Book Review Query

So I didn’t watch the Super Bowl last night. Not out of some high and mighty stance or anything. I didn’t feel like getting out of the house to watch it. I don’t have a TV, and I hate live streaming anything over the internet. My poor bandwidth, man!

Plus I really don’t care about either team. Sure, I was rooting a bit for Peyton Manning, but at the end of the day I’m a Colts fan.

I’ve been getting a lot of review requests lately over at Shiny Book Review, and while some are fairly professional, there have been many more that fall into the “what the hell?” category. Some were genuine mistakes (you know who you are) but others have been an exercise in sheer ignorance. Take this one I received late last night for example. They’re in regular, my response is in italics:

Dear Jason,

My name is Jemma and I am a publishing consultant at publishing agency, Standoutbooks.

Uh, nice to meet you, but your sentence structure sucks. If you’re going to be asking reviewers to review books, perhaps you should proofread what you send? It reads awkwardly. Something my fourth grade teacher taught me was to read it out loud. Your brain twists words in a way that you actually saying it will clear up. Anyways, let’s see what they want, shall we?

I am happy to be contacting you today as I have enjoyed reading through your blog.

Ooooh, ego stroking. Nice, nice. You’ve said you’ve read Shiny Book Review’s website. However, I can’t take all the credit. If you’ve watched us over the past two years, Barb Caffrey is actually my “lead” reviewer. Again, sentence structure. But I’m nitpicking here. Please, keep stroking my ego.

I currently have the pleasure of working with a rather wacky and amusing author named Nathaniel Sewell. Nathaniel has recently published futuristic political satire novel, Fishing for Light, which based on your past reading list, is likely to be a book that you would enjoy.

Uh, okay? A “futuristic political satire” novel? Okay, I’ll bite, but your sentence structure and grammar… sheesh. I’m already disinclined to review this based on your pitch.

Fishing for Light has all the ingredients of a great satire novel: quirky characters, a grandiose plot, entertaining and creative story telling, and a hint of wackiness.

I think you used the wrong word there. This is the definition of grandiose: impressive or magnificent in appearance or style, esp. pretentiously so. I don’t want a grandiose plot in anything. I want a solid plot. A good plot. George R. R. Martin has a grandiose plot (it pretty much involves everyone dying), but he earned that. The author hasn’t, so you should use a different adjective. You also said quirky characters. I want interesting. Compelling. A character I can identify with. Quirky doesn’t always mean interesting. I mean, when I think quirky, I think Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter… c’mon, you knew that!). She was a quirky character who added a lot of flavor and depth to the main characters as they interacted with her, and caused them to reflect upon themselves to be better people. If the entire Harry Potter series had been nothing but Luna Lovegood’s, it may have sold a few dozen copies, tops. 

And… a hint of wackiness? The author is wacky, and his book has a hint of this. *shrugs shoulders* Okay, fine. I’ll let that one go.

It has also been professionally edited which we both know makes a big difference to the overall reading experience.

*head desk**head desk**head desk* Nope, the pain hasn’t gone away. Editors worldwide are crying tears of pain right now on my behalf.

Please read the blurb below:

A story about Eddie, a twenty-something, he is lost in life, and lacks the light behind his eyes, but when Professor Quan realized the government used his genetic starter to create Ms. Prosperina, he devoted his life to eradicating her by spreading the universal bond within humanity’s genetic code, pure love, and Eddie’s life suddenly mattered. Decades earlier, Professor Quan unlocked the genetic code; he discovered how to fight his cataclysmic mistake, Ms. Prosperina. After he saw a shooting star, he randomly targeted a baby named Edward, altering his DNA with an intermixed cellular powder. But twenty-three years later, somewhere along Eddie’s life journey, he had lost the light behind his eyes. But when a secret IRS unit was nearby monitoring Eddie and his bumbling childhood friend’s conversation about peddling unique autographed material on WePay, they arrested Eddie’s friend for tax evasion. In reality, the IRS was on a gestapo like mission to track down anyone trading living organic material that might lead them to Professor Quan and his laboratory where he hid the real Hope Diamond. Then Professor Quan became aware that Eddie’s cellular adjustment was flawed. As Ms. Prosperina lurked behind the IRS, desperate to discover where Professor Quan hid two meteorites coated with her ancestral organic material; Professor Quan must solve the genetic riddle that swerved Eddie away from his destiny to fight pure evil.

I… what… the f*ck? That’s a convoluted outline, not a promo blurb. Who wrote this? Really, I want to know so I can make sure to avoid anything with their name on it again. If it was the author, someone should have taken a knife to it and cut the fat off. If this was the marketer? They’re seriously paying you for this sh*t? I’m in the wrong industry.

With this in mind, I was wondering if you’d be willing to read and review Fishing for Light on your website?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Noooooo thank you, not my cup of tea. You must have seen that book review that Chris Smith skewered and thought “they’ll like this book for sure!” without actually thinking this one through. Chris skewered that book as an object lesson, and I fully supported him in it. It was poorly written, boring, and, well, just plain sucked. Shiny Book Review does nonfiction, romance, SF, fantasy, and other stuff. I can’t recall ever reviewing a political satire book before, but I could be wrong. The fact that I have to try and remember should tell you something.

We are also running a Rafflecopter giveaway for Nathaniel, if that would be of interest to your readers?

Probably not. Especially when I don’t know what the hell a rafflecopter is.

I look forward to your reply and hearing what you think.

Kind regards,


Look, I try to give indy published authors the benefit of the doubt. I know for a fact how hard it is to get quality work done when you’re on your own. If you’re going to be charging people for you to do their marketing, you should do their marketing. That blurb pretty much told me to not review it. Blurbs need to be short, hard hitting and compelling. You basically have about 5-10 lines max to hook a reader with a blurb. They’re not going to read a plot outline that’ll make their eyes cross. 

End result? This is one of the worst review requests I’ve ever taken. A brief glance at their website shows a lot of helpful tips for aspiring authors, though their marketing side looks a little weak. I’d ignore it, but I wanted publishers and marketers to take note.

Proofread your query letters. Considering how hard you are on their authors who write for you, you should be held to a higher standard.

One thought on “Book Review Query

  1. Jason, that has to be the worst query I’ve ever read — most authors can do better than that in their sleep, and you’d think someone doing promotion could do *far* better if they’re actually getting paid.

    I know I’m not good at summing up my own stuff (a short story, fine; a longer one, it’s tough to come up with a promotional blurb because I’m too close to it). But I would’ve done better than that.

    I agree; that sounds like a bad synopsis at best, or perhaps an outline (but extremely convoluted and very hard to follow).

    Political satire — we actually have done one book that might fall into that category. I reviewed Jasper Fforde’s “Shades of Grey,” and that was a satirical SF novel that dealt with a lot of politics. It’s quirky, too, but I liked the main character and bought into his plight — without that, no matter how quirky you are, why would anyone want to bother?

    TV audiences see this all the time. “New Girl” (which right now is being sued for plagiarism; keep an eye on that one) wouldn’t succeed without Zooey Deschanel, right?

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