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How I Choose The Books I Read And Review: Review Copies

A photograph of Richard Weihe's Sea Of Ink and Tome Reiss's The Black Count and a paper list of book titles labelled September to October

Last week I discussed how I choose the books I read and review as far as blogging and myself are concerned. Whilst choosing review copies and ARCs is largely the same, there are a few other things I take into consideration which some of you may be interested in knowing. Perhaps I can help new bloggers with my methjod and those of you who are established can weigh in with your own, too?

Let’s do this in chronological order assuming the pitch is via email (most are, after all – don’t use Twitter!) The first thing I deal with is the email. Publishers and authors write in different ways – authors tend to be a bit more personal and chatty, publishers more formal. I don’t mind either, though certainly, and I think I speak for most bloggers here, personality wins if you’re looking to start a working relationship with me. Time will factor into my decision: when is the book released? Will I be able to read and review it in good time? (Don’t pitch a book that’ll be released the next week – pitch earlier.)

But most of my thoughts concentrate on the tone and content of the email. If I’ve never worked with the pitcher, I’m less likely to reply to a mass email. (I’ll reply to mass emails from those I already have a working relationship with, for example Peirene Press sends mass emails on occasion but otherwise we’re on a first name basis.) I’m not a big fan of ‘hi’ by itself but it’s far better than ‘Hello The Worm Hole’, ‘hi blogger’, and, as I was recently called after a couple of back and forth emails, ‘Mr’. (The sudden revelation that the person I was talking to hadn’t even viewed my blog was off-putting to say the least.) I like to know you’ve read my blog and got a feel for what I do; you will know if my blog’s a good place for your book. I once received a lovely pitch that I had to decline because I don’t review books for young children.

This brings me to tone – be polite. Introduce yourself – be brief. Tell me why I might enjoy the book, compare it to others I’ve reviewed. If you write a good, short, email, I’m likely to choose your book so long as I’ve the time, and if I don’t have time I may well recommend other bloggers if they do.

I choose books sent to me by people I already know – they tend to know my literary tastes. I used to receive books from a publicist who continually got it right – I read every book she sent, whether she’d notified me previously or it turned up unannounced. I will put a solicited book before an unsolicited book unless the unsolicited is one I’d been reading about or sounds particularly good. I don’t get to all that many unsolicited books simply due to time but, again, it does depend on who sends them.

I check samples in most cases. If there is no sample to be found I won’t accept the book unless I’ve read the author’s work before. I like to know what I’ll be dealing with. I will also prioritise authors who have social media accounts, publish across platforms (if the book is digital only) and have an informative website. In other words, if you’re promoting yourself, I will promote you. I can’t help an author who has done little to get the word out – people wouldn’t know where to go.

As to the way I schedule my reading, release dates get priority. If all the books have another month to go, for example, I will flick through them and pick what interests me at that time. I won’t generally put a book I’m already reading aside (unless it’s a tome) but I make note of release dates to keep on track. Physical copies get priority on occasion, too, due to the fact they take me away from screens.

It’s all down to the communication and the book itself. And I will put a review copy before an ‘owned’ book I want to read if time is short.

Any bloggers wish to weigh in with their own methods of choosing?



July 29, 2015, 1:13 pm

I too am put off by generic openers like ‘Hi’ or ‘blogger’ as it makes me think they haven’t really read my blog. And you definitely know they haven’t when you’re offered a book from a genre you don’t read. I don’t really read to set dates, I make this clear on my blog, I read to mood. So the major factor for me when choosing review copies is if they’re a genre or author I enjoy.

Literary Feline

July 29, 2015, 7:31 pm

I’m with you. I don’t care for pitches that aren’t more personalized in which the person asking me to review a book clearly hasn’t read my blog or at the very least my review request page. I always get a giggle when someone calls me Ms. Literary. I don’t knock them for it since my About Me section doesn’t include my first name–but I still find it funny. :-)

I like pitches to include the basic book information: title, author’s name and what it is about. A cover photo is nice. All of the things you mention you like in yours, I like too, really. If I’m between and yes and a no about a book, but mostly leaning toward yes, I often will look for a sample to see if I like the writing.

It feels like most of the pitches I get aren’t personalized or, even if they are, aren’t for books I am interested in reading or reviewing. The more personalized the pitch is, the more likely I am to seriously consider a review request. I feel bad that I don’t always accept even those–but I can’t read every book. I do give preference to authors or publicists I am familiar with either because we’ve communicated before (via Twitter or on my blog) or whose past books I have read and enjoyed. You’re more likely to get a yes out of me, that way.

Time limits are a big turn off for me, I admit. Like Jessica, I am a mood reader, and so hate being tied down to a date. And because sometimes I have to be a contrarian, I enjoy book tours now and then too. In those cases, I often accept pitches for book tours if it is a book I REALLY want to read and am glad for the chance to move it up in my TBR pile. As if I need an excuse to do so. I’ve actually cut way back on tours recently–I have only one scheduled for August and nothing else yet for the rest of the year. I’m kind of enjoying that freedom. :-)

All this said, most of my review copies come from NetGalley and Edelweiss. Some through pitches and some from my own browsing of the websites (from which I have a self-imposed ban on currently until I get caught up).

I also get review copies through publishers who send out the mass e-mails with lists of books by the season or month that have you request by checklist or what have you. Although I don’t do that as often as I used to.

Even with review books, I am pretty strict about only agreeing to review books that I want to read and think I will enjoy. There is the occasional book that just isn’t a good fit with me, but it’s rare. If I am going to accept a book for review for a tour or from a pitch, it has to be a book that makes me hop a little in my seat or let out a squeal of excitement at the idea of being able to read and review it. I have turned down books I really want to read as well, the main reason being time constraints. I can’t read everything no matter how much I want to.

Jenny @ Reading the End

July 30, 2015, 4:18 pm

Time is the main factor for me. I’ll usually accept pitches if it’s a book I’ve already heard about from somewhere else and felt some flicker of interest in. Honestly, that’s the only factor for me — I know that publicists are busy and blogs are both small potatoes and infinitely many in number, so I’m not furious if they’re not super familiar with my blog. It’s just about whether I’m interested in the book. Very rarely will a publicist’s email engender new interest in a book I hadn’t previously heard of. (Not never though!)


August 10, 2015, 12:47 pm

Good topic! There is nothing more annoying that an email that is just ‘Hi’. It also bothers me when I get a mass email I don’t remember signing up for, pinching my email off my site to add to an email list is legally dodgy.



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