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Rules Regarding Review Copies

Every new publisher should know the "rules" regarding review copies. There is an industry standard that governs, and there are things to watch out for.

  1. The quid-pro-quo is that publishers send reviewers a free copy of a book as part of their marketing plan, in the hope that it will be reviewed and brought to the favorable attention of the reviewer's audience/readership. If reviewed, the reviewer is under obligation to send a copy of the review to the publisher for whatever use the publisher would like to make of it in the course of the publisher's marketing activities regarding the book. No permission release is required because of the quid-pro-quo expectation incumbent upon both parties.
  2. Publishers are under no obligation to send review copies to reviewers they do not wish to work with. Reviewers are under no obligation to review a book sent to them unrequested. Reviewers are under an ethical obligation to consider a book for review that they had specifically requested. If a requested book is dismissed from review consideration then the publisher, upon inquiry, should be told why.
  3. Publishers should keep careful track of to whom (and when) a book is sent for review. This includes some form of review copy follow-up contact. If they do not receive a review, or if the review is unsatisfactory, then the publisher should think carefully before sending out review copies of any future titles to that particular reviewer.
  4. Review requests from reviewers unknown to the publisher should be assessed. This can be done by asking other publishers (in such online discussion groups as Publish-L and Pub-Forum) if they've had experience with the particular reviewer; and/or follow Cox's guidelines on detecting the fraudulent reviewer; and/or ask for samples of the reviewer's previous work.
  5. All books sent to a reviewer for review consideration, requested or unrequested, become the property of the reviewer to dispose of as he or she deems fit. This is why it is so essential to screen review copy requests and to consider carefully the appropriateness of your title for a given reviewer, publication or media event. Stamping a book "Review Copy, Not For Sale" is to protect the publisher against the book coming back to them as a bookstore or distributor return. It does not prevent or oblige the reviewer from disposing of the book to a used bookstore, garage sale, Friends of the Library fund-raiser, etc. That book is part of the reviewer's compensation (and in the case of free lance or volunteer reviewers, their only compensation) for reviewing the book and has become their personal property to keep or to sell or to give away.
  6. If you encounter your review copy for sale in a bookstore, recognize that it is part of the cost of doing business in the publishing industry. The key is to minimize that cost by insuring that you are dealing only with reputable reviewers appropriate for the nature of your book, and avoiding the scam artists and the inappropriate reviewers.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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