How Not To Get Reviews On Your Book

I review books on my blog. I accept submissions from people who need reviews for their books. I’m sorry to say it, but the majority of the books I receive are not very good. However, I keep at it for those rare gems I find, those diamonds in the rough. I love helping those authors find bigger audiences, and I’m completely willing to use my platform to help them.

However, there are certain review emails I get that I don’t even click through. I read the pitch and delete immediately. There are usually very exact reasons for this.

See, just like all other aspects of your marketing, submitting for reviews takes care and patience. If you can manage to make a personal connection with the person you’re submitting to, you’ve got a pretty good chance. I’ve had people send me emails where I immediately said, “Okay, you just moved to the top of the list.” It had nothing to do with the quality of their book. Their email to me was just so personal, so well-written, maybe so witty, that I was immediately infused with a burning desire to read their book.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. The people who submit letters that just scream, “My book is probably terrible! Won’t you review it?” In such cases, I won’t even give the book a chance. I don’t even get to the cover. Sorry. Call me a gatekeeper if you will, but my time is MY time, and I have to spend it wisely. Hopefully, if your book really is good, you can find someone else who doesn’t judge it based on the pitch.

Here are just a few ways not to get reviews on your book when submitting them to me:

An obviously terrible grasp of the English language

If you can’t even write me a letter that explains who you are and what your book is, what will make me think you can possibly write a book that I’ll be interested in reading?

Rampant spelling and grammar errors in your email

Similar to the above, but different in important ways. For example, sometimes people have all the right words. They know what they’re saying. I can see how what they’re writing COULD be a sentence. But they don’t use periods. They don’t capitalize. They say “your” instead of “you’re” or “yore.” One or two of these in an email, fine. One or two of these per sentence, and you’re out.

Call me by the wrong name

Goddammit, it’s Garrett. It’s on the header of my website. You know, the same website you were using when you filled out my book review submission form. You didn’t even have to Google, you just had to scroll up. I’m not Gerry. Or Jerry. Or Jared. Or Jarrett. I MIGHT forgive you if you spell it Garret, but only if the rest of your email is flawless.

Don’t tell me your book title

“Hi I am Joe Schmo and my new book is out. I would love it if you would review it. Please let me know if you are interested and I will send you the .mobi file as requested.” Awesome. What’s the book called?

Don’t tell me ANYTHING about the book

Same email as above. “My book needs a review” is not compelling. “My book is a sci-fi/noir about a worn-out intergalactic private eye who’s hired to investigate a powerful man: planetary governor of Rykkin V. It’s a classic noir detective story, but with laser blasters and FTL drives.” I want to review the SHIT out of that book. (Actually, now I want to WRITE the shit out of that book. Dibs.)

Tell me too much about the book

Give me a synopsis. A logline. Don’t tell me the entire plot of the book. Don’t tell me the ending. Don’t overload me with three pages of the book’s story. If it’s that complicated for you to just tell me about it, the book itself is probably overcomplicated and meandering. You probably have eighty-five characters with names like Yearvanisinimalinion, and they’re probably indistinguishable, and I probably won’t care about any of them. Above all, DON’T include a massive paragraphs-long excerpt from the book in your email. I’ve received emails with the first paragraph of the book, and they’re really captivating and I’m immediately drawn in. That’s fine. But a thousand-word excerpt from a central battle scene that takes place near the end of the book? Screw you. Delete.

Talk yourself up

I’ll almost immediately delete any email that contains the words “award-winning.” Don’t talk about how many times you’ve been published, or reviewed, or what shows you’ve interviewed on. Those are great when you’re looking for an agent. Or when you’re submitting yourself to do a radio interview. Fair play to you if you bring them up. But I’m a book reviewer. I don’t give a shit that a book you edited was once reviewed in the New York Times. Worst of all, it gives me the sense that you’re “deigning” to allow me to review your book. Like you’re enticing me to join the lofty societies that normally review your book. Either your book is good or it isn’t, and I’m going to judge it. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the judgements other people have passed about you or your previous work. If they’re so fantastic, why do you need my help?

Weird titles of address

“To whom it may concern…”

DELETE

“To the esteemed book reviewer of GARRETTBROBINSON.COM…”

DELETE

“Dear Sir or Madam…”

DELETE

“To the transgendered emperor of his/her own galactic empire…”

DEL—actually, that’s kind of funny. Let’s read the rest of the email. Hm…hehe…ha. Okay, you just moved to the front of the line.

Want to do it right?

Here’s some great pitches that moved people to the front of my line:

“Hi Garret, Thanks for all the podcasts. If you have time to review my ebook it would be much appreciated.

The Darkeningstone is an adventure set across time. Gritty modern day action combines with Neolithic mysticism and vengeance.

Jake never liked urban myths. But this is not an urban myth. And it did not happen to someone else, but to him. He’s set it down as best he can remember. Whether you believe it or not, is up to you. Discovered over 5,000 years ago, the Darkeningstone affects everyone who finds it. So remember this: Somewhere, sometime, The Darkeningstone is waiting for you.

A fast-paced adventure across time, with short chapters crammed with cliff-hangers. There’s vengeance here and the threat of violence. There’s a plot you can get your teeth into and characters you can believe in.

Jake was too smart to believe the rumours about Scaderstone Pit, but now he’s in more danger than he could ever have imagined. In 1939, as World War II looms, the lives of two men will be changed forever. Over 5,000 years ago, a hermit will keep the stone a secret. But someone is watching him – someone with murder in his heart.

What will you see when you look into The Darkeningstone? If you dare.

Thanks for taking the time. Mikey C”

Simple. He listens to my podcasts (always a plus if you actually, you know, are aware of the person other than asking them for a review). He’s got a simple summary of the book’s premise without overloading me with details.

Here’s another:

“SUBJECT: Forsake Lands, Book 1: Tragedy

Well, you’ve scared me alright, but not quite to the point that I’m backing away slowly. I’m sending along a synopsis of a book I very recently self-published through Amazon.

Since you’re clearly a busy individual, I’ll just cut to the meat of it – Teveres and Aiasjia could not be more dissimilar.

Raised in poverty at the merciless hand of her mother, Aia is a powerful healer disgraced by her profession and outcast from her home city of Nivenea. Teveres is the privileged son of Ilvan’s High Priest whose startling ability to kill with only his mind leads to the brutal murder of his entire family.

Though they do not know it, Aia and Teveres are linked by their strange abilities – they represent a once-revered minority of the population known as the Deldri, individuals gifted by the gods with extraordinary power. It was thought that the Deldri lived on only in legend… until now.

When the leaders of Elseth’s Lands disappear and Aia and Teveres are captured by the warring Kaldari people, they are thrust into a whirlwind of politics, religion and subterfuge which has been quietly destroying their homeland since before they were born. Together with a peculiar young baron and a renegade Kaldari mercenary, they must grow beyond their weaknesses to discover their roles in the fate of nations.

I appreciate the consideration!

Syd”

See that? He actually READ THE TERMS OF SUBMITTING FOR A BOOK REVIEW. I love that. I like this guy. Brief, to the point, and a nice little summary of his book—which is also intriguing. Boom! You’ve been promoted.

So if you’re out there trying to get reviews on your book, make sure you approach it the right way. Contact people in a respectful, polite manner, and respect their time enough not to drop a book in their laps—you can do that AFTER they’ve said they want to review yours.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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1 comments
Nicholas Kahler
Nicholas Kahler

I would add to that list: Not giving me a link to your book in a major marketplace. That's in my review guidelines to prevent people trying to get free beta reading / developmental editing under the guise of a book review. If all you're going to do is copy the synopsis you wrote on Amazon, just give me the link and save yourself the trouble. I'm going to read the sample before I decide to review your book anyway.

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