Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Make the Cut

It's a question without a simple answer yet it applies to much of the publishing community. Why does one book get published and another rejected? That's a question many writers ask with their submissions.  During the several months before a book is published and six to eight months after it is published, you begin to ask a different yet related question: Why does one book get reviewed in a printed magazine or newspaper and not another book?

Publicize Your Book coverFrom the beginning, let me say there is no single answer.  There are many different ways these reviews happen.  The book publisher is actively looking to get your book reviewed. At the same time, you have to consider who has the greatest passion for your book. Yes, the publisher has passion but that passion is spread over many books which are promoted during each season.  I like the realistic perspective of Jacqueline Deval in her Publicize Your Book! because she's been a director of publicity inside several major publishers. She understands there is limited energy for each book and helps writers be proactive without being a pain to those inside the house (yes, it happens more often than you would like to think). 

As the author, you can also stir the possibilities to get your book reviewed.  Recently I contacted an author about getting a review copy of her book through her publisher. I assumed she would forward my request to her publisher and it would be handled. This wise author said, "My publisher is slow to respond some times. I'll send you the book." In a short amount of time, her book arrived. I read it, wrote about it and reviewed it. I can think of another situation where I contacted the author about her forthcoming book. She forwarded my request to her publisher. I requested this book weeks ago and I have still not received the book. Showing a bit of persistence and continued care that I write about this particular book, I sent a second follow-up message to this author. She responded that she had written her publisher and that was all she could do.  That wasn't true. Now which author do you think I will appreciate and be more likely to help? This second author forgot there are over 170,000 books published each year (or 190,000 books is another number I've seen). However you count the new books, there are many books releasing constantly into the marketplace. Don't delegate this responsibility to your publisher unless you are totally confident the review request will be fulfilled. You don't want to miss your opportunity. David J. Montgomery a newspaper book reviewer reminded his audience at ThrillerFest, "You'd be astonished how often the publisher never sends the book. The author has to be vigilant and make sure the people who review crime fiction get your books."

I've written book review columns for consumer trade magazines.  I've selected all of the books for these columns the majority of the time when I've been in this situation. Yes, it's happened as a freelancer. Occasionally my editor would suggest a book or two for inclusion but most of the time they were happy for me to handle it, receive the books, read the books and write my reviews at the right length and on time. I provided a service and it was one less thing for the magazine editor to have to consider and pull together.  I've described one way this system works.  In other situations, the editor preselects each of the books reviewed and the writer has little control over which books are reviewed. You need to determine who is doing what in order to get your book reviewed in these publications. Why do you care? If you get a positive review for your book in a publication, that review can be worth it's weight in gold to the author because it encourages people to buy your book.

Whoever selects your book for possible review has plenty of choices. When I was writing these book review columns for a magazine, stacks of review copies appeared in my mail box daily.  Many publishers included my name for every single title they released. It amounted to hundreds of books that I sorted through and processed each month.  At the time, I was writing for a magazine with a circulation of about 150,000 readers. You can see the value of a positive review to the author and the publisher.

How is this process handled in one of the most prestigious book review places in the United States? You can get a glimpse at what it takes to make the cut in this New York Times article. This week Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus is responding to questions.

Everyone wants to find the single path to publication or the single way to get their book reviewed in print publications. There is no single way for it to happen but there are proactive ways you can stir the waters to gain serious consideration. I'm constantly looking for new ways to stir those waters and gain additional attention for my books.  You can use the same process.

1 Comment:

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

That was a very informative article. (I don't know if it was intentional but both of the last two links go to the same article.)

It never really registered in my head until I read that article but people send their books off, in hopes of getting a noticable review...and many times that turns out to be blatantly negative!


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