So you want to be reviewed? Pitch your work.

By Nalini Haynes

Every year Dark Matter receives hundreds of requests to review work: novels, novellas and short stories. There are more requests than Dark Matter’s reviewers could possibly read and review in a year.

So, how do you get your magnum opus reviewed?

Firstly HIRE AN EDITOR.

If your work is self-published or published by small press, your cover letter should include specific mention of your editor. (Professional mentors from organisations like Writers Victoria count as editors.)

If you tell me your work has been edited by a professional then my next step is to read your pitch.

Why do you need to pitch your work?

Authors often email me asking if I’ll review their work but they don’t tell me anything about their work. Sometimes they don’t even tell me what it’s called!

Often authors ONLY tell me what their work is called.

Sometimes authors include a link to their work.

Sorry folks but I’m busy.

If you’re too busy to pitch your work to me – your work that is your pride and joy, your work that you want me to read – if you’re too busy to pitch me THAT work, then it’s not sufficiently important to me to review.

Put yourself in my shoes: with hundreds of requests a year, only the BEST REQUESTS are in with a shot of being reviewed.

What is an elevator pitch?

Imagine you’re in an elevator with the editor or publisher of your dreams. You have a couple of minutes with a captive audience to entice this person to consider working with your manuscript.

It’s a bit like a blurb on the back of the book but it will probably be different because you’re targeting a different kind of reader.

Make it simple.

Make it fast.

Make it easy.

Make it interesting.

Remember: your pitch is an audition for your manuscript. If your pitch is not well-written I will assume your manuscript will not be well-written.

Important things to include in the pitch are

  • the genre (e.g. SF, fantasy, thriller, horror, romance)
  • the target audience (children, YA, NA, adult, LGBT, left-wing, right-wing…)
  • key information about the protagonist
  • maybe a little about the antagonist
  • the launching pad for the plot – without it being too spoilery

Structure the pitch in an inverted pyramid: the most important (foundational) information comes first and the least important information comes last.

Remember: lots of people send review requests, so unless you grab my attention I may not read the entire pitch.

Important things NOT to include

Do NOT include hype or spin. Seriously. It can back-fire big time.

Recently I received a media release for an author and series whose publisher claimed it was better than J K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins.

I started reading the novel.

This novel was NOT as good as early Potter. It was aimed at a higher age group than the Hunger Games (as marketed by Scholastic) and the plot didn’t hold together nearly as well.

Better than Twilight? Maybe. This did not impress.

Next time that publicist hypes up a book I’m going to remember this disappointment.

Do NOT include opinion or spin in your pitch.

The ONLY exception to this rule is if a well-known author has given a supportive quote.

Pitching specifically for Dark Matter

If you’ve incorporated diversity into your manuscript, please mention this in your pitch. My reading isn’t as diverse as I’d like so diversity in the story could make your work more appealing.

Include the length of the work in your pitch (e.g. stand-alone, trilogy, quartet) and identify the portion of the work (e.g. this is book 2 of 4).

Beginning, Middle and End

One of my pet peeves is receiving book 2 or 22 with an expectation the reviewer is going to access earlier books at their own expense or read without the foundation of the story.

Not going to happen.

In fact, what will probably happen is your book will be left on the unread pile gathering dust even if I or someone else is REALLY interested. I can think of at least one book currently gathering dust that I’d like to read: it’s book 4 in a series.

If you pitch your work, make sure the review copy or copies include the beginning and middle of the story.

Tying up loose ends

Please do not email or message me asking me to buy your book so I can give you free publicity. I unfriend or unfollow people who do that.

I can’t guarantee to review everything. If you send your work in I will try to get to it but I can’t guarantee a review.

Dark Matter’s reviews are independent. You’ve sent your book in at your expense but the reviewer might hate the book. Maybe a review will be published or maybe it won’t; either way the review will be honest.

Dark Matter does not accept cash for reviews for this reason.

As I write this I’m thinking about inviting people to submit pitches to inspire emerging writers (and possibly inspire potential readers). If you’re interested in learning from others’ pitches, watch this space.

Good luck

I wish you all the best with your writing career.

If you send in a request for a review I may not accept but that may not be a reflection on your pitch or your novel, it might be that Dark Matter’s few reviewers don’t have the time. I’m a student and an emerging writer myself so my time working – UNPAID – for Dark Matter is limited.

I do not have the time to read ALL THE THINGS although this makes me sad.

As a colleague and a passionate reader, I sincerely wish you all the best with your writing and your career.

GOOD LUCK.