The answer is simple.
Really, that's all you need to do. Pick up the phone, talk to a real person, and ask. Nicely.
It helps to have a little run through of what you are going to say before you ring. Especially when they ask the inevitable, "What is your book about?" You don't want to answer with, "Right. Oh. Umm. Well, it's about a girl and she falls in love with this guy, see? But the problem is, he's wheelchair bound and then...Hello?"
Too late, they've already hung up on you. Think about the theme/s of your book and what the story is about in one or two sentences. You want that catchy blurb that hooks the person in straight away.
Now, I know, it's scary picking up the phone, terrifying even, but you have to do it. You can do it.
I started by calling the city paper (for me the New Zealand Herald). I was a bit intimidated, but I decided that my book had just as much right to reviewed by the 'big boys' as any body else's. I found out who the person reviewing picture books was and asked to speak to them. I introduced myself, told them I had just written a great little picture book and asked if they would like to review it. They asked me, "What is it about?" (See, told you.) So I said, "Well, it's called Rabbit's Big Idea, and it's about perseverance and resilience. Rabbit wants to upgrade his local park, but he confronts no end of opposition, but he learns that for any big idea to come to pass he needs to be brave, and persevere and believe."
She said, "Okay, send me copy." So I did, the next day, and was sure to include a cover letter, reminding her of our conversation and thanking her for the opportunity. What I didn't do was ask for her to return the book after she had finished with it, or attach an invoice for the book. I was absolutely stunned to hear that people do that, so please don't make that mistake. It's so tacky and unprofessional. These people are doing you a favour, and remember, it's free advertising. Surely one book is worth that.
Also, I didn't harass my contact once I sent the book. It can take a long time, and you may begin to think they aren't going to review your book, but I've learned, patience is the name of the game. I think it took nearly two months for the review to pop up, and they didn't inform me, so don't expect that. Next time I might ask them to let me know when the article will come out if they do decide to review the book. I only found out about the newspaper review because one of my fellow writer buddies came across it in the weekend paper. Thank you Sue Copsey. (Check out her awesome book The Ghosts of Tarawera.)
The same thing happened with a local paper. It took a long time for the review to come through, and I honestly began to wonder if it would get reviewed, but finally it did. I've copied the review below, or see for yourself at http://www.elocal.co.nz/View_Article.aspx?Id=3196&title=Book_Reviews
One of the things she (Julie Halligan) said really spoke to me. She said,
One normally does not review Children’s Books but a very nice lady telephoned to ask if one would. It arrived today and was devoured within minutes (it is a children’s book) over a nice latte.
See, I asked, and even though it wasn't a genre the reviewer normally dealt with, she did anyway. Because I asked nicely. See, mother was right about manners, after all.
There are also, many opportunities to be reviewed by various online communities. This is a resource I've yet to tap into, so if anyone has some good advice about that, especially for picture books, I'd love to hear from you. But I'm more than sure that the same rule applies. Just ask.
Thanks, and happy self-publishing!
Review in elcoal South East Auckland edition by Julie Halligan.
‘Rabbit’s Big Idea’
By Elise De Silva
Published by EDS Publishing, NZ.
Available at selected stores or at www.edspublishing.com
One normally does not review Children’s Books but a very nice lady telephoned
to ask if one would. It arrived today and was devoured within minutes (it is a
children’s book) over a nice latte. The subject of the book is one we can all
identify with, the ‘Big Idea’ we have all had at one time or another, only to
have made the mistake of sharing it, to be shot down in flames for one reason or
another and the said ‘Big Idea’ never again saw the light of day if we had been
hammered enough with other people’s doubts and lack of self belief.
Elise De Silva has brought this experience to children in a delightful
manner, her artwork is very retro and uber cool, reminding one of the ‘Mr Men’
series one read to the little blister back in the day. De Silva’s main character
is a rabbit, who has the good fortune to not only have a very good ‘Big Idea’
but who, after some negative setbacks, ends up meeting a helpful little bird who
inspires the rabbit to just begin with the Big Idea, to just start. The end
result is that the ‘Big Idea’ actually comes to fruition. This is a valuable
life lesson encapsulated within a fabulous original package that one can never
be too young to hear. Thank you Elise De Silva, brilliant job well done.
(She gave it 5 stars, by the way. Just sayin'.)