The reviews in Kirkus Reviews are polished little gems of critical writing—ranging from the eloquent to the cantankerous—and always intelligently conceived. I have been reading these reviews for years, both as a form of entertainment and to discover my next good read.

After querying my own debut novel, Tiger Pelt, for well over a year, I ventured to submit an unpublished manuscript to Kirkus Reviews. When the novel received a starred review and was named one of Kirkus’ Best Indie Books of 2015, the tables were turned; now agents were querying me. There is something uniquely satisfying and wonderfully strange about reading a review of the writing you’ve been so close to and seeing your own work through someone else’s eyes. You realize that the work is more than your brainchild, that writing gains a life and a meaning of its own through the interpretation, perspective, and experience of the reader. The Kirkus reviewers, insightful and expressive, offer this to readers and authors alike.

As a debut author, I coveted a starred review more than the sight of my name in print. This instinct proved in fact to be quite pragmatic. My publisher ran a book cover contest which attracted entries and public comments from all over the world. A common thread among the commenters was that the cover text “Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2015,” more than the artwork, more than the publisher, more than the author, would be the single reason they would buy the book. My publisher increased the font size and moved that important text to the top of the book cover.

Pick up a book in any bookstore and you will find the Kirkus tagline set in a prominent position. The consistent competence and often startling candor of its reviews makes the Kirkus star one of the most desirable marks of affirmation in the industry. My book is in final production now and boasts a tidy collection of fine pre-publication reviews from professional and amateur readers. Yet Kirkus’ review remains Tiger Pelt’s most influential stamp of approval, foremost, front and center.

Annabelle Kim’s debut novel, Tiger Pelt, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Her short fiction has been published in Kelsey Review. Kim studied in the MIT Writing Program. She lives with her husband, four children and Bouvier des Flandres in New Jersey: Exit 8.