Email… and why it matters.

Dear authors & others who contact me (and other reviewers) for reviews:


Please be aware that, though we are not genre professionals (most of us running these websites out of love, passion, and an insane hobby that consumes much of our time), your email, and how you word it, matters.

No, I’m not a genre professional, and I doubt many of the other people who run websites like mine would consider themselves a genre professional either. We all have day jobs that don’t focus on books. We have families, and other things we do. This is fun, and an outlet for our explosions of nerdiness.

I think a lot of people who contact me think that because I’m not a publisher, they don’t have to address me in an even moderately professional manner. I have a feeling the same could be said for many other genre bloggers out there. We all get weird email. It’s part of the game. I find humor in it, but it also concerns me. If you don’t contact me in an even semi-professional way, then imagine what I expect your book to read like.

No, I’m not a publisher, but your email is your chance to sell your book to me. It is your chance to hook me. If you can’t write a proper email, I lose absolute faith in your ability to write a book. An email says a lot to me about you, dear author. I have a much bigger chance of reading your book if you write me a halfway decent query letter.

This is not a query letter:

Have you ever wondered what happens after women get raped? They get magic! Read my book and find out how cool it is!

(Author’s name)*

I’m not tooting my own horn. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, Bookworm Blues is a small website that creates even smaller waves. I’m not a PR guru, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that if I am not contacted in a way that makes me want to take a chance on your book, publishers probably won’t want to, either.

Harsh truth, but a truth.

Here are some small bits of advice from my nearly four years of genre reviewing experience:


  • When you contact a website, please be aware of the owner’s name. For example, my name is SARAH (Spelled: S-A-R-A-H), not Sharon, Book, Blue, Reader, Georgina, Paul, or Jane. Yes, I have been addressed as all of those things before, and more. If you don’t call me by my name, I automatically assume you don’t know anything about my website, and I nearly always ignore the email.
  • Please be aware of the submission guidelines before you submit a query. For example, I don’t review paranormal romance, so please stop sending me queries about your mermaid romance erotica novel. I won’t read it, and the fact that I’m getting the email, again, says that you don’t know anything about my website.I review speculative fiction. Thus, I am not interested in reading your historical study about the very important battle that happened in China in the 1200’s. I’m sure it is fascinating, but it isn’t fit for this website, and you should know that before you send the email to me.
  • A query letter doesn’t necessarily have to follow any specific formula, but generally, I enjoy knowing a bit about the author, getting a blurb, knowing who your publisher is, and your experience. I want to know who you are. I like feeling like there is a human I can relate to on the other end of this internet connection. I don’t care how you give that information to me, but as long as you give it, I am thankful.

This is not a query letter:

Reader Bookworm,

Here is my book.

(file attached)**

  • Give reviewers time to get to your book. I aim for a review within two weeks, but keep in mind, I get between 10-20 books a week, so I often don’t hit that mark. Don’t yell at me, or other reviewers, for not getting to your book as soon as you feel they should. I, as well as many other reviewers, work a full time job (40 hours a week), have families, kids, and other things that demand our time. We do what we can, when we can. Yelling at me generally gets me to delete your file/throw away your book very fast.
  • I do not ever EVER accept payment. Do not write me offering to write my review of your book for me. Do not tell me that you will pay me to read your book. Do not offer to buy me an iPod. Offering me payment or iPods tells me more (negative) about your book than anything else ever could.
  • Just because I am a reviewer does not mean I am willing to edit your book or take care of your PR for free. Do not ever ask a reviewer to give you professional services (other than reviewing) for free.


There are probably other points I could make, and while I’m writing this I fully realize that people will still send me letters like this. I’m hoping that someone will see this and realize that contacting reviewers is part of your professional networking. We are unpaid people who work in the genre out of love and devotion to this insane, time-consuming hobby of ours. Reviews have potential to cause waves, to generate public attention, to get people to buy what you write.

Treat me professionally and I will treat you professionally, and give you professional consideration. Professional communication generally gives me a very positive outlook for an author’s potential career, and that’s without me even reading your book yet.

This post is a little harsh, and I realize that. I’m not averse to talking to people and discussing issues. I have no issues with informal or shucking and jiving. However, if you contact a reviewer for a review, please keep in mind that we are here out of love and passion. We might not be professionals, but we can cause a stir in your writing life. We observe and have advice. We notice things, and have been in the genre long enough to see what works and what doesn’t. Your query, and how you word it matters. The email you send matters. It is your first impression. Consider your email to me an interview. You wouldn’t walk up to a potential employer and say, “Hey dude. Sup?” while wearing pajamas and burping, so don’t do that with genre reviewers.

Consider this. Your book is your baby. You spent endless nights worrying about it, dreaming about it, eating, sleeping, drinking it. You’ve cried over it. You’ve deleted and rewritten it (how many times?), you’ve poured months… years of your life into it. You deserve to send it on with pride, in all the glory you possibly can. You deserve to be noticed, and so does the creation you spend so much time on. Your book should be looked at with pride by you and me. Your email, and the way you present yourself in it, is the first step to getting exactly where you want to be with that baby you worked so damn hard to create.

That’s all I’m saying.





Not Worm, Book, Blue, or anything else. Just Sarah.


*Yes, this was an actual email. Word for word. No joke.

** This was a full email. Absolutely every single word. 

Both of these examples were received within the last 48 hours.

17 Responses

  • Two weeks? You aim for a review within TWO weeks? I have my schedule planned out almost three months in advance, so I usually give them a time-slot in three months with no guarantees. Other than that, spot on Sarah!

  • Travis

    Just wanted to thank-you for making me snork (see urban dictionary) coffee out my nose at “while wearing pajamas and burping”. Great article!

  • I’ve been addressed as Brian before. (I guess there’s a “ria” in it, though; maybe it was a truly terrible spellcheck error?)

    Not sure where that came from. One person tried to pitch to me by saying they’ve read my reviews since I was “Tea and Tomes,” which sounds impressive and plausible, until you realise that all it really means is that they read my “About” page that mentions what name my blog used to be under. (But hey, at least they read something from my blog, which is better than some bother to do.) I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been pitched things that aren’t even close to the genres I review, or how many times people have emailed me review requests during times I state I’m not taking requests. I used to reply to these with a polite decline and apology, complete with explanation. Now I don’t even bother. It may sound mean, but if they can’t be bothered to take a glance at my guidelines, then I can’t be bothered to write an individual reply.

    I think the crowning moment of fail was when I was pitched a book by someone who claimed his work was compared to numerous other great authors, with some of those names spelled incorrectly. I declined the request. Two weeks later I got the same email, same bad spelling. Sorry, but when you claim your book has been compared to the work of “Margeret Attwood,” I don’t really give it much attention. Especially when you seem to have forgotten that I already said no.

    I too am blown away by your 2-week turnaround. If I accept a book, I usually give a few months turnaround, and like Mieneke I give no guarantees but I will give it my best shot. That’s about all I can promise, and no amount of emailing me to ask, “So, have you reviewed my book yet? When are you going to post about it?” will change that.

    • I aim for a two week turn around, but I miss just about all the time. I have stopped giving deadlines now, unless someone requires one.

  • This is a great post, Sarah.
    You know, in the beginning I used to answer all the review requests I received, even if I had to refuse the books passed my way I considered it only normally to answer such a query. Until I noticed that I put more work in my answer than the query demanded. I still answer some, but not all, because like you pointed out there are some queries that seem more like an insult or a demand rather than an actual query. I might not be a professional and I am not considering myself one but I do try to approach reviewing from a professional side.
    Two weeks? You do wonders. Lately, with a crazy working schedule and my young son I barely manage to keep my reviewing floating. 🙂

    • Ha. How’s this for bad manners? I usually don’t answer about 90% of the email I get. I’d never leave the house if I answered it all.

  • Whoa, that first email example is horrible on so many levels, please tell me it wasn’t a male author???

    Also, props, you get 10-20 books a week and get through them in two weeks?? Do you actually read them all or cull the ones that don’t look interesting? Or are you just a robot or a genetically engineered human that doesn’t need sleep? 😉

    • The author signed their name with an animal’s name… for example, “Duck” (but it wasn’t duck). I have no idea what their gender was.

  • I think you summed it up very well. You also hit all the points that make me refuse a novel. However, I don’t make the guaranteed timeline. I get to it when I can and I do it as fast as I can.

    • I don’t make a guarantee on the turnaround, either. Unless the author really needs it done by a specific date, and I think I can squeeze it in, I’ve pretty much stopped giving dates.

  • The “I obviously didn’t even look at your blog” emails are bad, but I have to admit that it’s the ones that read your criteria but are contacting you even though their book is obviously not a good fit are the worst. i.e. “I know your review policy says you don’t read graphic sexual scenes or religious preaching, but…” I want to ask why they wasted my time and their time on that email.

  • Great post!

    Writers need to treat bloggers as the gods and goddesses that they are. Few give so much for so little and if you are not respecting their time you deserve to fade into obscurity as you certainly will.

    • Aww, Michael, I really appreciate that comment. I don’t think a lot of people realize how much time running a website like this takes. Plus my SF Signal column. I easily have a full time job on my hands here… AND my other full time jobs being a mom and you know, working. I love doing it, which is why I do it… but it takes a lot of time and effort, all worthwhile, but I don’t think many people realize just how much time and effort Bookworm Blues (and other sites) takes.

  • Preach it, sista!

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