This week in “Ask a Reviewer” I’m delighted to feature Douglas Wolk, freelance journalist and critic for the New York Times, Blender, the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Salon.com (among others). Douglas’ most recent book is the Eisner Award winning Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, published in 2007 by Da Capo Press.
What I need to consider a book for review:
1) A physical copy of the book. PDFs are only for last-minute emergencies, and ONLY if they’re requested. They are a hassle to read, and life is short. A bound galley is fine. An unbound set of pages is sometimes borderline acceptable in a pinch (and again if they’re requested), but a bound one is much better. It must be the ENTIRE book–it’s acceptable to leave out the index, if you must, but otherwise forget it.
2) The release date for the book. It must be when the book is actually coming out. If you can’t publish things when you say you’re going to publish them, give up on publishing and go do some other job. Also, that date should be at least three months in the future, and ideally more like four or five months. This allows the book to be pitched to magazines and newspapers that require a long lead time. If I get something really, really, REALLY cool in the mail the week it comes out, I might be able to manage a blog post, but it’s going to be awfully hard to place with any print publication.
3) The following information: the book’s ISBN number, price, page count, and the phone number and email address of the publicity contact. Ideally, that should all be on the galley, but if you want to stick in a piece of paper with that information that’s fine too.
Also, be aware that many outlets don’t allow their reviewers to discuss what they’re reviewing with anyone before it runs. As a general rule, if a publicist asks me if I’m going to be able to review their book somewhere, I don’t answer (or say no), even if I’m already writing about it for a major newspaper.
You can find out more information about Douglas and his work at http://www.lacunae.com.