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5 tips for getting your book reviewed

“Don’t nag. Don’t tell us how to do our job. Instead, send us great writing and help us celebrate and promote Alaska’s great literature.”

— Shana Loshbaugh, Alaska book reviewer

By Shana Loshbaugh
You got your book published at last. Bravo! After all your hard work, you now wonder: Will anyone ever buy or read it?
Maybe getting some reviews of it published would help. You assume, naturally, that they would be glowingly positive.
Based on nearly two years of writing Alaskana book reviews for regional papers, here are my suggestions:

1. Consider possible publications carefully.
Many don’t do book reviews at all. Some do, but have policies against running certain types of books, such as children’s, poetry, self-published, racy material or reprints. On the other hand, unusual opportunities exist. Have your publisher or other advocate diplomatically approach your local newspaper to pitch a feature story about your writing or excerpts from your work. Also look at special-interest magazines. For example, I’ve placed Alaskana reviews in magazines about dogs and aviation. Alumni or fraternal organization publications often showcase member accomplishments. Be sure a publication would consider running a review before firing off a copy or press packet. Many newsrooms are littered with piles of books they will never get around to. The best thing is to send an e-mail to ask about their policy on reviews.

2. Consider the timing.
Does your book tie in with a special event? Are you doing a publicity tour? If so, you want your reviews to come out just before the occasion. Newspapers and magazines have long lead times, so plan far ahead and check with them about schedules. Two or three months is good. Try to get a book into the editor’s or reviewer’s hands as soon as possible. Let us know if you have a promotional date. I’ve had frustrating experiences such as receiving a book nearly a year after its release or being asked if I can have a review in print within a week if the publisher express-mails a copy because the author is coming to town on short notice.

3. Be patient.
It takes time to read a book, to write up a review and to get it out to the public. A short book and a breezy read are easiest to turn around on short notice. Publication may be the event of the century to you, but dozens of other writers feel the same way. You better make a darn good case if you want your work bumped to the head of the line. I usually have about two month’s of titles backed up on my desk.

4. Be clear and informative.
Is this an advance copy, with changes likely in the final version? If so, why would I want to read a book I can’t quote? Are you planning to send me a final copy, too? Help me out with information about the author and book. Is there a local tie-in? Did the writer or book win any awards? Do you want clips of published reviews? Do you have any preferences on how we handle the book? A cover letter is a good idea, and be sure to include a way to contact someone if we need more info.

5. Be professional.
Act like a sane grownup. If you aren’t sure about something, ask. Don’t come unglued if a review is critical. You asked for it, and if you are a real writer, you learn from other people’s comments. The editor decides what will run and when, not you and not even me. Don’t expect us to change policies or to market your book for you. Don’t nag. Don’t tell us how to do our job. Instead, send us great writing and help us celebrate and promote Alaska’s great literature.

Helpful but not essential:

- Use e-mail for follow-up communications, because it’s fast and easy.
- Have a Web site we can check for info and images. Usually publishers handle this.(Editor’s note: And when they don’t, AlaskaWriters.com Web packages can fill the gap.)
- Avoid sending redundant copies. (I like having extras to give away, but I doubt that is what the publisher planned.)
- If you like a review or it proves helpful, let us know. Reviewers don’t get paid much, and such notes sure make my day.
Here are a few samples of actual correspondence (complete with typos) I’ve had from authors & publishers.

How NOT to get reviewed:
“…It was professionally discourteous of you not to acknowedge receipt of the book after you got it; perhaps, heaven forbid, even thank me for sending it. It should be obvious just from reading the Forward and perusing the table of contents, which is the first thing most professional reviewers do, that timeliness "is an issue;" …
… You just don't get it, do you? Why in the world would I send you “any future books.”
-- a self-published author who requested that I return the unread book, then subsequently sent a letter of complaint critiquing another reviewer who did cover his book

How to make a reviewer happy:
“I noticed your review of [author]'s [TITLE] on the Kenai Peninsula Online site and wanted to extend to you my personal thanks. I'm sure Mr. ** will also want to thank you when he reads the review. You are an excellent reader who is also objective. This is rare.”
-- the managing editor at a small press

“I only recently returned from out of state and read your review on my book [TITLE] from the [date], 2004 Heartland. Thank you for the honest and deliberate review. It was well written, describing acurately the contents and character of the book. I especially appreciate your few criticisms, as previous reviews from other newspapers seemed somewhat patronizing. A second book of mine on [similar topic] is curently being finalized before submission to a publisher, and I will apply your inciteful comments on [TITLE] during the editing process.”
-- the author of a small-press book

About Shana Loshbaugh
Shana Loshbaugh is a baby boomer who grew up all over the Lower 48 before running away with an old friend, who married her and took her to Alaska in 1981. She found both the man and the state well worth keeping. Gradually moving off the mommy track and pursuing her dual passions for animals and books, she became addicted to writing. In the late 1980s she broke into print via the electric cooperative’s Ruralite, several years later became a stringer for the Homer News and eventually worked almost six years as a daily news reporter at the Peninsula Clarion out of Kenai. In 2002, her family relocated to Fairbanks, and she resolved to freelance. Determined to read more and seeking “quiet” work after major surgery, she started a book review service specializing in new Alaska titles. These reviews have been published in seven newspapers and two magazines so far. Her main topics of current focus for her own writing are natural history and Alaska history, and she has more unfinished book projects of her own floating around in her den than she cares to admit.

To request a book review
Shana Loshbaugh may be contacted at loshbaugh@alaska.net. Shana requests that interested authors or publishers query first, before sending a book for review. Provide a sentance or two describing the book and telling if, when and where a publicity tour is planned.

 

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