Perfect Pitch: Query Letters That Lead to Book Reviews by Christine Nolfi

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It never ceases to amaze how writers who can easily pound out hundreds of pages of great prose go dry at the prospect of writing something as simple as a review query. To be sure, boiling down the contents of a nonfiction book or a novel into a few, snappy paragraphs will require the talent you already possess. Now it’s time to shake off your doubts and become a confident salesperson. Your book deserves nothing less.

 

If the prospect of approaching book reviewers fills your veins with ice, remember: people who review books love books. They love to read. The bibliophiles managing book blogs and traditional review sites enjoy discovering new voices and great reads.

 

Whether sent via email or snail mail, most query letters follow a standard, one-page format with an introduction, several paragraphs pitching the book, and a concluding paragraph thanking the reviewer for consideration. If possible, add publishing awards or achievements in both the opening paragraph and directly after pitching your story. You must build credibility quickly and the faster you pique the reviewer’s interest, the greater the odds your book will be reviewed.

 

In the paragraphs pitching your story, write with Goal-Motivation-Conflict uppermost in your mind. I like to think of these critical paragraphs as a more succinct version of the tantalizing copy printed on the back cover of a paperback to lure readers. Here’s a sample of the middle paragraphs of the query for my second release, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge:

 

A savage rape on hallowed ground. Secrets buried for decades by the town’s most influential family.

 

Now Ourania D’Andre will learn The Great Oak’s secrets as construction begins at the Fagan mansion. She can’t afford to turn down a job that promises to stir up the long-buried guilt—and the passion—she shares with powerful Troy Fagan.

 

Notice how the copy raises more questions than it answers. Word choice conveys suspense while revealing an inkling of Ourania’s motivation for taking the job, and the conflict sure to come. Don’t provide backstory; dive right into the plot’s most exciting points.

 

In closing, always thanks the reviewer. Provide contact information including your author website.

 

A few other tips:

 

Send a professional query letter with cover art attached. Never transmit an eBook or mail a paperback until invited to do so.

 

Personalize each correspondence. Mention why you feel this particular reviewer will enjoy your book.

 

Nolfi_Author_Photo1If appropriate, add snippets of personal information related to the writing of the book. How a personal triumph led to the plot’s development or your expertise in a career inspired you to write the book. In the case of book blogs, this information may lead to an invitation to write a compelling essay to appear alongside the review.

 

Award-winning author Christine Nolfi provides readers with heartwarming and inspiring fiction. Midwest Book Review lists Treasure Me, Second Chance Grill and The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge as “highly recommended.” Her latest contemporary fiction release is The Dream You Make. She has also written the manual for writers Reviews Sell Books. Look for her next fiction release in autumn, 2013.

www.christinenolfi.com

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Comments

  1. Great post. I know this will be helpful to a number of authors.

  2. Many thanks for reading, Bette.

  3. Excellent and timely post, Christine.

    I am just about to start this process. So this couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

    Thanks,
    Lake

  4. Made this a bookmark right away! One question though. As an editor having selected content for numerous magazines, though not books, I always like to be sent as much ‘stuff’ as possible, so I don’t have to call and mail, but punch the whole thing straight into my keyboaed nonstop. How are my book-reviewing colleagues different? You advise not to send a pdf? Thanks for a great article.. off to like your Facebook Page! 😉 Best, Astrid Maria

  5. Astrid Maria,

    If you have additional material you feel should be sent with your book review query–for example, your recent article on the same theme as covered in your book–then by all means, add it to your query packet. Keep in mind most queries are now sent electronically, and many reviewers won’t open attachments until they’ve sent you an invitation to send the material. Many reviewers will read PDF. In my queries, I offer reviewers the option of PDF, ePub or mobi.

    Many thanks for your question, and good luck!

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