This is an excerpt of Serena M. Agusto-Cox’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how she handles book reviews for her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit. For more book promo information, and to read Serena’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Serena M. Agusto-Cox is a poet and amateur photographer who lives outside Washington, D.C. She has published poetry in Beginnings, LYNX, Muse Apprentice Guild, The Harrow, Poems Niederngasse, Avocet, and Pedestal, as well as an essay in Made Priceless by H.L. Hix. Her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit (www. savvyverseandwit.com), features writing critiques; book reviews of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; and conference/ book event news.
Q: How many book review pitches do you receive each week?
A: I did not receive many pitches at all in the beginning, but now, after five years, I receive about ten to fifteen pitches per day from a variety of publishers, authors, and publicists. Some of these pitches are well within the types of books I read, which isn’t really hard since I’m an eclectic reader. I love poetry above all else, but that’s closely followed by literary and historical fiction. I read a bit of nonfiction/biography/ memoir, but I am pickier about my nonfiction reading. The other pitches I receive are far outside and are usually turned down quickly.
I have a standard response that I crafted to send to everyone who requests a review. It’s very simple, but I make sure to change the name so that it addresses each person individually. This standard response is for books I’m not interested in at all, but I will make more personal responses for books I’m interested in but may not have a certain opening they are looking for in terms of reviews. I will often suggest a different time frame, a guest spot/interview, or a giveaway. There are certain things that get deleted without a response because they are automatic lists that are sent out to everyone, it seems, and don’t require a response, and there are several publicists who have said I don’t need to respond unless it’s a go.
Q: How do you decide which books to review? Do you have any guidelines regarding self-published versus traditionally published books?
A: I generally do not accept self-published books unless they have gotten good reviews previously, are highly recommended (by a friend or an author I trust), or are on subjects that highly interest me. One self-published book that I took right away because of the subject was Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell. This novel was about Vietnam and was recommended by a friend. I also rarely accept e-books for review unless the author has no time frame for the review or any expectations time-wise because I’m a slower reader on Kindle than I am in traditional book form. I tend to get more distracted with electronic books, finding that my mind wanders to the television or other pursuits.