Sara’s book in five words or less: Magic, creatures, snow, Emelyn, Boggans, Magisters. Towers. Amazing. Epic. Life Changing.
Here’s thing about The Thirteenth Tower: it’s not fairytales for the faint of heart. It’s the kind that go bump in the night. The Snow White with dripping fangs variety. <– Okay, that might be a bit much.
Suffice it to say: Sara Snider doesn’t hold back. And her blog looks like a princess fairytale. Yes. That just happened. I used the words ‘princess’ and ‘fairytale’.
I asked her to come here today because I noticed that she had Kirkus review the book and give her an honest evaluation. I didn’t know much about this, except that I’d seen Kirkus Review on so many books it may as well have been Scholastic, so I asked her to write up a guest post.
Wow me with your knowledge, Sara. You always do:
My Experience With Kirkus Indie Reviews
There’s a lot to be said about the Kirkus Indie Review program. I’ve read posts that discuss a variety of topics, ranging from criticism for the fact that Kirkus charges to review indie books, to how it’s not worth the money,
I’ve even seen complaints that Kirkus didn’t read the book in question before writing the review (though I can’t for the life of me find the discussion again). It’s all interesting information, and relevant if you’re trying to decide whether or not to send your book to them for a review. I’d suggest that anyone considering approaching Kirkus to do a good amount of research before doing so.
However, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about my own experience with Kirkus, as well as a little bit of information that might have helped spare me some emotional angst once I did make the decision to get a review from them. It’s not a post that is meant to sway you one way or the other. It’s really just my own thoughts on the process as it went down for me. Take from that what you will.
Things I Would Have Liked to Have Known Prior to Sending My Book to Kirkus
Kirkus has a pretty good FAQ. One thing that isn’t listed there, however, is how they determine which books go to which reviewers. So, after sending my manuscript to them, I later realized that they never asked for the genre of the book, synopsis, or any information whatsoever beyond the Title, Author, and Publication Date.
This freaked me out. I mean, let’s be honest here, Kirkus reviews are not cheap. It’s scary enough facing the prospect of negative reviews, but to pay 500 bucks for the privilege of possibly having your heart ripped out and stomped upon is an entirely new level of emotional drama.
So, after I realized they didn’t have any actual information about what kind of book it was, I got all kinds of stressed out. How could they pair it with a qualified reviewer (as per their FAQ) when they don’t even know what it’s about? I sent them a mail asking them about it and they said that they have editors that review the book to assess genre and whatnot before deciding which reviewer would be a good fit. Oh. Well OK then. Good to know (wish I knew it sooner).
A cover for your book is not required for a review, and will not affect your review’s outcome (the fact that there are starred reviews for books without covers on their website seems to back this up). The manuscript I sent them did not have the cover attached, nor is there a way to upload it when sending in your file. I figured this would mean my book would toil in the obscurity of coverless books. However, once I received my review, there was a note in the email they sent that said the cover should appear in a week or so. If not, then I could mail it to them and they would upload it. I did, and it was. Coolsies.
After waiting 6 weeks or so, I got the review as promised. It was a fair one, I thought. The negatives they brought up were fair points, and there were positives too. Overall, for me, the review was a good one, and I felt okay about having done the whole thing. No regrets. I felt I got what they said they’d deliver: an honest review. (And, yes, I do think they read the whole book.)
The million-dollar question still remains, however: was it worth it?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever know. I wanted my book reviewed by Kirkus for a quote. That’s all I really wanted—a usable quote that I could add to my book description to hopefully give it a little bit of weight for any possible buyers that might be sitting on the fence. For me, Kirkus is a name I recognize as a reader, and if I was waffling about whether or not to buy a particular book, such a quote might be enough to sway me. Especially when we’re talking about books in the self-pubbed sector. It’s really about my own perceptions in what I think might work in marketing a book. I could be wrong (I often am). I know some would disagree with me, and that’s OK too.
And—if I’m going to be completely honest here—I’ll admit that I kind of wanted to see what would happen. I’m new to writing. The Thirteenth Tower is not only my first published book, it’s the first book I’ve ever written. It’s the first anything I’ve ever written beyond some half-assed attempts at writing as a teenager before I decided I couldn’t hack it and gave up. What would happen if I threw this new book of mine to the sharks? Would it survive?
Looking for validation is always dangerous, and it’s important to get it from the right places. Kirkus isn’t necessarily the right place (I’d say readers are). But as a fledgling writer just sticking my toes in the water, I will admit it was nice to receive some sort of indication that maybe I’m not completely wasting my time, or the reader’s time, for that matter.
There, you can judge me now if you want. I don’t mind.
Would I Recommend It?
Depends. If you’re looking for in-depth reviews that are going to reach readers, then no, I wouldn’t. You can get better, more personalized reviews for free from your friendly neighborhood blogger. Nor does the Kirkus website seem like a place where readers congregate. (As an aside, an editor from Kirkus said in an interview that they receive over 1 million page views a month. It seems like some of those would be readers, but who knows. Maybe it’s just a bunch of authors checking to see what’s happening with their review.)
If readers do hang out there, I’m not sure how good the chances are of them seeing your book among the myriad of reviews anyway. I honestly couldn’t find my review on the Kirkus website after it was posted—and I was actively looking for it (without using the search function). Who knows where it actually is. Maybe I could do a scavenger hunt contest and offer goodies to anyone who finds it and tells me which page it’s on.
Anyway, the only time I’d recommend going to Kirkus for a review is if you’re looking for marketing matter to put on your Amazon page, website, the back of your book, etc., and you’ve got the marketing budget for it. Even then it wouldn’t be a “recommendation” per se. It would be more of a “go for it and see what happens” endorsement. That is, if you’re the gambling type.
What about you? Have you considered having your book reviewed by Kirkus? What made you decide one way or the other?