Wednesday, February 22, 2012

4-Step How to Request a Book Review & Template

One of the things I do to pay it forward to my fellow authors is review books. Sometimes I review for friends, sometimes strangers. I've gotten requests from self-pubbed, small press, and Big Six authors/publicists. No matter the background, not everyone writes a good request. The best review requests come from people who have done their homework.

In an effort to correct some of the most common errors, I'm giving you lovelies the basic template for a stellar book review request.

Step 1: Follow Directions

Most blogger's have book review policies. Read them before you send to make sure your book is in line with what the reviewer is seeking. For example, I only review speculative fiction books (SF/F), so a historical fiction writer would waste his time (and mine) by sending me a request. Review policies aren't optional. Please follow them.

Bonus Points: When researching book reviewers, jot down a little note about their blog/reviews and include it in your email. It always makes me more inclined toward an author if I know they've looked at my site. Example: "Dear Stephanie, I noticed you reviewed LOW TOWN on Scribbler to Scribe, and I believe you'd also enjoy my noir fantasy AWESOME BOOK."

Step 2: Be Professional

So let me take the edge off by saying review requests aren't as nerve-wracking as agent queries or editor submissions. You don't have to be as precise and nit-picky, but you do have to be professional. Make sure your email is neatly formatted, without spelling or grammatical errors. If you can't write a well-composed email, I'll think you can't write a well-composed novel. Use blank space in your email to break up ideas. Be nice; foul language or offensive comments will get you no where.

Bonus Points: Humor is good, so long as you're funny. Dealing with a reviewer is a more casual environment. However, humor is very difficult. When in doubt, stick with professionalism and avoid the jokes. Example: "Dear Stephanie, I love that you're a Jedi. I, too, have been known to use the Force when fighting supervillains, just like the protagonist of my novel, AWESOME BOOK."

Step 3: Include Relevant Info

Please, please, tell me what your book is about. Don't tell me what it will do for me or make me feel. Tell me the character, setting, and story. This is your blurb, or back cover copy. Your blurb is probably the most important part of your book; it's what sells it to me in the end. It is also the most common mistake authors make in review requests, so I'm going to spend some extra time on it.

A blurb includes the main protagonist and conflict. Everything else is extraneous. Example: "Stevie Jones is a high school jock on Lunar Colony 7. When he's injured during The Big Game and has his ear replaced with the latest prosthetic, Stevie begins to pick up stray signals from government satellites. One signal says "Alien" and "Invasion," but no one believes Stevie. In fact, no one cares much for him anymore after his accident and loss at The Big Game, except the school nerd--who thinks Stevie's ear is super fly. With the ear as their guide, Stevie and his newest buddy team-up to stop the alien invasion of 7 and save the world."

A blurb is NOT theme or bragging. Don't tell me your book is the best thing since Obi-Wan Kenobi. First off, nothing is better than Obi-Wan Kenobi. Secondly, let me be the judge of how cool your book is. Don't tell me that it's an "emotionally stirring story," let me experience it. Don't tell me how much better it is than other books in its genre; I happen to like the books you're insulting. Your blurb should avoid anything that isn't character/setting/story. Example of BAD: "AWESOME BOOK will move and shake you. It is different from the common scrawl found in epic fantasy today, instead having characters you'll fall in love with and a hero you can root for."

Bonus Points: Other good things to include in addition to the necessities (title/author/blurb) are 1) word count, 2) genre, 3) sample chapter (or link to), 4) author/book website, 5) cover image, 6) purchase links, 7) author bio, and 8) release date. If you happen to have accolades (starred pro reviews, awards, etc), include those as well, but do not get caught up in them. Unless you won a Nebula, I don't need to know. Above all, keep your request brief. Better to simply link me to your author website where I can look up a sample chapter and your author bio, than to include it in a lengthy email.

Step 4: Profit

"But Stephanie," you say, "I still don't get it. Can't you just give me a plug-and-play template?"

"Of course I can!" I tell you.

TEMPLATE (fill in the CAPS)

Dear REVIEWER,

My GENRE novel, TITLE, is to be released on DATE and is WORD COUNT words in length. I came across your blog, BLOG NAME, and enjoyed your RESEARCH NOTE. Please consider TITLE for review.

Blurb: INSERT BLURB HERE

You can read a sample chapter here: LINK, or view more about the book at my author website here: LINK.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
NAME
EMAIL
WEBSITE AND/OR OTHER LINKS


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