Susan Speaks: A Disturbing New Trend


Forgive me while I stir up a relatively dormant hornet’s nest.

However, if you read closely, you’ll see I’m going to talk about a new breed of hornet. I’m not about to rag on the aspiring authors who send out query letters to agents without doing some investigative work. Nope. I’m not a literary agent. That’s not my job.

Rather, there are two breeds of hornets I want to introduce to this nest of Lack of Knowledge: published authors and publishing house publicists, even though literary agent Janet Reid does mention authors at the end of this excellent post.

I’m about to be stung to death. I know this. Oh, well. Someone’s gotta stand up and say it and why the hell not me? Now that I’ve put out The Demo Tapes via Lulu, many in both groups have looked down their noses at me in utter distaste. (Nevermind that conventional wisdom holds that there’s no commercial value in something previously web-published, and nevermind that my readers all but grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me until I consented to give them The Demo Tapes, but that’s another hornet’s nest entirely for another day.)

Here’s the deal: I am getting an increasing amount of e-mail from authors and from publishing house publicists, asking if I’d like a copy of Book X to review on my blog. Maybe I’d even do a giveaway; that would be great.

This e-mail comes to either my personal e-mail account, or to my Win a Book e-mail. It doesn’t matter which; the answer is the same.

Neither blog has ever published full-fledged book reviews. I use Front Street Reviews or Breeni Books for any reviews, and then it’s usually because Barb or Breeni has asked if I’m interested in a particular book. They know that they shouldn’t offer me, whose fiction centers around a fictional rock band and the people who orbit them, a book about a minister in India who wants more children. Let alone the latest offering, a book described as “dreamy and lyrical.”

In my world, Mitchell is dreamy and Lyric takes care of that lyrical part. How on Earth do you think that I’ll be able to relate to your book?

It’s even worse when the approach from the author begins with, “I am an admirer of West of Mars.” Really, now? Is that so? Then why, in the words of Trevor, are you so fucking clueless about what fills these pages? I’m sure this author can’t even tell me if s/he’s a fan of Win a Book or the Meet and Greet. Hell, I doubt they even know that there are two blogs carrying the West of Mars name.

Folks, this is not the way to start off a relationship. You’re lying to me, and if there’s one thing that’ll get you on my shit list without a second thought, it’s being caught in a lie.

Still, I’m trying to be nice. I’ve been writing responses that explain that neither The Meet and Greet nor Win a Book post book reviews, and that any contests I run through The Meet and Greet are few and far between — and initiated by me. I then go on to explain the whole concept of Win a Book, and invite the sender of the mail to submit links, just as the book bloggers do.

The problem of late is that the requests have been picking up. I have things to do in my life. I have books to write, Demo Tapes: Year Two to work on. I have my own publicity to do. I can’t spend twenty minutes a few times a day sending out the same damn e-mail — an e-mail that wouldn’t be necessary if someone had taken just five minutes to look over my blogs. From now on, I’ll be sending out the link to this post as my reply. Heck, I might even get a better response to it than I have been getting to a thoughtfully composed explanation of something that should have been checked out beforehand.

There’s no substitute for proper research. There just isn’t. Ask any author of historical fiction if there is. And then duck. Fast.

There’s no substitue particularly when the research I’m talking about is as easy as looking over the front page of someone’s blog before sending out the equivalent of spam.

From 2001 to 2003, I did some volunteer work for Metallica. One thing I learned from the band and their staff is one thing I say to my family all the time: Do it right, or don’t bother doing it.

That holds true no matter what you’re doing.



  1. spyscribbler

    January 7, 2009 9:10 pm

    I can’t email that quote do my dentist, can I?

    LOL! 🙂

  2. Thomma Lyn

    January 7, 2009 11:14 pm

    Excellent post, my friend. These new hornets’ practices smell an awful lot like spammety spam spam spam.

  3. Anne

    January 8, 2009 8:57 am

    As a publicist, I want to apologize for publicists nationwide :). This is a very controversial topic in the field (not your blog, just the random distribution of pitches). I will say that experienced professionals rarely do this. They take the time to research and target a pitch appropriately.

    I have a marketing blog (not my main blog, I will give you the address if you like), would you mind if I linked to this post. It explains the issue so eloquently and would be so effective coming from a blogger.

  4. Bitterly Books

    January 8, 2009 9:51 am

    When I get e-mail pitches from publicists offering me books to review, I just laugh because it’s clear that they have no idea how I handle books on my blog.

    One of these days I’ll take them up on their offer of a review copy, and make sure to give them all the coverage they deserve.

  5. Lydia @ On The Verge

    January 8, 2009 10:51 am

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are so right. It is a lot of work!

  6. Susan

    January 8, 2009 12:07 pm

    Anne, I’d be honored!

  7. karen

    January 8, 2009 12:12 pm

    [btw, sometime can you point me in the direction of where I can set myself with an avatar when I comment on the blog – thanks!]

  8. Bob-kat

    January 8, 2009 12:38 pm

    Well said adn that last motto is so true and one I was bought up with too.

    My hospital stay is imiinent so I just wnated to thank you for your support adn well wishes. It really is appreciated 🙂 I must also apologise for not getting round to paying for the Demo Tapes. I’m gonna do it later today so I won’t get the book for hospital but it will be great for lunchtimes when I go back to work. Who knows, maybe someone will ask what I’m reading 🙂

  9. netta

    January 8, 2009 9:41 pm

    There’s no substitute for proper research. There just isn’t. Ask any author of historical fiction if there is.

    Ask anyone worth their salt in any genre of writing. You can’t bullshit your way out.

    I agree. It smells a little bit like spam.

    Great post, girl. 🙂

  10. Wylie

    January 8, 2009 10:42 pm

    Well said SHG – and yes – I agree that you should link to this post so that they’ll understand what they SHOULD be doing, instead of what they ARE doing. It’s a waste of their time too!!

  11. pussreboots

    January 8, 2009 11:32 pm

    I’ve read plenty of books that started as blogs. I’ve probably reviewed a couple dozen on them on my blog. And self publishing in a variety of forms isn’t anything new. Dickens, Twain, Stowe and Blackmore are among the “classic” authors I’ve read who were self publishers at one point or another in their careers.

    Regarding the publicists who haven’t read your blog the delete button is a wonderful tool as is email blacklisting. Or you can send them my way if they seem to have half a clue. 🙂

  12. Florinda

    January 8, 2009 11:59 pm

    Pitch misfires are epidemic, it seems. I spend part of my blogging life among the mom-bloggers, and it’s a regular complaint in that sphere; moms who blog about their teenage kids and never mention toddlers get pitched baby products, to give just one example.

    It’s flattering to get offered a book for review from someone who actually knows something about my blog – but it doesn’t happen that often. Clearly, it’s not happening too often for you either.

    Great post, Susan. I’m including it in my weekly links roundup on Saturday.

    BTW, my copy of THE DEMO TAPES came in the mail yesterday – can’t wait to read it!

  13. Linda

    January 9, 2009 3:29 am

    LOL! You go girl! I get the same thing but not for books.

  14. Susan

    January 9, 2009 8:56 am

    Wow, Florinda. Thanks. Again, I’m flattered that you’re going to link to me.

    Have fun with the Demo Tapes!

  15. Alice Audrey

    January 9, 2009 11:51 am

    I was going to say you need a form rejection letter for them, but I think a link here is better.

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