How to approach a writer for a review or testimonial of your book

I often receive email pitches from publicists, asking for a testimonial—a “blurb”—or offering to send me a book to review or mention on this blog. (My little blog!)

Recently, there were two on the same day. One was a model of a successful pitch, and the other an example of what not to do.

I’ll begin with the NOT:

The letter begins: I’m are writing to you about …

Say no more!

The second publicist knew my work and had chosen to approach me for a reason. She included a short description of the book, several glowing blurb quotes, plus a Q&A with the author. It was enough to get me interested.

I only wish publicists would also include an attachment of the opening pages of the novel. That would be all I need to judge if a book might be one I’d like.

That said, I rarely accept. As for all writers, I have a frightening pile of books I am supposed to be reading. Plus, I’m slow: the last WIP I agreed to read for a very good friend took me over a month, even reading it every day.

It takes quite a bit of time to read a novel, so an indication of a book’s length is important, as well as the deadline, should a quote be needed before publication.

What to include

In summary, a pitch for a quote or review should include:

  • why the book might be of interest to me
  • the opening pages
  • the cover
  • the deadline (if applicable)
  • book length

Nice extras would be:

  • publication details (i.e. promotion plan, print run)
  • advance review quotes, if there are any
  • a Q&A with the author


Later, as a courtesy, an autographed copy of the published book should be sent with thanks to those who have taken the time to read and craft a testimonial or review. An appreciative note from the author is always nice. It’s surprising how rarely this is done. I understand! It’s expensive, for one thing, but most of all, it’s time-consuming.

Shadow Queen high res front

Come to think of it, I’ve yet to finish sending out my own “thank you” copies of The Shadow Queen. (Reminder to self: do it today.)





Josephine B. in Serbia & other miscellanea

I’m busy diving into the new year (as are you all, no doubt). So quick notes.

I just sent out a special newsletter offering a chance to win one (or more than one!) of these books. It’s not too late to enter: here.

co-op subscriber drive

I have two blog mentions you might enjoy. One: what I have to say on Advice to Writers blog. (“Persevere!”)

And another, a charming article by novelist Randy Susan Myers for Beyond the Margins (a great blog): “Writers Wearing Costumes, Baking Cookies & Other Mad Men Tricks.” I bet you can guess which author will be the one wearing a costume.

And last, I love this photo a Twitter friend sent of her Trilogy in the Serbian edition.

Serbian editions

I especially love how well-thumbed the books look: clearly read and reread.

Back to work! I’m delightfully lost in the Land of Research. (See this blog post on my discoveries.)

Broad-casting news—literally

As some of you may already know, I sent out a newsletter on Monday. It’s always a Big Deal, and always A Thrill.

Here it is if you haven’t seen it: my September 2012 newsletter.

When people sign up for the newsletter—(here: do it!)—I have no idea what part of the world they are from. Now, because the newsletter mailing service I use provides stats, I know I have readers everywhere:

The newsletter was read by many readers in Canada, US, UK, Mexico and France—of course—but also by readers in Australia, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand, Thailand, Malta, Norway, Ireland, Israel, India, New Guinea and Russia!

It’s wonderful—wonderful!—to see.

I also get to see which of the links in the newsletter were the most popular. On the first day, it was—surprisingly!—my blog post on 17th-century breast pumps. Perhaps it was the warning that the reader would be grossed out. How can one resist?

The second favourite was a blog post on the revision process with the ominous title “The Slough of Despond (the swampy middle)“—which indicates to me that there are a lot of writers on my mailing list. Nobody but a writer would really resonate with the words: Slough of Despond.

Not one person has responded so far to the announcement of the (likely) (so far) title of The Next Novel:


What do YOU think?

On the thrill of research

On the thrill of research

Digging in at the Archive” is a wonderful Grub Street blog post by Boston writer Cam Terwilliger. On finding in archives writing by the character he’d been researching and writing about:

“Instantly, the period I’d struggled to understand became so much more immediate. The people I was writing about no longer seemed like figments of my imagination. They felt real.”

Scroll down the blog for Terwilliger’s research tips, which I found excellent. In a nutshell:

1) When you begin your research, be open.

2) When you begin to write, be selective: that is, don’t include everything.

Terwilliger ends his post with a worthy quote from the ever-quotable Hemingway:

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows.  And the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”

Some quote the passage above with the line: “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”

{On the image above: I felt that same thrill of “actuality” when I happened upon these Josephine and Napoleon signatures on a wedding contract in a library in Berkeley, California. Not only was it concrete evidence of their existence, but it told me so much about them: the energy and impatience of Napoleon, Josephine’s graceful acceptance.}