Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guidelines for Requesting Reviews

Back in June 2013 here on The Blood Red Pencil, I offered some suggestions on taking a professional approach to being a book reviewer, so today I would like to take it from the other side.

Writers, we are in a business, and it is so important to be professional in how we write, not just our books, but every letter and every e-mail we send, unless we're sending those to Mom, and then we can be all cutesy cutesy and forget about proper spelling and punctuation. Although Mom might remind us that she taught us better than that. Or at least she tried.


I've been a professional reviewer for many moons, starting out for newspapers and magazines, and then moving into online sites. I now do reviews primarily on my blog, It's Not All Gravy, and also post reviews on the online retail sites and Goodreads. I get several review requests a week and turn down many of them for not being a businesslike letter. Such as: 

Hi there. I am hoping that you will consider reviewing my latest book, (title deleted). It is available in print and e-book formats. Thank you

The proper salutation should be: Dear Maryann Miller with the name spelled correctly. I am not Maryanne or Marianne, or Mary Ann or Dear Reviewer. My mother gave me the perfectly lovely Maryann.... Enough said.

Maryann, Hello. I would like to request a book review. I am a self-published author.

Hmmm. Maybe it would be good to include a book title and description. Oh, and your name, too.

I am available for anything that you might consider appropriate.

Okay.... I don't even want to comment on that one. LOL

Not only family and friends, but complete strangers have told me they really enjoyed my writing and my story. I am sure you will too.

Rank, rank amateur-type wordage. We don't care that your Aunt Millie loved your book. Please let the reviewer make up her own mind as to how wonderful your writing is. 

For more infomation (sic)on me and the book, click on the amazon (Sic) link below.

First, don't make the reviewer click on anything for information. Always include a brief book blurb and author bio. Secondly, it would help to proof your letter for spelling and other mistakes.

Dear Reviewer:

I hope you will be interested in reviewing my novel, (title deleted). I am also open to doing interviews, and all other projects that might help to promote this book. I have a very limited budget, so ebook reviews and the like are best. The book is described in the attachment and in the press release below.


Don't let your desperation show. While you might be feeling kind of desperate, it is not professional to reveal that to a reviewer or an editor or an agent. Also, very few people will open an attachment, so all relevant information should be in the body of the e-mail.

The following is a letter I received just the other day:

title: (removed)
author: (removed)
The book is at Lulu, the publisher, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There you can read some for free and obtain further information.  If you wish to review it, you would have to purchase it in whatever form you preferred. 


Buy it? Really? You want me to do you a huge favor and you want me to buy the book? The accepted practice is to send an ARC (advanced review copy) either in paper or as an e-book. Some authors gift the reviewer with the book via one of the online retail sites, or send a file that the reviewer can load into a reading device.

Image courtesy of Moving On Magazine
While some of the review requests I receive are unprofessional, there are some that do it right. Here is an  example of an effective query:

Author: (name deleted)
Title: (deleted)
Genre: Mystery

Dear Maryann Miller,

I am an Australian author (nine novels to date) whose independent Australian publisher, Wakefield Press, has just released, as ebooks, all four books in my mystery quartet. I am writing to ask if you would be interested in reviewing the new, and final book…..


The author finished the letter by offering the book in whatever format I prefer. She also included a short book blurb and bio, and thanked me for whatever consideration I might give her request. I appreciated her friendly, yet businesslike letter, as well as the one I received from Benjamin Dancer, author of Patriarch Run, who is my Wednesday's Guest today on It's Not All Gravy.

We have become so accustomed to the relaxed atmosphere on social media, sometimes we forget that casual doesn't apply to all business dealings. Even though most queries are now sent via e-mail, they are still a business letter and should faintly resemble one.
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent book releases are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both mysteries that are available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also now available as an e-book, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

19 comments :

  1. Thank you for an interesting insight into the mind of a reviewer, Maryann. Authors are a mixed bunch, with some odd attitudes. I write, blog, read and review. Whilst I've had some odd and sometimes self-defeating review requests like you, I've also had some pleasant ones, only to discover the book I received was all but unreadable. Difficult.
    Similarly, I've had requests from reviewers for copies of my books for review and I've generally sent copies. My latest release was published by a local indie publisher in digital and print formats and, at 700 pps is quite a heavy tome. This, of course, makes sending the physical book overseas a costly exercise. My publisher and I share that expense, as the royalty deal is particularly generous. We recently sent one to India and were rewarded with an excellent review by one of Amazon's top reviewers, so it can be worthwhile. But I've also sent review copies and never heard a word, so one has to be selective: a risk of all business, I suppose.
    I like your blog, by the way, and I've joined it.
    Thanks again for this interesting post.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words about my post here and my blog. Glad to have you as a follower there. Like you, I have received some great query letters only to be disappointed in the book, Congrats on getting the review in India.

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  2. Maryann, you banged the drum for professionalism with great examples. In my view it extends to all our transactions with fellow professionals and the big world out there, including the online author forums. I cringe every time I see a thread that starts something like this: "I am just so pumped because my debut book was just released, like yesterday. On the Kindl and all over. Plz buy it and like it and tell ur friends."

    Arrrgh!

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    1. LOL, I agree Larry. I just chalk those up to my chuckle for the day and move on.

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  3. Amen!

    Casual, often faceless, and devoid of respect for the prospective reviewer, requests for the favor of a review frequently fall far short of the professional queries of the past. Sometimes "progress" seems a lot more like a huge step backwards in the "appropriate communication" department.

    Great reminders, Maryann.

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    1. Glad you found the post helpful. I don't know if the proper business letter form is even taught today, Linda. We are old... LOL

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    2. Even a variation thereof would be acceptable. Are we really that old? When we're gone, will anyone care about doing things right? Scary thought, isn't it, that mediocrity and all points below that will take over, and excellence will become a relic, a fossil, lost in the halls of antiquity. Hmm. Must be feeling a bit melancholy today. :-)

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  4. Ah, so the problem might just be the desperation slipping through in my review requests ... I'm guessing that 'please, please, please review my book, HEADWIND ... or you'll have my suicide on your head' is not working.

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  5. I'm pretty certain business etiquette is dead. I swear I read the obit years ago. It was involved in the same train wreck as manners and decorum. :)

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    1. If that wasn't so true, I'd laugh, Diana. Perhaps I will just take a deep breath and sigh.

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    2. Along with consideration and respect, I think. The world really was a different place before the lust for money at all costs became the supreme aim in life. Sad, eh?

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  6. Great advice, Maryann. The only difference would be if you know the reviewer personally. Then it would seem strange to send them a Dear So and so letter. However, in most instances, casual is not the way to go in business dealings.

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    1. Good point, Morgan. If I was going to contact you to request a review, I'd make my opening and closing more personal since we have known each other a long time, but I would probably still include the pertinent information so you could decide if you would be interested in the book.

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  7. And I'm NOT a book reviewer, yet I get requests from publicists asking me to review their clients' books, usually with a reference to my blog, which has never published a book review.

    But, hey, Mariaanee -- I've got a great new mystery book out. I'm sure you'd love to read it and give it a 5 star review, wouldn't you?

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  8. LOL, Terry. I'll consider your request right after the one in which the author said, please don't post anything less than a five star review as those are the only ones that matter.

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  9. Thank you for letting us know what the appropriate method is for requesting a review.

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  10. Just had to pass on this one, it's so unbelievable. I had a tweet, a public one, from a writer who asked if I would give her a 5 star review in exchange for her doing the same for me! No mention of actually reading and assessing the books honestly. Don't these morons understand that they devalue the whole system of reviewing by encouraging such dishonest cheating? It beggars belief!

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  11. Thank you! This is very helpful. My book is due out in the fall and I was not sure how to go about requesting reviews. This post will make sure I do it professionally.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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