When I first started my blog, I was eager to open it up to self-published authors who were looking for their books to be reviewed. I was even a little awed that these authors would even consider giving a copy of their book to me. Now I understand a bit more how hard it is to get attention for a new book - especially if it is self-published - and how amazing it is when a book reviewer will decide to give it a read. There are just so many books out there! And I have so many that I want to read at any given time, it's ridiculous to think of adding to my list (though of course I do all the time). Over time, I've become much stricter in what I look for in self-published books. It's mostly to do with my recent experience with reading outside of my favored genres and recognizing indicators that I might find a book disappointing. Obviously these are my thoughts and opinions from my (short) experience only!
The Review Request Email
This post is only about self-published or small publishing companies requests since I have yet to receive an unsolicited email from a major publishing company (fingers crossed?). Overall I have found authors to be lovely in their emails - they do all the right things like addressing the person by name, adding a synopsis, including a link to the book on Amazon, and just generally being polite. Some even try to increase the personal touch with some comment on my blog or my review style. Which is nice but not necessary. When I look at the email I look for three things:
- Book Cover
- Book Genre
- Plot Synopsis
And in that order. For me (and I am a little bit ashamed to say this) the book cover is my number one indicator. If the book cover is great I will be more interested in the book. And it is difficult to say what is a great cover. It shouldn't look cheap, have bad image blending, or be bland. At least for me, an attractive cover excites me for the content of the book. Yes it is superficial, and it doesn't necessarily indicate book quality. Although I do kinda think what's on the outside generally reflects what's on the inside. And I can't think of one book with a bad cover that I have really loved. If I was an author I would really work hard on not selling that aspect of my book short. It must look appealing!
I have a paragraph on my About page on what types of books I like to review. It's fairly broad, but to try to be more specific would probably only encourage an author to skim and maybe just send the email request anyway. I don't mind considering the book - I'm sure it must be difficult for the authors to go through so many blogger's About pages and try to comply! So when I look at a request from an author I really appreciate it when the genre/synopsis is clearly marked out. It makes it easier and faster for me to see if this is a book I would like to read. I have received a fair amount of book requests over the months I've been blogging and I thought it would be interesting now to go back and see what kinds of books have been sent my way for a review request. I went through my email and actually counted some up. (I didn't know I had that much time either!)
What's in RED are the book genres I don't read, and what's in GREEN are the ones that I do. Overall I've had 84 review requests in genres I don't like to read - about 36% of the time I am already not interested. Which isn't very bad really. It seems like authors are reading the About page (or I just got lucky) which is great! I did have to use my discretion in categorizing some of the books though. Authors sometimes categorize their own books very widely. Which is really not a positive in my opinion. I wonder at how cohesive the story is if it crosses so many genres. And then I also wonder at whether or not the author is just trying to hit keywords. I had one email where the author described their book as a YA/NA/Adult crossover. Huh? So it's pretty clear there are no children in this book.
Review Request Turn-Offs
While again, the majority of emails I receive from authors are great and if I have to turn down their request I feel bad, there are some things that make it easier to turn them down.
- Email Blasts: Sending out one email to multiple recipients is understandable. But if you are one of many it is easier to just ignore the email altogether. In all probability the email won't really interest me anyways.
- Wrong Name: Sometimes the email is not addressed to anybody or generically and that's okay, but if you have the wrong name - maybe you didn't mean to send it to me, and maybe then I don't need to read it. Although one time it was addressed to "Jane" and that gave me a laugh!
- No Information on the Book: I hate this! When an author sends a request with just "Would you like to read my new book?" - no synopsis, probably no cover or link to the book - how am I supposed to evaluate? It's just lazy and really annoying.
- Quotes from Positive Reviews: It's great that the book has positive reviews, but it doesn't prove anything to me to have quotes from these reviews included in the email. I do like to know what other reviewers think, but to have the author try to show me what opinions they think are valid is again very annoying. And it lengthens an email which really doesn't need to be that long.
- Email Attachments: Actually I don't mind this so much if the relevant information is in the body of the email, but please don't expect me to open up an email attachment to read the plot synopsis or see the book cover. (And if you can include the book cover in the body of your email that is fantastic!) Sometimes an author will include a copy of the book with their request and although it is very presumptuous, I honestly don't mind it that much. If I don't plan to read the book, I will not even download it so it's like it was never there.
- Long Plot Synopsis: I do need to know what the book is about, but 4 or more long paragraphs detailing the plot is just too much! And I don't have time to read all that!
I think these are things that would generally turn off any book blogger, but in particular they do annoy me. I personally don't do cover reveals on my blog so requests for those are turned down. I also happen to find books in any genre that include "strong violence," "explicit," "gory" or "gritty" in their plot synopsis to not really be my thing. These are things that have taken me quite a while to realize. Book blogging has been a very interesting learning process, and with this post I was glad to reconsider what I expect from review requests. In a way I hope this post will help any authors thinking of contacting me or another blogger for a review. But if this post helps out new bloggers still struggling to deal with review requests that would make me very happy. Thanks for reading!