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An Open Letter to (Bad) Publicists and (Uninformed) Authors

Dear (Bad) Publicists and (Uninformed) Authors,

I started reviewing books two years ago with the goal of sharing my love of reading with other like-minded people, discovering new books to read and building friendships with fellow book bloggers and authors.

When I began blogging, I had no idea that  publicists and authors sent email pitches and advance review copies to bloggers. I was shocked and naturally excited and appreciative when I received my first email asking me if I would like to read and review a book early to help build buzz before its release date.

Now, two years of book blogging later, I get a healthy amount of email pitches a week and read and review books early  regularly. But lately, something has been bothering me about some of the review pitches I’ve been receiving and I just have to share it with you in hopes that you’ll take the advice of a book blogger.

Untargeted email pitches.

We all know what they are. Those annoying emails that when you open them you shake your head and wonder what the heck the person on the other end of the email was thinking when they hit send. Because that email was clearly not targeted at you, your blog, or your interests.

Before I continue, I want to flat out say that I may be extra sensitive to this issue because I too work in public relations. More than anyone, I understand the work that goes into building a list of blogs to reach out to and drafting pitches to send to them. I do this every day for a living at my full time job and I also do it on a freelance basis for authors. 

Allow me to outline a few of the more annoying traits of an untargeted email pitch:

-The pitches that don’t address the blogger specifically by name (i.e. Dear Book Blogger). If you don’t have the time to find my name on my blog, I probably don’t have the time to review the book you’re pitching. Common courtesy here, people.

-Pitches that are sent to multiple book bloggers at one time (or worse yet, the dreaded BCC email pitch). I promise, you will get better results if you personally send an email to each blogger one at a time. Even when I get a pitch for a book I’m not interested in, if the publicist has taken the time to personally email me, I make a point to respond and thank them for their interest in my blog.

-Pitches from self-published authors who clearly haven’t looked at my review policy. I explicitly state that I do not read and review self-published books at this time. Please don’t waste my time (or yours) sending me an email.

-Pitches for books that I most likely would not read or review based on the kinds of books I normally read. If you skim through even one or two pages of my blog, it’s easy to see the types of books I enjoy. If you’re really doing your homework, you may even take a look at my recent four or five star reviews or check out my Goodreads page to further get to know me and my reading preferences. All of this information will only help you develop a stronger pitch.

-Pitches that don’t include any kind of call to action. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve been sent that summarize a book, share its release date…and that’s it. They don’t ask me to review the book, host a giveaway or offer up the author for an interview or guest blog. If you don’t tell me what you’re looking for, I can’t help you. Please get straight to the point.

Of course, for every bad publicist out there, there are a dozen good ones. And I absolutely adore the smart, kind and diligent publicists I’ve worked with (and believe me, I have worked with many delightful PR people over the past few years and I’m so grateful for the relationships we’ve developed). Now that I’ve shared some traits of negative review pitches, let me share some positive ones in hopes that you can take something useful away from this letter.

-Pitches that are short, to the point and include links to the book’s Goodreads page and an author’s website and/or social media accounts.

-Publicists who have clearly researched my blog, understand my audience and read my review policy. Bonus points if they reference another review I’ve done by that same author or a similar author.

-Pitches where the publicist tells me why they personally liked the book and shares a few of their thoughts about it. We’re all human…it’s nice to see a little personality!

-Email pitches that don’t include annoying attachments. No one wants a clogged inbox of  author headshots and press kits they haven’t requested.

Publicists, as a book blogger and fellow PR professional, I appreciate the work you do. You ensure that the labors of love of our favorite authors get into the right hands to create the most buzz and opportunity for a book to do well. I absolutely enjoy reading and reviewing books. This letter is in no way to discourage you from reaching out to me, but rather, ensuring that if you do reach out to me (or any other book blogger) that your pitch is targeted and well-received.

Sincerely,

Jessica
Book Blogger and PR professional

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15 thoughts on “An Open Letter to (Bad) Publicists and (Uninformed) Authors”

  1. Well written post!

    It annoys me when I get a pitch for a book that has NOTHING to do with my blog! And I get those quite often!

  2. Jessica,

    Thank you SO MUCH!

    While I have gotten relatively few “blanket” pitches and emails that are no more than press releases, I get more than my fair share of pitches who have not read my review policy. I am especially sensitive to receiving those that pitch me a book that is quite obviously not in my typical niche. (I review non-fiction…yet I get pitches that are mostly paranormal, chick-lit and horror). It bugs me to no end when they don’t read the review policy I took the time and effort to write.

    In any case, reading this made me feel a little better. 😉

  3. I completely agree with you! The surest way to get an email sent straight to the trash can is the generic blogger email sent by someone who didn’t even bother to glance at my review policy or even a single post on my site. However for every 2 or 3 bad emails I get, I’ll get an amazing email from an author or publicist.

    I also get random jewelry pitches or items completely unrelated to my blog, which is VERY OBVIOUSLY a BOOK BLOG. Weird. If someone is going to spend the time to send an email, why would you send it to someone who obviously doesn’t fit your target market? Don’t get it!

  4. I’ve seen all of these and would agree that untargetted pitches are straight for the bit-bucket. However I don’t get that many as a proportion of overall requests. I suspect there are some authors and publicists sending out messages by bot, in the hope that some of them will hit the mark. So if you own a book blog you really need to put in a spam filter, or a captcha question along the lines of “what is my name?” if you want to cut down on the time wasted dealing with this junk.

  5. Wonderful post and very true! My favorite emails are the ones for Christian Children books. Yeah…my blog’s name is Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks. Really people?! o-O There’s a reason for a review policy after all. As much as we might like to, we just don’t have time to read every book pitched to us. And a professional and personalized email will do wonders in having their book actually come to my attention. 🙂

  6. My biggest pet peeve is poorly formatted emails with SPELLING ERRORS! I mean… Why should I read a book from someone who can’t even edit their emails? I do agree that it makes all the difference if the email is personalized.

    Also authors, make sure your synopsis short, sweet, and well written. I don’t want a summary of the entire book, just enough to grab my attention!

    Hope this helps! Good luck to all the authors out there 🙂

  7. Great post! And maybe I could add: Please don’t pitch to book bloggers on Twitter. Because, honestly, if someone’s just started following us via Twitter and five minutes later they’re pitching to us via a tweet, it kind of makes us feel used. Especially when a blogger’s website is clearly available on their Twitter profile. And while I normally feel sorry for the person (that’s the perfect word up there in the title: “uninformed”), it’s sadly not enough to make me review their book.

    I’m a new follower by the way :-). Nice to blog-meet you!
    -m

  8. @m. christine weber,

    I just had the twitter pitch (if you can call it that) for the first time the other day. An author followed me, then immediately spammed me with their Bio and information about their book. Since I kind of have a “zero tolerance” policy on spammers (as I think any normal person does), I blocked and reported them.

    Frankly, as annoyed as I get for getting pitches that are so far off-topic or completely misguided, that twitter pitch is by far the worst!

  9. Love this post… it could be very helpful to people, hopefully. It’s so annoying to get those emails that are so unrelated to your blog or interests, or where it’s clear that you’re being emailed along with a zillion other bloggers. It just seems like a time waste for everyone.

  10. Great post, Jess. I agree with a lot of what you say, both on the positive and the negative side. Something that bothers me most is when a publicist contact gets it wrong. I had one recently that addressed me as Dear Kelly Jensen (male)…. Aside from being wrong about my gender, which is fairly obvious upon looking at my Google profile, easily accessible via the blog, it didn’t make sense why that’s a necessity, period. Also, I feel a little weirded out when I get addressed by my full name. I like the “Dear Kelly” approach, as it’s less formal and cold. I do get a kick out of “Dear STACKED,” but that’s my own sick sense of humor.

    On the good side of things, I love when a book’s pitched with references to what I’ve liked. I’ve had a few who will email and say “I know you don’t normally read x-type of book, but I see you’ve liked x, y, and z, and I think you’d like this.” ACES. It probably took them three minutes of research, but it meant a lot and I not only accept the pitch, but I usually push those personal responses up on my to-read list.

    I am lucky because a few of my contacts I talk with regularly, so they pitch to me very well. But the bad pitches do leave a sour taste in my mouth (how many memoirs about dead dogs do I need to be pitched? I’ve never read one! I state quite clearly in the review policy EXACTLY what we like and don’t like).

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  12. Ooh, the emails with no call to action are the worst. Having to write back and say, “Um, do you want to send this to me, or what?” is super awkward. Lots of great tips here, and I agree with your points! It’s frustrating when you receive a pitch from someone who obviously has taken no interest whatsoever in your blog, interests or review style. And as I receive countless story pitches at the paper all day, it can get old seeing them in my personal email, too.

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Meet Jessica

I live by the saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and help others do the same to reach their biggest, brightest goals. Read my story here.

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