First of all, make it clear in the subject line of your email what it is about. I’ve received review request emails with the subject ‘Hello!’ which doesn’t reflect well on the author. Something along the lines of ‘Review request’ followed by the title of the novel would be best.
Second of all, personalise your email. I’m not looking for everyone to have researched my actual name (Amanda) – using my blog name (Magemanda) is just as acceptable. I am less convinced by salutations that state ‘Dear Blogger’ or ‘Dear Book Reviewer’ – that is on a level with using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ on a letter. It’s professional enough, but it doesn’t show a lot of personality or invite me to connect with you. Just as a suggestion – avoid anything like: “Dear Flr to Clg Bks” (yes, I received this) – if you can’t be bothered with vowels, I can’t be bothered with your book. Harsh, maybe, but fair, I believe.
Although flattery will get you everywhere in some cases, I actually find it very artificial when someone sends me an email that extols the virtues of my blog and then has a ‘by the way, review my book’ section on the very bottom. Sure, it’s lovely hearing that your blog is something that people enjoy BUT I don’t like flattery that seems circumstantial i.e. you’re only saying it because you think it might get your novel looked at.
This might sound obvious, but please spell check and grammar check your email. If I think that your poor spelling etc in your email is indicative of what I might expect from your self-published work, I’m not going to accept it, I’m afraid, no matter how good the story might be. I accept that there are more errors and hiccups in self-published work than edited books professionally produced, but I like to believe they will be limited.
A few details about the novel you’re offering would be appreciated. I received one email that simply said: ‘Will you review my book?’ The quick answer to that is ‘no’, because I know nothing to make my judgement on. At the least provide a little background – what genre it is, a few plot points etc. I actually like receiving a novel blurb – for me, if you’ve produced one of these, it shows you’re taking the endeavour seriously. Sometimes I’ve been sent the book covers as well, and I also like these, although it isn’t essential.
Please pay attention to the genres accepted by the book reviewer you’re pitching to! In my case, it isn’t AS important since I read most everything, but some reviewers are very definite about what genres they care to review. If you’re sending them a novel that doesn’t fit those genres, then be prepared for either a quick, sharp no or to be ignored (after all, if you’re ignoring their words, they’re more than entitled to ignore yours!)
Along with personalising your salutations, some of the best emails I’ve received have personalised the request. For instance, ‘I noticed that you enjoyed XXX last week, and I think that my self-published work would be something you’d also enjoy.’ It doesn’t hurt to let the reviewer know that you read their blog on a regular basis, and that you’ve recognised what novels interest them. All of this is going to make a better impression than a cold and formal request that looks as though it has been sent en masse to any blogger with a freely-available email address.
The best email I have received recently was the following:
My name is Matt Xell and I am a writer and artist based in Zambia, Africa. TOWER OF PARLEN MIN is my debut novel and the first in a series of six books featuring Ves Asirin. It is an Urban fantasy/adventure epic (Speculative Fiction) that will appeal to young adult readers aged 14 to 18.
I would like you to consider the book for review on your blog .Unfortunately the book is not available in Hard cover or Paperback formats at the moment, but I will be sure to send you a free copy when it becomes available in these formats.
The synopsis of my novel is as follows: Ves Asirin, an orphaned and introverted boy with a complicated memory loss disorder, wins a trip to the TOWER OF PARLEN MIN, the home of the wealthiest inventor of the time, Jacobius Trent. There, with 19 other children, he must compete in the Sword Challenge; a series of intricate puzzles and daring tasks, for a prize of $12 million. As dazzling, glorious and liberating as the Tower seems to be for him, Ves finds that it keeps a dark and secret history that he has been unknowingly connected to for over 150 years, a secret that will define his future and destiny ... if he can escape The shadow; a powerful and seemingly unstoppable, supernatural serial killer.
If you are interested in reviewing my novel, please let me know the ebook format you prefer and I will send it to you as soon as possible (PDF, epub, .mobi, LRF, PDB), along with a PDF version containing the 'Black chapters' which encompasses these bonus chapters.
For more information, please feel free to contact me at this email address at any time.
Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Matt Xell - Tower of Parlen Min
If you look at the above example, Matt uses my blog name, which is a nice start. Then he gives a little bit of information about himself and the book he’d like me to review, including what age range the novel is directed at. This allows me to see if it is something that fits with my tastes. He is very clear about what formats the novel is available in – some reviewers don’t have eReaders as yet, so this query would probably be turned down by them on that basis, although Matt is clear that HBs and PBs will be available at a later date.
In all, the email is to the point, professional and gives all the details that I might require. It is personalized to an extent and, in general, shows decent grasp of spelling and grammar. When I receive a request like the above, I am more than likely going to accept a copy, depending on my review schedule, and then you, as a self-published author, are one step ahead of the person who didn’t send a professional query. At least your novel is being read!
I hope this helps, and would welcome other reviewers making suggestions that can be added for self-published authors, so that they can present the best possible review query.