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What the Trades Want: A Guide to Getting Reviews

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Getting a book review in one
of the trade journals—the periodicals published specifically for
publishers, booksellers, and librarians—can make a huge difference in
potential sales, especially for the library market. A good review in <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Library Journal
,School Library
Journal
, Booklist,Publishers Weekly,
or Kirkus Reviews
will almost instantly translate into sales. A good review in a handful of other
publishing periodicals, like ForeWord magazine and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Independent Publisher
, can also help
sales. Yet each of these publications gets thousands of books each week, and
each has space to review a few dozen, at most.

 

So how can a small independent
publisher make a book stand out and garner review attention? Here are a few
tips, many of them straight from the editors who make the key decisions every
day on what gets reviewed and what gets passed over:

 

Create
a good book and produce it well.

All the editors emphasized this, and Barbara Hoffert, book review editor at <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Library Journal,
put it at the top of the list. The quality of the material, the quality of the
writing, and the depth of the coverage are key factors in reviewers’ decisions.
Galleys should properly represent the final product in page layout and design.
Jim Barnes of Independent
Publisher
adds, “I look for books that present compelling new
information and/or solve a problem.”

 

Know
each publication.
Go to the
library and read back issues to get a feel for the type of books each trade
journal does or does not review. Each publication’s Web site can be a starting
place, but it’s best to see and read the magazines.

 

Carefully
read and follow submission guidelines.

All the editors said this point couldn’t be made too strongly.
Guidelines are available on each publication’s Web site (see “Rules of the
Trades” below)
or by request
via mail. Brad Hooper at Booklist is amazed at how many submissions arrive without
the book’s ISBN clearly listed or the publication date noted.

 

Publishers
Weekly
’s guidelines state:

 

It is
essential to submit galleys three to four months prior to the month of
publication. . . . We allow some latitude in reviewing heavily illustrated
books or books with late-breaking material, but we will not accept submissions
less than two months before the date of publication, as that would preclude
running our review before the book appears.

 

We <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>never
review
books after publication. We do not review self-published books unless there is
a first printing of 2,000 or greater, and an arrangement with a reputable
distributor, in which case we will take the book under consideration.

 

Just as clearly, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Library Journal

guidelines say:

 

Please
submit two copies of each galley, and do not resubmit at a later date. . . . <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Library Journal Book Review

is an adult book selection tool for public and academic libraries. Each year it
provides some 6000 timely, professional evaluations written by carefully
screened outside reviewers—public, academic, and special librarians,
academic faculty members, and other subject specialists.

 

Books
chosen by the editors for review, from about 40,000 received annually, range
from the most popular to the scholarly, encompass all subject areas, and
include original paperbacks as well as hardcover books.

 

The information at each
publication’s Web site indicates to whom the galleys should be sent (using
individual names at most places may not help if galleys are piled in one place
to be gone through, but do use names if you can tell which person handles which
sorts of books); whether the periodical requires one or two galleys (if in
doubt, send two); whether a finished copy is also required (some insist on
this, others don’t want one); what information should accompany the galleys;
and so forth.

 

Follow the guidelines to the letter,
or your submission will be immediately discarded. “We don’t have time to try to
contact a publisher to ask for the publication date or price,” Trevelyn Jones
at School Library
Journal
says.

 

Most of these publications don’t
review a new edition unless they know that the book has been significantly
updated. Some won’t do books that appeal only or mostly to local audiences.
Some say they won’t consider self-published books (and they believe it is
usually “obvious” that a book is self-published). One editor talked about
checking Literary
Market Place
to see if a book was self-published or not and, if
the publisher wasn’t listed there, maybe checking its Web site.

 

Send
a cover letter with the galley.

The letter should come from the publisher or the publisher’s representative (an
outside publicist, for example) and not from the author. To keep the letter
from getting separated from the galley (which can happen when the mailroom
opens dozens of packages and dumps them into a crate), one editor recommended binding
it in or gluing it on. Although the cover letter may not be read, most of the
editors said the information might convince them to look at a book more
closely.

 

The letter should include
information about:

 

·
the basic facts (offers 150
recipes for the novice cook)

·
the significance (each recipes
uses three or fewer ingredients)

·
the intended audience (will appeal
to the 3 million people who suffer from asthma)

·
the author’s key credentials (a
professor at ABC Medical School)

·
the author’s previous books and
any reviews in this publication (Dr. Jones’ book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Eat to Be Well
was reviewed in your June
2003 issue)

·
scheduled media coverage

·
sales to book clubs and/or other
rights buyers (article scheduled for the June issue of <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Ladies Home Journal
;
alternate selection of Writer’s Digest Book Club for July; German rights sold)

·
your national distributor or your
arrangements with major wholesalers if you are an independent publisher

·
the size of the print run; some
journals will screen a title out immediately if it has a first printing of less
than 5,000

·
significant publicity and/or
advertising plans (the author will be the keynote speaker at the XYZ Annual
Convention; 10-city tour planned for July)

·
the editor and, if there is one,
the agent

·
a contact person; always provide a
name, phone number, and email address. Karen Breen, the children’s book
reviewer for Kirkus,
reports that she is “often stunned by how many people simply don’t give me any
information about whom to contact or how.”

 

A few other things you can do to
tilt the odds in your favor:

 

Publish
your book off-season.
Since the
major publishers release lots of books in September, October, April, and May,
choose January or August as your publication date; or, following a hint from
Louisa Ermelino at Publishers
Weekly
, pick December, January, and February, which she says “are
generally slower months.”

 

Make
sure your galley looks professional.

It can be printed off your computer and bound at a copy center, but it should
consist of designed pages; photographs or illustrations should be included and
look good if artwork is a key element. For coffee-table books and most
children’s books, reviewers want to see the quality of the printing and color
and will usually wait for F&Gs (folded and gathered sheets) or even a finished
book, as long as they get material well before publication date. Remember,
since you set this date, set it for three or four months after you have galleys
to submit to these media if trade reviews are key to your success.

 

Sending color copies of pages for
a children’s picture book is not acceptable, says Trevelyn Jones at <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>School Library Journal
.
Stephanie Zvirin at Booklist
agrees. “Don’t waste your money sending us something that we can’t consider,”
she advises.

 

Include
any advance comments or blurbs you have received.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A new cookbook with an endorsement by Rachel Ray or a
mystery with a blurb from Patricia Cornwall will stand out, although Barbara
Hoffert says she is more impressed by comments from librarians since they are <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>LJ’s target
market, and is somewhat skeptical of blurbs from other authors.

 

Send
the galleys via USPS Priority Mail or use a delivery service so you can track
receipt.
Galleys sent via Media
Mail may or may not make it safely to the destination, and when time is an
issue you don’t want to chance missing your window of opportunity just to save
a little money.

 

Follow
up according to each publication’s submission guidelines.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Some say you can send one email; others ask for a
single faxed query (and some say no follow-up is possible). Jim Barnes at I<span
class=95StoneSerifIt>ndependent Publisher
wants “email, email, email. Most review editors would rather receive three
emails than one phone call,” he says.

 

Targets Beyond the Trade

 

Of course, the trade publications
are not the only places you’ll want to generate reviews. Galleys should also be
submitted to other book-specific publications, including magazines such as <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>BookPage
, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Bloomsbury Review,New York Review of
Books
, and Pages. And don’t forget major newspapers’ book-review
sections, such as The
New York Times
Book Review, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Los Angeles Times
Book Review, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Washington Post
Book Review, and the Chicago
Tribune
Book Review, each of which has its own specific
guidelines that you must follow.

 

You will also want to approach
publications that serve your target markets. These can be more important for
your niche than the review journals, and they too have clear guidelines, so do
your research on them as well.

 

It’s foolish to waste precious
galleys or dollars sending material to publications that will just discard your
book because you don’t have a distributor, or you don’t have a large enough
print run, or yours is a business book and they don’t review business books.
But with good research, careful packaging, a well-crafted cover letter, and a
little bit of luck, you may be able to get a book reviewed in one or more of
the key trade publications, and you can build from there.

 

Kate Bandos has been
promoting books for more than 30 years. Since the formation of KSB Promotions
in 1988, she has primarily helped independent publishers of general lifestyle
nonfiction and children’s books garner media exposure. Before that, she was
publicity director for several publishers, including Globe Pequot Press,
Pelican Publishing, and M. Evans and Company. For more information, go to
www.ksbpromotions.com.

 

 

 

 

Rules of the Trades

 

To find guidelines and
other information to help you present your books to each trade journal in the
best possible way, visit their Web sites:

 

publishersweekly.com/index.asp?layout=submissions

libraryjournal.com/info/CA602796.html

www.schoollibraryjournal.com/info/CA444296.html

www.ala.org/ala/booklist/insidebooklist/booklistproc/proceduressubmitting.html

www.kirkusreviews.com/kirkusreviews/about_us/submission.jsp

www.forewordmagazine.com/reviews/guidelines.aspx

independentpublisher.com/guidelines.html

 

 

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