As a frequent (and frequently paid) book reviewer, and a former teacher of courses in how to establish a book-reviewing practice, I was pleased to see a recent WritersWeekly.com article spotlighting this work. But I’d like to expand the discussion. For instance, I believe that a really good book reviewer – the kind of reviewer that editors trust and turn to – needs to display certain skills. I’m not talking only about subject matter expertise and writing chops. I’m talking about solid knowledge about books – including books that haven’t yet been published.
Think about it. Most of the book reviews you find in the better-paying mainstream magazines and newspapers and on popular websites focus on new books. Those reviews don’t appear magically. They’re the product of a match between editor and reviewer that takes place weeks, if not months, before the book is available for purchase. Which means that one way to increase your chances of winning a paying assignment – not to mention establishing yourself as a savvy source for information – is to pitch reviews of not-yet-published titles.
Once you become an established reviewer, complimentary advance reading copies (ARCs) are likely to come your way. Editors will begin suggesting titles for you to review and supply you with the ARCs they receive from publishers and publicists. But it isn’t easy to reach that point. And it takes time. Here are six ways for the emerging book reviewer to locate review possibilities on his or her own:
1. If you’re building a review practice, you should already be an avid reader. Check the websites of publishers whose books you already enjoy. (You’ll find some helpful lists on NewPages.com, Association of American University Presses, and AgentQuery.com’s collection of “Major New York Publishers.” Look for each publisher’s latest catalog. Winter is a good time to see what will be on sale in spring and summer, and fall/winter catalogs are almost always available during the summer.
2. Also timed to give some advance publicity, Publishers Weekly’s Spring and Fall Announcements issues are filled with upcoming titles. Although much of the Publishers Weekly website is concealed behind an expensive paywall, anyone can gather useful info online when the announcement issues appear. Check the editorial calendar and make a note of the dates to check back.
3. Library Journal’s Prepub Alert is an excellent “guide to what’s new in publishing, featuring in-depth coverage of leading titles from a wide range of publishers up to six months in advance of publication.”
4. Bio notes appended to magazine and newspaper articles often mention an author’s next book–and its publisher and release date.
5. NetGalley, which I’ve recently begun using, “delivers secure, digital galleys to professional readers. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to read and request titles before they are published.” (Note that some participating publishers require evidence that you have an established review practice before granting access to their titles.)
6. Finally, it may take a little more detective work, but you can also find books scheduled for publication months before their release dates with some clever online searching. On Amazon.com, for instance, an advanced search feature allows you to limit results to titles published after a certain date. This includes dates well into the future.
With these tips, you can pitch editors with ideas–including seasonal ones–with the lead time that many of them require. They will be useful tools as you build a successful practice as a freelance book reviewer.
Erika Dreifus’s book reviews have appeared in numerous venues, including The Boston Globe, The Chattahoochee Review, Christian Science Monitor, The Forward, JBooks.com, The Jewish Journal, Kenyon Review Online, The Missouri Review, Our State, and The Writer, where she is a contributing editor. Author of the award-winning short-story collection Quiet Americans, Erika lives in New York City. Visit her online at http://www.erikadreifus.com and follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/erikadreifus