature article, which can be written by any reporter, including the reviewer, is about the interesting "facts" in a book or the novelist herself. If you're a pharmacist and writing a book in which pharmacy is used, that is a "hook" for a human interest article -- the reporter/reviewer can always ask local pharmacists for quotes, thus giving the feature article local color. If you've served time in prison, tell the reviewer/reporter how this affected your writing. This kind of stuff is all good fodder for human interest features. BE SURE AND HAVE FEATURE ARTICLE IDEAS PREPARED IN ADVANCE, before you call the reviewer. You need to think ahead about what material in your book will be of value to a newspaper's readers (but for a feature article, stay away from the book itself - just use the IDEAS and FACTS in the book).
Human interest features are especially valuable because they aren't stuck way back on the book page, and they are almost always given many more inches than a book review. To get a Feature article, you have to come up with some kind of a hook -- such as... I'm a local writer and I based this book on a true life local killing that your newspaper covered ten years ago; or... I'm a pharmacist and I based my book on what I know about pharmacy; or... I'm a book reviewer and I based my book on what I know about book reviewing; or... I'm a housewife and I based my book on what I know about making quilts, diapering babies, and canning jam. You get the picture. Remember that most newspapers do not print book reviews, but ALL newspapers are desperate for human interest features.
5. About one week after you sent the book to her, call that reviewer. Ask if she got the book. Be cheerful, say how excited you are that such a fine, fine reviewer will be looking at your book. Lie your little heart out. Remind her of your upcoming signing (if there is one). The thing to know about book reviewers is that we are used and abused all the time by people who are furious at us -- so by being nice to us, you'll be very different and refreshing. Ask the reviewer if she has any idea when she'll be reading your book, but don't press her. Remember those 70 to 100 books per week she's buried under.
6. About three weeks after you sent the book to her, call again. Remind her of your signing. If she's read the book and has decided to review it, ask her when the review might appear. If she's decided not to review the book, thank her politely for her time. DO NOT EVER GET SNIPPY WITH A REVIEWER. Reviewers have long, long memories. Always be polite.
7. If the review is a nice one, send a thank-you card (good manners never hurt anyone). If the review is a nasty one SEND A THANK YOU CARD ANYWAY, and tell the reviewer that you will definitely take her learned comments into account while writing your next book, and that you are very grateful she took so much time and energy over your book. Sounds crazy, but the reviewer will just about pass out in shock over your good manners. Secondly, she'll remember you and look more kindly on your next book.
8. Keep trying. Never burn your bridges by insulting or hanging up on a reviewer. Full time reviewers tend to keep their jobs for a long, long time (I've had my job at the paper for 11 years), so if you ever mouth off to a reviewer, you're screwed for a long, long time. Try to build a relationship with a reviewer. I have some writers who send me emails and Christmas cards (names you would recognize)! While this may sound crazy and like a waste of money, it's actually very smart. These savvy writers know that they are building recognition every time they do that. And it works. Don't think of only the book you're trying to get reviewed now - think of a long-term relationship with that reviewer for your fourth and fifth and tenth books! GOOD LUCK!