Need A Review? Just Ask!
By Mary Chris Escobar
Recently, I was explaining to a fellow writer friend that I had reached out to a few pretty high profile authors about blurbing my novel, Neverending Beginnings, that I released in paperback earlier this summer. I was relaying the story, not to highlight what I had done, but to explain how amazing other authors are. Many were not able to do it, but they all responded and were so very kind and apologetic about their inability to help out. However, her response to my story was not related to my point at all. Instead it was you e-mailed who? Followed by that was ballsy!
When I finished laughing at her blunt statement, I considered it. Was I bold and brave for sending those e-mails? I had approached the blurb-getting project as something to spend a little bit of time on, but not something to lose too much sleep over. I knew it was a long shot. I spent a few minutes personalizing each e-mail with something I liked about the author’s work, or any small connection I had to them. (I was on a flight with one of them once and we briefly chatted as we were in line to get off the plane.) It certainly didn’t feel like a particularly courageous act. It was a business e-mail. The type I send in my non-writing job innumerable times a day.
I’ve had similar, if not quite as colorful, reactions from other people when I’ve mentioned things like submitting that same novel for a review at Publisher’s Weekly or entering my second novel, How to Be Alive, in several contests. Again, similar to sending those blurb request e-mails, I didn’t consider filling out several submission forms and mailing some copies of my book out to be a courageous act.
I don’t think I possess any special bravado that enables me to do this. I think I’ve just changed the semantics. Requesting a blurb? It’s just connecting with authors I admire and asking them nicely to read my work. Submitting for reviews? I’m just trying to get some visibility for those stories I think the world would love as much as I do if only they knew they existed. Entering contests? Hey, maybe it can do all those things the review will do, plus give me a little prize money to invest in my business. In the moment, when I’m writing those e-mails or filling out those contest forms I’m not thinking about the fact that I’m sending my art out in the world to be judged, I’m simply making a business decision.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now and thinking it’s not that easy, I can’t just divorce myself from all fear of judgment like that. Before you click off this post in frustration, let me acknowledge that you are right. It isn’t easy. When I received the e-mail indicating that Neverending Beginnings (aka, my baby, my debut novel) was chosen to be reviewed at Publisher’s Weekly, I panicked: what if they skewer it, how will I ever preserver to write the next book after they give me a terrible review, why did I think this was a good idea. Similarly, if one of those authors I reached out to had sent a mean-spirited e-mail back, or agreed to read my book and then hated it, I would have been deeply affected. And while the contests didn’t come with the type of personal feedback that can feel so creatively damning, I did feel disappointed when my book didn’t even place as a finalist.
When I say that the secret is to think of these things as business decisions, I don’t mean it’s easy or not scary. What I mean is, I believe the risk is worth the reward, therefore I choose to try very hard not to dwell on the possible negative outcomes and just treat the big scary thing as something to tick off my to do list. Ultimately, here’s what happened: as I mentioned, most of those authors I reached out to politely declined, but I received a very lovely blurb and super encouraging e-mail from one of them. That Publisher’s Weekly review was constructive and had some very nice things to say about my novel (by no means the skewering I panicked about). I didn’t win all the contests, but my novel did win in it’s category in one of them. If I had gotten all hung up in the possible outcome of all these things and never put my work out in the world for judgment, none of those things would have happened.
So here’s the trick if you need a little dose of courage today. Change how you think/talk about that big-scary-thing. It’s just a way to get more readers to discover the amazing story you have to tell. If it helps, tell yourself it’s probably a really long shot anyway. No need to over analyze something that may not happen. Then do the no-longer-calling-it-scary thing and pat yourself on the back (or take yourself out for a beer, or an ice cream… you get the point). You’re one step closer to getting that review, or endorsement or prize than you were before you hit send on that e-mail. Plus, your friends will think you’re a rock star for doing it.
Award-winning author Mary Chris Escobar writes women’s fiction. Her title How to be Alive recently won the Chick Lit category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She was destined to write romantic comedies from a young age (as a child, her stuffed animals always got their happily-ever-afters). She lives in Richmond, Virginia in a renovated parking garage with her husband. Find her on her website, on Twitter or just about anywhere good coffee or craft beer is served.
(If you’re interested in taking Mary’s advice and getting your book reviewed with Publishers Weekly, be sure to check out our blog post here!)