Today I’m starting a new regular feature on the blog, “Ask a Reviewer.” In it I’ll be asking professional book reviewers & book review site editors what their biggest do’s and don’ts are when it comes to getting your book reviewed.

In this post Magdalena Ball of The Compulsive Reader (on Twitter at compulsivereade) gives advice on how to present your book so that it has the best chance at being reviewed.

Magdalena: “I’d say the biggest don’t, and I don’t know that all reviewers will agree with me, is to send the book without querying first. Not all books fit The Compulsive Reader and there aren’t always hard and fast rules about what does, and doesn’t get accepted for review, so sending a book could be a waste if we don’t have a reviewer able to take the book on. A good, well written query is the best way of judging a book’s suitability for review and enticing our team of 20 or so reviewers, so it’s critical to start with that, rather than send the book on spec. My email address is on the website, as are guidelines (always read the guidelines!), and email is the best and easiest way to query.

“That brings me to my second ‘don’t’, which is, don’t rush the query. Write a good one, and proofread it. I know that mistakes happen, but if your query is full of errors and incomprehensible (and I get an awful lot of those), then it’s probably a reasonable assumption that the book will be too. A good query contains a book synopsis of a paragraph or two, which gives a sense of what the book is about and above all, its style and target market. A couple of review blurbs (or puffs as they call them in the industry) are also very helpful. Just sending a link and no introduction or a review request with no synopsis or a full ebook or attachment, is asking an awful lot for a cold query. So do, please, take care over your query, and customize it just a little bit by using the editor’s name (most are available and current at websites), and maybe referencing the site and showing that you understand what the site does.

“One third ‘do’ is to follow up, courteously and professionally please. E-mail isn’t always perfect and queries go astray, or reviewers get sidetracked. I’m keeping track of 100 or so books in the pipeline right now, and tend not to nag my reviewers much, so if it has been a while since you’ve sent your book for review, don’t hesitate to check in to see how it’s coming along. If you can offer something like an interview or a piece of information (eg an award won or an interview/review that has been published), that’s even better. Don’t be too demanding though in the follow up, as all of our reviewers work amidst many other priorities, and sometimes have big stacks of books awaiting their turn. Our book reviews are detailed and pithy (a piece of good writing in themselves) and always involve at least one close, full reading, so can take time. That said, a courteous reminder is absolutely fine and not a bad idea if it has been over a month. A demanding reminder a day or so after you’ve posted the book is probably not a good idea!”

Not only does Magdalena run the show as Editor in Chief at The Compulsive Reader, but she is also the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup. She also hosts the Compulsive Reader podcast at Blog Talk Radio.

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