How To Ask For a Book Review

Last night, I had returned to work on my current incomplete novel, The Ronin Genesis, a direct sequel to my second novel, The SovereignsI wrote about a thousand words, and decided that this merited a somewhat celebratory post on my Instagram.

Well, this morning, I wake up to a notification on that photo. I caught what it said, but when I went to look at it, the comment was gone, a hint that the person who posted it had blocked me on the app. Fortunately, I have friends who were able to screencap it for posterity. I’ve redacted their name and profile picture, but their words remain unedited.

You mad, bro?

The person in question had sent me two books of poetry they had written. I told them I would get to it at some point and that I was happy for them. I tried reading them at work, but I could tell that I would have to read it from the comfort of my home, where I would have time to really take in what they were attempting to convey through their words. Couple that with the fact that I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to most poetry, and the books got set on the back burner, which apparently made this individual unhappy.

It inspired me to write this post. I know there are a few aspiring novelists in my social circles and on my fan page.

First off, I am notoriously slow to get back to request to read someone’s book.

I work a full forty hour work week every week, minimum. When I’m not working, I’m usually unwinding from that full time job.

If I’m not unwinding, I’m probably writing my own novel.

If I’m not writing my own novel, there’s a very strong likelihood I am reading a book for my own research. My genre is very research heavy and I am almost always researching.

If I’m not researching, there’s a good chance I’m either beta reading/editing a novel from one of my close friends, or reading their finished products as I have promised, after months of making them wait. This is fact to which my friends Nate GranzowStephen EnglandPete Nealen, and Ian Graham can attest.

From left to right: Nate Granzow, Stephen England, Pete Nealen, and Ian Graham

Essentially, the disclaimer I tell people is that I cannot promise when I will get to their books, but I will get to them eventually, as I have the Quixotic notion that someday, I will read every book on my bookshelf.

I’ve always been a stubborn, contrarian type of person. So, if somebody whines to me about how I haven’t read their books (even when I told them it will be some time before I get to it), I’m far less inclined to ever read them.

In this case, in my pre-caffeinated state of post-slumber, my immediate reaction was to throw away the books this individual sent to me.

Fortunately, for this person, I have gotten better at denying those urges as I have grown older. If I do toss those books, it will be from a calm and rational place, not from the place that comes with trifling with me before I’ve had my morning coffee.

This post has more substance than my snide reaction to that individual. It’s a lesson to be learned.

When you send your books to a more renowned author than yourself, you should brace yourself for the possibility that they may never even respond to your query, much less read your work.

When I published the first iteration of my novel The First BayonetI reached out to former Army Special Mission Unit squadron commander and (at the time) newly minted author Brad Taylor in hopes that he would review my book.

I got lucky. He actually replied to my email, where he informed me that he was unfortunately busy with full-time work and his own writing (does that sound familiar?), but that he wished me the best of luck with my works.

I could have pitched a fit and been caught up in my feelings like [name redacted] above. Instead, I saw it for what it was: a genuinely kind gesture. That email solidified me as a major fan of Brad’s work, and that’s even before I finally started catching up on the Pike Logan series (still have a couple more books to go before I’m up to speed).

Cool story about that: my father, being the kind of guy  that he is, actually took my first book to a Brad Taylor signing and offered him a swap. Brad was not only kind enough to accept the book and take a photo with my father, he actually remembered who I was. If that’s not the definition of a stand-up guy, I don’t know what is.

Also: Brad still has not read my book (or if he has, he hasn’t reviewed it). Guess what? It happens. He’s a busy man. You don’t see me throwing a fit on social media or forsaking his work over it.

My father with Brad Taylor. Dad’s holding Brad’s book (which was an excellent read, by the way) and Brad’s holding the first edition of my book.

A less positive example was when I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last year. I bought a book written by Glenn Beck, since my father is a major fan of Beck’s and I intended to send it to him (returning the favor when he sent me Brad’s book, autographed). I was at CPAC to promote my own work after my traffic stop, and I took an opportunity to slide my books to Glenn Beck’s assistant.

Glenn Beck at CPAC 2016.

No review from Glenn Beck. Chances are, the assistant probably threw them in the trash before they even reached Mr. Beck. Guess what? Still not caught up in my feelings, because I know how the game is played.

Same deal when I gave Sheriff David Clarke one of my books. No review. Probably didn’t read it. Again, it’s how the game is played.

Me with Sheriff David Clarke at CPAC 2016. He really is tall (I’m 6’0″) and that is my book in his hand.

One more example to really drive the lesson home.

I recently met New York Times Bestseller Mark Greaney in Phoenix when he was doing a presser for his newest book, Gunmetal Gray (also an excellent read). After the presser, we grabbed pizza and beer. We talked about traditional versus independent publishing, the struggle of being an author, and various other topics in a conversation that just flowed naturally.

Me with Mark Greaney

At the end of dinner, he offered to read my books if I sent them to him. He gave a very similar disclaimer to what I give people asking for reviews.

After that, the only mention I made of it was making sure the books had indeed arrived safely. This will probably be the last time I mention it to anyone because Mark is a busy man. Have you ever written a 150,000+ word novel in ninety days? Well, Mark has. That’s the kind of busy he is, and I accept that.

I’m not going to get caught in my feelings and ruin a friendship because he has not dropped everything to read my book. I never expected him to throw my works to the front of the queue. Just the fact he offered to read them eventually is good enough for me. That’s scoring a birdie, so far as I’m concerned.

And even if he doesn’t read them, I’m still going to keep reading Gray Man novels because they’re flat out fun to read.

The lesson to be learned here: you will attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. You are not entitled to anybody reading your work. If somebody does read your work, then excellent. If they do not, then suck it up, buttercup. Figure out the marketing side of independent publishing and charlie mike, or quit and find something else to fill your time.

Now that I’ve appeased my inner NCO with that summary, allow me to close this post with an appropriate meme.


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