Why You Want to Hire a Competent PR Service

Writer BewarePosted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

As some of you may know, I was at one time a SF/fantasy book reviewer–mostly for SF Site, but also for other publications. (Most of my reviews are posted at my website.) However, I got burned out on reviewing after doing it for many years, and took a temporary hiatus that turned into a permanent one. I haven’t written any book reviews since 2007.


Nevertheless, I still occasionally get review requests–such as this one, received last week from an outfit called First Page Sage:

Dear Victoria Strauss,

My name is [name redacted]. My firm is helping to publicize [novel name redacted], a new political mystery book by [author name redacted] published this past March by [name of what looks like the author's own self-publishing venture]. I believe that you would be interested in this timely novel since you review literature, and I would like to request that you consider reviewing it for Writer Beware Blogs.

On its face, the writing is compelling, but the book is also a controversial allegory about current political events ripe for debate. As a New York Supreme Court Judge for many years, the author understands the system well and this book is guaranteed to hit home with people who follow politics, as many of your readers do. There is a more detailed description below for your reference.

[book synopsis redacted]

If you are interested in taking a look, please kindly provide me with your mailing address and I will be happy to send you a review copy.

Sincerely,

[name redacted]
PR Director
First Page Sage, LLC

Now, you’d think a competent PR Director would do his research better. I mean, you might not realize that I don’t review any more, or assume that someone who reviews one kind of genre fiction might be interested in reviewing another–but it’s kind of hard to miss the fact that the Writer Beware blog does not review “literature” (assuming, of course, that you actually bothered to visit the blog). Sending review requests to completely inappropriate people is not exactly the “premium book promotion” promised by First Page Sage’s website (scroll down to the bottom), which touts itself as “one of the most effective vehicles for getting the word out about your book.”

Still, rather than bite Mr. PR Director’s head off, I consigned his email to my Junk file, and figured we were all done. But no. Today I received this (check out the salutation):

Dear Mr. Strauss,

I hope this email finds you well. On June 23, I sent you the below email. I know you are busy, and I hope that you will be able to take a few seconds to reply whether you would consider reviewing this book. We’re excited to send you a copy, but we just want to make sure you’ll at least consider reviewing it.

Thanks!

[name redacted]

So I took him up on his invitation to reply, though it did take me more than a few seconds:

Dear [name redacted],

I ignored your earlier email because I didn’t really want to say what I’m going to say now.

Before approaching people to review a book, you really ought to a) make sure they’re actively reviewing; b) determine that they review books in the genre you’re pitching, and c) spend a little time researching the venue you’re asking them to review in, to be sure it’s appropriate (not to mention, that it really is book review venue).

On all three counts, you are batting zero.

Although I did write book reviews in the past, I haven’t done any reviewing for at least four years, as a Google search would quickly show. When I was reviewing, I reviewed exclusively science fiction, fantasy, and horror–never mystery (a look at my list of book reviews, readily available on my personal website, would make this clear). Last but certainly not least, Writer Beware Blogs! is not and never has been a book review venue. Its focus is news and views on the publishing industry, with a particular emphasis on literary scams. Merely glancing the blog’s masthead would make this clear. Of course, you would actually need to visit the blog to do this.

If this is an example of your PR skills, I can’t help feeling that you aren’t doing your author any favors.

– Victoria (not now, or planning to be in the future, a Mr.)

Think I’ll hear back?

Seriously–this is yet another example of what I wrote about in my recent blog post on book marketing methods that don’t work. If you pay for PR, hire a person or company that specializes in book promotion–not one that offers book promo as one of many unrelated services–and avoid bulk mail methods. And ask for references.

I do feel bad for the author, who is probably paying a premium for this inept service–but on the other hand, I suspect he may not have done his homework.

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