Several months ago, I got an email from an editor at Random House. She said she was a big fan of the Josephine B. Trilogy, and she wondered if I might have a look at a debut historical novel by one of her authors, Juliet Grey.

We arranged for her to email me a pdf of the book, which I was able to read on my iPad (oh brave new world!)—thereby side-stepping a long wait and expensive couriers.  

I liked the book very much and sent in a quote. Shortly after, I got a personal thank you from the author. Yesterday I received Becoming Marie Antoinette by courier, with a personal thank you from the editor and a note that said, “With the compliments of the author.” 

I’m both pleased and proud.

Rarely is such an interaction so pleasing. Most of the time I’m approached with what amounts to a promo-package, with no indication that the sender knows me or my work. And much of the time I do not receive a copy of the published book, much less a thank you from the editor or the author. 

Here’s what I suggest as a guideline:

1) First, recognize that you are asking someone to give up at least one day of work. 

2) Recognize that there should be something in it for the author you are approaching: good will counts for a lot—authors who have been helped by others feel good about helping others in turn—, but so might the possibility of having the author’s name attached to a book that will get a big print run and be reviewed. So if these are possibilities, indicate it in some way. 

3) Be familiar with the author’s work—a fan, ideally—and note that there is a “match” with your own novel, that you share similar readerships.

4) Include a PDF of the cover and first chapter. This is rarely done, but I think it would help a great deal. I only need to see the first few pages of a novel to know if I’m likely going to enjoy it. The cover design would give me a sense of the type of reader the book will be marketed to. 

5) Explain that you understand that the author has little time. (This is always the case.) Hopefully you can give a generous deadline, but if not, perhaps mention that you’d welcome a quote at any time. Even so, allow an author a graceful decline. 

6) Give some thought to how the author might best be approached: through your editor, your agent, or yourself. 

7) Mention how you know the author. 

7) Thank the author on receiving the blurb. 

8) Send the author the published book along with a note of thanks. (It’s amazing how rarely this gets done.) 

I am ashamed to say that I rarely did these things when I was first published. I was bewildered by the world of publishing at the time. A guideline like this might have helped. 

(I offer this post with apologies to the worthy authors and works I’ve declined. A lot does depend on where I’m at in the writing cycle.)

What would you add to this list? What have your experiences been?