Tone, Intent, Message: what a publisher email might mean



the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them.

I have been very careful, deliberately, in writing this post, to not divulge where any of the emails quoted have come from. This post is a semiotic evaluation of phraseology within impersonal communications and should only be read as such.

Those of us who use NetGalley, to receive digital copies of new books, are familiar with the generic, form email either granting or denying access to a title. For example;

Dear reader,

Thank you for your interest in reviewing a book from XYZ. Once approved we kindly ask that you:

  •         Wait to publish your review with no more than ten days before publication date.
  •         Send us the review via NetGalley or by email to
  •         Let us know if for any reason you are unable to post a review.

Or alternately;

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your request for one of ABC’s ARCs. We are afraid that, in this instance, your request has been declined. You have most likely been declined for one or more of the following reasons:

You are not based in the UK and Ireland – ABC is based in the UK and so we only send out to people who work in our territories. If you are outside of the UK and Ireland we would suggest sending your request to the publisher from your area.

Your blog does not have the required reach to qualify for a copy – Your blog or publication doesn’t seem to have that many readers / followers. We are very sorry to reject you in this instance and we wish you the best of luck in future requests.

Your profile is too sparse on details – We can’t find out why you’ve requested a free copy. Read these tips on how to update your profile, and please remember to give the name of the blog, publication, bookshop or library that you work for (preferably with a link).

Thank you very much for thinking of us,

Both of these replies are perfectly fine. The emails are polite, to the point and use no emotive language.

Occasionally, a publisher tries to personalise their emails and this is rather nice. It makes you feel they really do want to receive your feedback. Some of the approval emails I’ve had make me consider jumping the book to the head of the line.

Sadly, some of these personalised responses are still form emails and they give an alternate reaction. A reaction that makes you want to drop the book to the bottom of your “to be read” list over and over and over again.

I received an email such as this yesterday;

Dear Reader,

We make our upcoming titles available on NetGalley as a service to booksellers, librarians, professional book reviewers, and others in the trade. If you are simply an avid reader, we are happy to allow you access to a title but in return we ask two things…


1. easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.
2. plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.
3. humble and unpretentious
4. artless; unsophisticated

I am willing to concede my reaction to this email might be overly dramatic but the phrase I have highlighted is emotive. It is a challenge, a taunt directed at probably many more readers than just me and it isn’t acceptable. “If you are simply an avid reader…” is derides and implies that someone who is a voracious reader is not good enough to receive their title.

The publisher has sent this email in the hope that the person who will read the book is someone who will garner them sales, or have experience in the field etc. and provide them with good reviews on a variety of platforms. I am not so naive as to think this isn’t what every publisher hopes for but it is an understanding which could be left unsaid.

The publisher, perhaps unwittingly, is making the assumption that the only people who will want to read the title are those associated with the industry, who understand the science, will be able to engage with the text and create conversations. While I do not work in the area this book is written for, I do have a background in the subject. Part of my university career focused solidly on the topics addressed in this book. I know the publisher has no way of knowing this. Therefore, thanks – here is a copy or sorry, we haven’t approved you at this time, are the only two options to use.

I want to make it clear that I am enormously grateful to the publishers who approve my requests and I want to make it clear that I feel no ill-will towards a publisher who doesn’t approve a request. This is the nature of the beast. I will always be thankful for the publishers who took a risk on me when I first joined NetGalley and to the publishers who continue to approve me for titles even though, for my own sanity, I should stop requesting.

I have been very careful, deliberately, in writing this post, to not divulge where any of the emails quoted have come from. This post is a semiotic evaluation of phraseology within impersonal communications and should only be read as such.

*A figure of speech wherein a taunting expression is softened by a jest; an insult veiled in grace.


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