I literally get thousands of review requests per month. In the days when I reviewed gadgets as well, there were always hundreds of requests each day. Most of these email pleas were dreadful, with insulting requests like, “Hey, give me a 5-Star Review because you are a good person.” (Well, actually I liked the “good person” part of that, but you get the idea.) One requestor even said that I would be “blessed by God” if I gave him a good review. For a while, one group of marketers kept addressing me, “Dear Grandma.” Many of the requestors were not particularly keep–they addressed their plea to “Dear, Dear.”
I am not making any of this up.
Well, after a while, I began to realize that some requests irritated me, whereas others were strangely compelling. Some of the emails were like a siren call to my brain, enticing me to notice their product. Here are some of my conclusions. I hope this tips are helpful. But even if they aren’t, don’t call me, “Grandma.”
4 TACTICS TO TRY
FIND A CONNECTION. This is the most important thing. Find some way to relate to a prospective reviewer. Maybe you both like animals, or love reading Sci-Fi? Do a little research and let the reviewer know that YOU KNOW something about their interests. Sometimes authors will flatter me by saying they love my blog, and especially how well I write. Well, that doesn’t work, but that’s a good idea!
On the other hand, if you know absolutely nothing about a reviewer, your chances of getting a positive response are low. For instance, I almost never review fiction, and make it clear that I stick to non-fiction. Nevertheless, I constantly get requests to read someone’s first novel. A recent requestor sent a typical email. What made this one a little different, was that he first acknowledged that he knew I only reviewed non-fiction. Then he completely ignored what he just stated, and asked me to review his novel!
INCLUDE GRAPHICS. Embed a catchy photo or artwork in your email (doesn’t have to be super-hi resolution.) These requests always get more of my attention. If the reviewer loves cats, include the cutest cat photo in the world. If they love Sci-Fi, include a photo of aliens with 4 heads. You get the idea.
KEEP YOUR EMAIL PITHY. Two or three short paragraphs is fine. Get right to the point. If I have to scroll down to read your email, it is too long. Also, I like (working!) links to the book on Amazon so I can read about the book, and see who else has reviewed it.
GIVE THE REVIEWER SOMETHING SPECIAL. The reviewer will be spending a fair amount of time on your book, so throw him a bone. Naturally, they should be given a complimentary copy—in any format they want. Here’s another easy idea: Offer to send a hardcopy, inscribed by the author.
Make it clear that the reviewer is getting special treatment—not like the lowly masses. Just recently I reviewed a biography of a young man on the run from the Gestapo during WWII. The author graciously inscribed the book to me. The book was stunning, he got a great review, and I will treasure my copy.
3 TRAPS TO AVOID
DON’T MAKE A PEST OF YOURSELF. If the prospective reviewer does not respond, do NOT keep emailing, “following up,” and wondering why no response. When this happens, I immediately block the rude sender’s email. The reviewer is not required to give you a response, and most reviewers are bombarded with requests. Similarly, do not pester the reviewer as to WHY they didn’t want to review your book.
DON’T PUT YOUR FRIENDS ON THE SPOT. Realistically, a close friend or family member will not feel free to give you an honest, objective review. So don’t ask them. I have already decided that I will never risk a friendship by giving a critical review.
Few people are strong enough to receive critical remarks from their friends without feeling bad. I can still remember—after 25 years–my wife’s reaction to a friend’s critical remarks about her novel. Complaining about the lack of action, this former friend had written in big letters on the manuscript, “I’m dying here…” My wife, very understandably irritated, had some choice comments about this person’s intelligence.
BE GRACIOUS IF THE REVIEWER DECLINES. Sometimes I offer to review a book, but then discover that I just don’t want to read the book. Often it’s just a matter of not appreciating the material. In these cases, I usually say, “Sorry, not for me.” Honestly, some of these books could turn out to be real gems. (Of course, the majority are likely total bombs, but I like to think positive.)
Many years ago, I remember getting a request from one struggling author in the U.K. I honestly tried to read her book about a bunch of kids at Magic School, but the whole thing just seemed contrived. Plus, it was dull as dirt. Well, after struggling through one chapter full of magical flying creatures, I told her that Magician Harry was “just not for me.” She took the news pretty well, and I think we stayed friends. I’ve always wondered what became of her. Hmm… maybe if she had just sent me an inscribed copy, I would have read more? Alas, I guess I’ll never know.
Chris Lawson lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he writes under the pen name of Bassocantor. Chris’ reviews may be found on Bassocantor.com.