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What Reviewers Wish Authors Knew
by Cindy Penn

You send your baby to a book reviewer. The last thing you want to do is to tick-off the reviewer. Here's the inside scoop.

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A Colleague recently posted the following question to a list service for reviewers: "What do you wish authors knew?" My answer was extensive and echoed many of my fellow reviewers. As Midwest Book Reviews eBook specialist and Senior Editor of, I have my own list of pet peeves for authors who want reviews.

1.. Do not send ARCs that are a rough draft. Many reviewers have a background in writing and teaching. A rough draft is more likely to bring out the urge to grab a red pen for corrections that a blue pen for comments. Many reviewers do not, however, usually mind an ARC that hasn't seen the FINAL edit and formatting.

2.. Practical stuff makes a difference. Simple things like making sure your name, title of book, email address, ISBN (especially for books in print) and proposed date of publication are in the electronic text or written on the hardcopy. Also include the theme and subgenre you would assign the book to. Please realize that often the book becomes separated from the email/mail that accompanied it, and three months later reviewers waste a lot of time looking for basic information. Please do not ever submit books for review that have not been accepted for publication without asking the reviewer first.

3.. Synopsis and setting. Many review sites do not accept a book for review without a press release package. WordWeaving is gentler in expectations because we do accept galleys/ARCs, often in electronic form. Whether you submit a press package or not, always include a synopsis and setting. The synopsis and setting allow the editor to assign the book to the reviewer as well as set the expectations for the reviewer. It also saves time for the reviewer.

4.. Accuracy. Many reviewers find themselves thrown from the flow of the book when they come across inaccurate information. Streets in the wrong place in a contemporary city can be as distracting as historical inaccuracies. Always double-check your data.

5.. Include a biography if it applies to your work. When an author who was a detective for the Indiana police department for twenty years submits a police procedural for review and includes a bio, he/she establishes credibility. Often that information will be mentioned in the review, which encourages readers to likewise trust the author's knowledge.

6.. Authors without public email address/websites. Not only do I review a lot of submissions, but I also pick things off the shelves I see others discussing. It ticks me off when I don't have an editor or an author to send an electronic copy of the review to. Or my computer crashes and I loose my address book. I then have to rely on Midwest Book Reviews to mail the tear sheet and that comes in the mail weeks after I write the review. And I have to rely on publishers to notify authors of reviews.

7.. Be polite. With the deluge of books coming out from epublishers, I also get impatient with impatient/impolite authors. I watch other review sites, and realize they are just as behind as WordWeaving. Personally, my eyes can only read so much electronic text in a day. I don't mind a note asking a status -- but it takes months for me to get to eBooks reviews -- don't expect it in a matter of weeks. WordWeaving averages 10-15 submissions a week, and the backlog is huge. And please don't ask if I can do a rush review and have it for you in a couple of weeks. Reviewers don't like feeling like reading machines. Please realize that many publishers don't get books to reviewers before they appear on the shelf.

8.. Edit carefully. One reason I pick so many books off the shelves is to keep my own standards high. I believe eBooks should have the same quality of editing and polish as the paperbacks I buy at Barnes and Nobles. Many do not. I can easily tell professionally edited books from those that are not. Further, I will mention really poor editing in a review if it interferes with the reading experience. I once picked up a book so riddled with exclamation points that I ran the counter in on my word processing program on them. A 112 page book had 297 exclamation points. The best I could say about the book was that the author writes with great enthusiasm.

9.. Change of publishing home. WordWeaving's been in business two years. During that time some authors have had three, sometimes four publishing homes. Let me know when you move. Or it's not available right now. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time verifying eBook publishers before I write the review. That's time I could have been reading. Nothing I hate worse than reading a long, poorly written book, struggling with a review, then realizing it's moved. Again. And again. And again.

10.. Always query first and consult submission guidelines. Individual reviewers often have stacks of books waiting to review. Don't assume they have time for your novel just because they had time for the last one. ASK. Also be sure they review your genre. For Web sites like WordWeaving, we don't usually decline authors. But we do ask you be patient and read the submission guidelines. Current wait times for eBooks are always posted.


11.. Be gracious after the review. Not every reviewer will like your work. Regardless of their response, be gracious. Thank them for their time. If you don't like the review, don't bash the reviewer. Some folks won't review books that they don't like. Others will print less than stellar reviews. If you have thin skin, before you ask for a review, ascertain how he/she handles books with low ratings. Finally, If you are unhappy with the review, don't send more of your work to the same reviewer.

12.. Say thank you. While it was not necessary, one of the kindest thank you notes I've ever received was an author who sent me one of my wish list books off of Amazon. Since I enjoyed his book, the thank you really caught my attention and I invited him for an interview for WordWeaving. If you don't have direct contact with the reviewer, send a note the publisher of the review. If the reviewer "got it," tell her/him so. The note will be passed along. Always remember that reviewers don't use a template to crank their reviews. Most reviewers are unpaid, reviewing because they love good books. These volunteers often take days or weeks to read the book and write the review. While I work much quicker, I have the benefit of currently working on WordWeaving full time - and still can't keep up.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Cindy Penn is the Senior Editor for A professional reviewer, she is a top 50 reviewer for as well as the eBook Specialist for Midwest Book Reviews.

Cindy Penn
Senior Editor,
Amazon top 50 reviewer
eBook Specialist, Midwest Book Reviews