Congratulations — your first science-fiction novel has been published! Too bad it's one of dozens to come out at the same time. How do you stand out from the pack and get reviewed in major publications?
Booklife, a site associated with Jeff VanderMeer's how-to guide for writers, interviewed all of the major critics who review science fiction books for print outlets, including Time Magazine's Lev Grossman and the Washington Post's Ron Charles. The interviews focused on common mistakes that new authors (or publicists) make in trying to get their books reviewed — which boil down to "Don't be pushy. Don't telephone, ever. Don't send review copies without contact or release-date info on them. And don't send your scifi novel to someone who only reviews cookbooks."
But you can also get a pretty good sense of how the system does work, and how book reviewers do like to receive review copies. Grossman explains the ideal set-up:
It would consist of three parts. No more, No fewer. One: a galley, three months before publication, with a one-page pub letter (consisting of the title, the author, the pub date, plot summary, any blurbs, and a paragraph telling me who the hell the author is). Two: a single (1) e-mail, a month before publication, reminding me that the book is coming out and why I should care. Three: a finished book, also a month before publication.
Charles Darwin cover from the final ever Washington Post Book World. [Booklife Now]