A while ago, what I started doing is requesting review copies of books from publishers directly, then pitching publications to run my reviews. The goal was to get whatever books I wanted, even if they hadn’t been submitted to the usual places I write for.
But while I’ve generally received the books I’ve requested, I’ve also found it’s annoying trying to place a review after the fact, not knowing whether a place will accept freelance submissions, if I’ve conformed to their style guidelines, if perhaps they’ve already reviewed or assigned a work for review, etc.
In other words, I’ve learned how much work I can create for myself by bypassing my editors instead of working with them on prospective submissions from the start. Not only might they sometimes be more successful at soliciting review material, they can let me know in advance what they want covered.
This is true of all kinds of writing besides reviews. It’s usually better to pitch an idea and get a provisional acceptance for it from a specific publication (and additional notes, i.e., “I’d like to see you focus more on this angle”) rather than trying to sell a finished article when it hasn’t been tailored to their needs. At best, you’ll be doing a lot of rewriting by not having a discussion with your editor before you’ve written the first draft. At worst, you may not even be able to place it.
Writers write in order to be read. I hate having unpublished work on my harddrive.
I have a bunch of finished reviews that will be running in the next couple weeks, and I have three books on hand I still need to write up as well as place somewhere. An additional five that should be arriving in the mail any day now are, fortunately, already specifically promised to certain review pubs. So I know exactly what style and focus to take as I write each of them up.
(On the plus side, my previous efforts to place articles have led to a couple new regular paying outlets for me. So that’s nice.)