Don’t Abandon Those Pitch Letters Yet

By Neal Comment

Yesterday, we asked if publicists still need to write pitch letters when sending reviewers books, and the relatively unsurprising consensus is that, yes, those one-sheets can be rather useful, when they’re done right. “I just got a book without a pitch letter and asked myself ‘I care about this book why?'” writes freelance reviewer Jen A. Miller—who, by pure coincidence, recently did an article for Poets & Writers about how to get noticed by literary journalists. “I get a lot of galleys, even as a freelancer, and when I go to my ‘to be considered’ shelf, having the pitch letter helps me make a decision about whether I’ll write about or review the book.”

“For books that publicists are sending my way in the hopes I will read and review, then the letter really matters,” says Bookslut YA reviewer Colleen Mondor. “It might make all the difference between me opening the book and giving it a try for a couple of chapters or just putting it on the donate stack. Without the letter I only have the blurb on the back cover to go by and that often is not enough to give me an idea as to what the book is about.” She estimates that several dozen of the 500 review copies she received in the last year could have fallen completely by the wayside if they hadn’t had cover letters attached. (Mondor also follows up on last week’s question about how reviewers should approach book publicists; without direct contacts at some major publishers, she simply doesn’t have the time to deal with the formal solicitation process, and will stick to the publishers with whom she already has strong relations. “If the publicists don’t make it easy to contact them,” she says, “then I won’t be requesting review titles.”)

But one reviewer isn’t so attached to those letters. “I tend never to read them and just read the back of the book or see what everyone else is reading,” he says—although that’s starting to change ever since he went on a job interview at a big house and they asked him to write a sample pitch for a book. “I nearly panicked,” he admits. “I pay a bit more attention to them these days.”