5 Ways Not to Submit Your Book’s MS for a Review

BORED - writers send too much info with their book review requestsA lot of writers waste a lot of my time and theirs, querying for a review with stuff I don’t want and never look at. What I want is not industry standard, so some people may disagree. Discussion is what Indies Unlimited is all about. I’d be interested to know, for example, how many reviewers read the promo material before they review a book.

When I read for a review, I mimic the experience the reader will go through, so I can tell the reader what it’s like to read the book. So I’m trying my best to act like a reader when I set myself up to do a review. I think this is the case for a lot of reviewers. Keeping that in mind:

1. Don’t Talk About Yourself

I’m sorry, but for the purpose of the review, I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you came from. It matters not a whit to me that you lived in Outer Mongolia for a winter while you wrote this epic. I rush to reassure you that when I write my review, I care about your feelings. Nobody likes a review that trashes the writer. But that’s the point; I’m reviewing your book, not you, and that’s all I want to see.

What should you talk about? Talk about me. I’m human too, and nothing is more flattering than realizing that someone actually read my website or my entry on The Book Blogger List before submitting to me.

2. Don’t Send a One-Page Excerpt

That’s not enough for me to make a decision whether your book is ready for reviewing. Anybody can find a page of good writing in any book. Even monkeys on typewriters. I want to see much more than that. Too many times I have been intrigued by a snippet, and found when I started reading that the book was completely unedited or some other such flaw.

I prefer you send me the whole MS off the top. It saves time and energy, and lets me make up my own mind how much I want to read before I do so.

Think positive. If I have the whole book, I might just keep reading long enough that I’ve invested so much time into it that I’ll decide to throw good time after bad and just review it.

3. Don’t Send Me Promos

I do not want to see your promotional material. I’m not sure why people think they should send it. Yes, your promo does show that you’ve done your homework, and that’s a good thing. But I want to think for myself. I do not want to view your work based on anything but what I see in front of me: the cover and the manuscript.

I think most reviewing sites ask for this sort of thing as protection against amateurs. Most promotion sites send it because that’s what they have asked their clients for. I don’t want your hype. I want your work.

4. Don’t Send Me the File Name Off Your Computer

This one has nothing to do with reviewing, and everything to do with submitting anything to anybody. The name you gave your MS when you wrote it was so you could find it on your hard drive. The moment it passes out of your demesne, that name means nothing to the rest of the world. If people ask me for a promo photo (called “promo photo” on my hard drive), I name it “G Long Photo” and ship it off. I want them to be able to find the pic on their hard drives.  Our fearless leader admin talks about naming files in this article on being prepared for media opportunities.

So do not call your file <Joe436_thelast_last_Updated 2.mobi> or <SIMBEV-EBook.mobi> Those names may mean something to you, but to me they’re gobbledygook; they will get lost on my hard drive, and I won’t be able to search for them by the name of your book or your name, which is what I put on my schedule. So I might just go on to another book and review that one instead.

5. Don’t Send It and Forget It

For two reasons. First, documents get lost. If I haven’t sent you a direct rejection, I’m fine with a polite reminder in two or three weeks. (That’s a specific reminder, not the whole thing over again.) Second, and perhaps more important, feel free to write and thank me for the review. One guy sent me his book six months ago, and I gave it 4 stars. He wrote, thanking me, appreciating the depth of my review, and discussing (not arguing) one of my complaints. This week, he sent me an ARC on spec, with no excerpt. I’m taking a chance on it, based on my history with this writer, most of which he created.

6. Bonus Suggestion

Don’t send me the mass email you spam out to a hundred reviewers. I expect that from the agents and promotion sites with which I have established relationships. For an indie, the personal touch is gold. As I told a client who wanted me to critique his “agent query letter,” first read Candace’s general instructions on agents published here on Indies Unlimited, then follow what she says in Part 2, and send each one what his or her submission requirements tell you. Everybody wants something different. If you give people what they ask for, you might get a foot in the door.

Bottom Line

Most books I review, I make the final choice for exactly the same reason most customers buy it: by the blurb and the “Look Inside” on Amazon. If your book isn’t published there yet, you’re far better off sending me the whole document right off. It demonstrates trust, if nothing else.

What Should You Send?

Send a cover letter (with “Review Request” in the Subject) showing that you know something about me. My site, my preferences, my genres. I have reviewed several books this year on the basis of a great cover letter.

If it’s an ARC, send me your cover; I know that’s information the prospective reader has.

Send the Amazon URL, to make it easy for me to find.

And that’s it. Send me a well-written, professionally edited MS, and I’ll take it from there.

Author: Gordon Long

Gordon A. Long is a writer, editor, publisher, playwright, director and teacher. 
Learn more about Gordon and his writing from his blog and his Author Central page.

10 thoughts on “5 Ways Not to Submit Your Book’s MS for a Review”

  1. I think this goes back to the same thing we discuss over and over–read the submission instructions and follow them. Take the time to do it right. Otherwise, it wastes everyone’s time. Good post, Gordon.

  2. I’d also add: Don’t send me a synopsis. And if you must, make it a page or less.

    So many times a synopsis is a spoiler alert or contains every single plot point in the story and can make the reading of the story redundant.
    If you can sum it up in a paragraph – perfect. But there’s no enjoyment if I know every single thing that’s going to happen and can’t experience it with the characters.

    Just my opinion.

    1. As I said, I do look at the blurb on Amazon first. Which is a better venue than a synopsis, and usually more thoughtfully written. That’s what I’d call summing it up in a paragraph.

      1. Agree to a point, Gordon. I’ve found many blurbs that can be deceptive as far as summing up a story goes. Some use text from the book (which tells you nothing about the story) and others appear to be written by someone who has not even read the book.
        I sometimes find a cold reading works well because I have no preconceptions about the story apart from genre.

  3. If someone is known to do reviews and doesn’t specifically give instructions, I think what you’ve suggested makes a lot of sense. But for somewhere that gives instructions (I’m obviously thinking specifically of review sites) you should find whatever instructions they give and follow those instructions. If the instructions are minimal (“Email us if you want us to review your opus”) then your approach as the default email still makes sense. I did a post a couple years ago ( https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/10/10/loves-savage-post-a-reviewers-confessions/ ) where I talk about this and point out that not following instructions gets a request thrown in the virtual trash. A lot of books I might otherwise review never get the chance because of this.

  4. Some of the items on your ‘wish list’ sound so obvious, and yet as I was reading through them I wondered if I’d ever skipped any. I guess the big point is to pay attention to the submission guidelines. That I can do. 🙂

  5. I’m hearing it over and over; send a submission that matches the guidelines of the reviewer you are courting.
    I guess everybody knows mine, now, anyway 🙂

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