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I’ve been doing a lot of requested reviews lately (and more to come). Most people send me well-written, clearly-worded, polite emails telling me about their book. Sometimes I pass on books because the concept just doesn’t hook me or the blurbs don’t tell me much about the plot. Then there are other people who write things that make me want to instantly say no.(I give the benefit of the doubt and read the entire email anyway, but that’s beside the point.) Here are a couple things that made me cringe when I saw them in my inbox.

First a disclaimer: the purpose of this isn’t to shame the emailers. It’s to prevent future mistakes. Any snarkiness on my part is…for emphasis and comedic effect. Yeah, let’s go with that, not “because I’m a mean person”. I don’t dislike any of you personally. Honest. I’m just tired of reading bad emails.

Hello [not my name],

What this email is about is my book that I would really, really (enough begging?) like to have reviewed.

Er, so…you’re close with the name. Kind of? It does start with an S. They got that part right. (Hint: scroll to the bottom of this post and keep going. You’ll find a blogger profile that actually has my name.) While the wrong name doesn’t actually bother me, it does show you’re not paying attention to either who I am, or who you sent the email to.

Also, the whole poorly-written sentence with the begging thing puts me off. You wrote a book. That doesn’t mean you need to beg reviewers to read it. Just send it to us, and if your writing sounds good and your plot seems interesting, we’ll read it. Simple.

It falls within the mainstream/literary genres, and the sub-genres of coming-of-age, family and inter-personal relations.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

If you don’t know that mainstream (a subcategory of commercial fiction) and literary fiction are different things and that you can’t be both at the same time, (you can have elements of both, but you can’t be both, perfectly, at the same time) you may need to do a bit more research. Honestly, I’d try to stick to two genres max. Romantic (1) comedy (2).  Young adult (1) urban fantasy (2). Things like that. Not “historical, romantic, dark, crime fiction, coming-of-age fantasy”.

Genre: semi-fiction

I don’t understand. Fiction is made up, nonfiction is not. If you’re somewhat imaginary, you’re still imaginary. I don’t go to a bookstore and tell them, “Harry Potter is only semi-fiction. It’s clearly set in a real place some of the time.”

This would be more appropriately called fiction based on real events. However, that still doesn’t narrow it down to a genre. Here’s a hint: walk into a bookstore and look at the labels on the shelves. Fantasy, romance, mystery, women’s fiction, etc. Pick a shelf you’d put your book in, and tell me that. The bestseller shelf doesn’t count.

So…how’s it going?

Okay, I’ll stop stalling. […]

Hopefully, this won’t take too much of your time, so I’ll jump right to it. Drum roll, if you please…

I said drum roll!

Ahh, there we go…

“So I’ll jump right to it,” eh?

It’s cute, but it doesn’t win any points. In fact, it kind of annoys me. Stop it.

How far will [this guy] go to free himself? How far will [other guy] go to become friends? Will they settle their differences or end up killing each other?

Can [person] make it through [difficulties] alone?  How far will [person] go to protect [that dude]?  If [that dude] didn’t commit [these felonies], who did?  Those and other questions answered inside [book].

Don’t ask me questions in queries. Often, my answer to them will be “I don’t care.” I’d rather you tell me what choices the protagonist faces: He has choices A and B. If he does A, his toes will be eaten by alligators, but if he chooses B, his children will be raised on a steady diet of cockroach milk. Telling me the tough choices is a lot more appealing than asking a bunch of vague questions I don’t care about. Tough choices show me the stakes and make me want to read the book to find out which choice is made. Questions make me think, “You know, I didn’t actually ask that while reading this blurb.”

And if you’re wondering, these are from two separate emails. I’ve got more because people seem to really like asking questions, but I figured this would suffice.

-Insert 470 word essay on the author’s life story, written in third person-

The blurb of the book was 200 words. Do you see the problem?

I’m not an agent. I’m not a publisher, editor, or anyone who hopes to work with you for a substantial amount of time. I don’t need to know your life story. And honestly, I don’t really care unless you’re one of my favourite authors. (Yes, I am an evil, evil being.) I am a reader. Give me an interesting book and a secluded, cushy seat. That’s all I need.

Actually, I don’t even think a publisher needs to know that you: were an athlete in high school, have a family, have had 666 different careers (including details of those careers), moved from one city to another to pursue those careers, and are now only writing because you’re done with your 666 careers.

And seriously? Writing about yourself in third person just sounds pretentious.

We are reaching out to you because of your trusted commitment to Amazon and its reviews. Because of your title as one of Amazon’s Top Reviewers, we would like to request your services in reviewing [author’s] books.

Considering I have never posted a review on Amazon (I’ve never bought anything off it, so they don’t allow me to post reviews), I don’t think I’m an Amazon Top Reviewer. If I am, you’d better check how people qualify for that title.

Don’t make claims that aren’t true. Especially if they’re so vague they can be applicable to most everyone you email.

And I’m quite sure this email was intended for me. They addressed it to “S”, which is how I signed off on my “Rating System” page.

I would appreciate if you would let me know if you woud be interested in reviewing it and if Yes, when would you be able to review it and where would you be posting your thoughts about it.

Well, my review policy does say that I give an estimate of when the review will be posted. It does also say that I post on my blog (which you’ve clearly found) and Goodreads.

Hmm…I feel like I’m missing something here. Poor writing? (Oh, and these quotes were copy/pasted directly from my email. Any mistakes were original.)

To be fair, this person was really polite even when I told them no. They replied, “thanks Sally for your prompt revert”. Still bad, but okay.

If you’re tired of the hoo-hum, typical novel and you’re looking for something different, look no further.

Aw, I kind of like my hoo-hum, typical novels. By which I mean, like, my favourite books. Thanks for dissing them right off, honey.

If you think all novels are typical hoo-hum, you should get out more. Meet some pretty boys or girls. Or both. Ask them if they have a favourite librarian. Then go bother those librarians; they always know where they’ve hidden their favourite books.

Now on to my book. My bio follow my summary. A link to my book on Amazon follows my bio.

My lawn leads to the sidewalk. The sidewalk follows the road. The road follows the curvature of the Earth. But you’d know that if you just look. Then again, with people’s noses all stuck in their Pokemon Go…

There’s really no reason to list out what follows what unless you have something past your closing phrase you’re afraid I might miss. That doesn’t happen often. If it’s there, I’ll read it. Trust me. I scroll real good nowadays since I figured out how to use this electrical box to go on the world wide spiderweb.


Have you ever made funny mistakes in emails you sent? Share your story in the comments below!

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