Save my email!

I usually leave the deep thoughts and intelligent essays to other bloggers who are far better at it than I am. However, today I guess I will break that rule because, honestly, I’m getting a bit miffed so I’m going to share my rantiness to the world.

My website generally gets about 1,000 hits a day, which I don’t think is too impressive, but it’s a learning experience and things change over time. A lot of those 1,000 hits are probably authors, publishers, agents and other people who are curious about the genre. Each day I get roughly 10-20 letters from authors, publishers, PR gurus and whoever else telling me about (insert book here) and asking me to please read and review it.

I love it. I really do. That’s a huge reason I decided to start my website. I love being part of such a passionate, evolving and fast moving genre. It’s a huge thrill every time I check my email. I fondly look back on those first few days where I got excited if my page got 30 hits. Now I get about 1,000. Things have grown bigger and along with growing bigger, my email has become a pretty popular place.

The email I receive is all generally the same: So and so wants to know if I will read and review (insert book here). However, the delivery of this message varies widely. While most people are professional, and introduce me to themselves and then tell me about what they want me to read, and close the letter nicely, I’ve noticed an odd trend with people sending me incredibly weird letters. At first I brushed this off (I still usually do. It takes all kinds.), but I’m getting these letters more and more often and it’s making me write this.

I’m not sure people understand that my email is virtually my way to have a private meeting with the publisher, author, or agent. You aren’t just emailing me with a review request; you are emailing me to establish yourself as a promising professional in a very sprawling and quickly growing field. While some people may think its just email, for me it is your first impression. It is your chance to impress me with your professionalism and passion. While the venue might be different, I liken it to a business lunch.

The email I get tells me a lot. I can tell if the author or publisher is driven, determined and passionate. I can usually guess how promising the book is, and more. If the passion of those who contact me inflames me they generally get a “yes, I’d love to read and review (insert book here)” right away. To be honest with you, that is what most of my email is like.

But occasionally (which is becoming more frequent for some reason) something slips in that just rubs me the wrong way. When I was going through cancer treatment I got an email from an author about “national sex with an ugly person day.” I’m sure that was supposed to be hilarious, but it was unprofessional, crass and completely turned me off. A few weeks ago, I got a letter from someone offering to write my review of their book for me. Last year, someone offered me an iPod if I read their book. As I write this, my inbox is being spammed by the PR department of a publisher I won’t name.

I realize it takes all kinds, and with my email being my filter between the professionals and the not-so-professionals, I can (and do) expect to get a wide variety of email. I usually just laugh it off, but it has started happen more and more often and it’s making me wonder if people really don’t realize that writing an email is their chance at a first impression for me and other reviewers. In the case of publishers spamming me, it makes me wonder if they need to reassess how their PR department is running. There are more effective and impressive ways to contact critics.

I’m not doing these reviews for money. In fact, my website takes as much time to run as a full time job and I’ve never been paid a cent for any of it. I prefer it that way. This is my hobby and my passion and I don’t do it for pay or notoriety. I do it because I truly love this genre and I want to share my love with everyone else. I want the world to love SFF as much as I do.

Spending so much time trying to make Bookworm Blues better than it was yesterday means that even though I’m not getting paid, I consider it my business and my email is my office. The thing is, book review blogs really do make an impact. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought and read purely because another blogger I respect has recommended it. I also add Amazon links to all of my book reviews (unless I forget) and books I review actually do sell, so I know my reviews make an impact in that respect. The stats are there. Don’t think of reviewers as people who have too much time on their hands. Think of us as business partners of sorts. Like any partner, we need to be approached and used effectively.

I’m not writing this long, gripey diatribe to dissuade people from contacting me. I’m writing to remind you that my website, and the sites that other reviewers out there spend so much time and effort running, aren’t jokes. Our email isn’t a place to fill with crude jokes, or spam over and over again with newsletters. That isn’t impressive and it doesn’t incline me toward reading those books. Our reviews do matter and they do make an impact. We do this because we love it. While I will always expect to get letters that offer me gift cards, or random publishers spamming my inbox, I hope this long winded gripe fest makes people stop and realize that we critics aren’t a dumping ground for weirdness or unprofessional behavior. We might not get paid, but we are business men and women all the same, and your email to us is your first and most important impression.

Make it count.

10 Responses

  • In the time it took me to write this, I got 27 newsletters from the publisher I mention above.

  • I’m so glad you took the time to write this post, although it is depressing to hear your story. Before I began writing full time, I made my living as a publicist and marketing consultant – mostly for small publishers and other authors. To make a long story short, a publishing friend and I found such an alarming lack of professional conduct in the business we literally made the conference and trade show rounds for several years teaching a workshop on business etiquette for authors – for what little good it did. I don’t get it. I really don’t. And hugs to you for holding the bar high!!

  • E-mails are easier to deal with than the books showing up. I’ve tried to remove myself from the mailing list of a publisher or two on MULTIPLE occasions with no luck by imploring them to please stop sending me all of your books, there’s no possible way I can read even one quarter of what you send me. I’m still getting books from that publisher after another pleading e-mail sent their way.

    • I generally think most publishers need to reassess their PR. It costs a lot for them to send books, a lot of which go unread. I have a publisher like that, too.

  • Judith Smith

    Perhaps the publishing industry is in peril because publishers don’t bother to run their businesses well. Sloppy PR departments, slow roll out times, mismarketed books and misleading covers — isn’t this what publishers are getting paid to do? Perhaps the success of self-publishing can be attributed to authors voting with their wallet.

    • That’s an excellent point. I think you are onto something. It will be interesting to see how publishing keeps changing with self-publishing being an ever more viable option.

  • Do you prefer html emails with illustration graphics and author logos (and Google warnings that you may not wish to view the html), or plain-text but professional emails?

    Thanks! And may you have a fantastic weekend.

    • I prefer my email overflowing with animated gifs. The more puppies and kittens you stick in there, the better.

  • Thanks for writing this. You are so right! I received this appalling letter last night addressing me as if I were some longtime friend of theirs and all about their cancer experience and therapy and if I could just read and review and if not at least like it on Amazon. I have asked to be removed from their contact list several times to no avail. Thankfully all of the contact I’ve had with publishers from “cold contacts” on their part have been mostly pleasant.

    I loved that Roberta tried doing a workshop for those authors and publicists. I’ll have to consider a post on my site for etiquette on requesting reviews.

  • Arg, you’re so right! Though my biggest pet peeve at the moment — and it seems mostly self-pubbed authors or really small presses do this — is the mailing lists I get subscribed too. It’s a camouflaged version of a mass mailing and it just rubs me the wrong way. If you want to talk to me, sure, but at least do me the favour of at least sending me your form letter personally and preferably addressed to ME not Dear Fantastical Librarian. Don’t just upload a list emails to Mail Chimp, a list which you’ve probably haven’t even collated yourself as they’re invariably called bookreviewers when I unsubscribe. GAH! Ahum, sorry, see it really bothers me 😉

    Great post, Sarah, and thanks for the opportunity to get that off my chest!

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