I dreaded getting my debut novel reviewed. An introvert at heart, I equated the notion of sending my book out for review to being thrown to the lions. My expectations were akin to Vonnegut’s when he said this about critics: He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.
But my publisher knew better. She brought me up to speed about what needed to be done if I wanted to find readers: “Submit your book to Kirkus; it’s a literary institution…the literary institution.” It was a daunting idea, you see, because my book didn’t fit neatly into one category. It could be considered Visionary, Magical Realism, Literary, Young Adult or Adult, or all the above. Also, several of my literary heroes had earned less-than-stellar reviews from Kirkus. I had spent years on this novel and didn’t want to start my writing career by going public as a flop.
“Don’t worry, they won’t publish the review if you don’t want them to,” said my publisher. And they match books to reviewers with similar tastes.”
Being an indie author, i.e., not having a decent marketing/promo budget, or even an indecent one, I had to think about how to get the best exposure for the least amount of money. So I did some research. Here is what I found: Kirkus Reviews has been the leader in book discovery for 83 years. Impressive. 55,000 email newsletter subscribers; 15,000 print magazine subscribers. Awesome. A whopping average of 1,500,000 website impressions a month. Dazzling! Kirkus Reviews magazine is distributed to librarians, booksellers and publishing professionals; the website and email base is made up of both industry buyers and consumers. There simply wasn’t a better place to begin. I had to take the plunge.
Imagine my surprise when my book landed on Kirkus’ list of Books of the Month in December, 2015! The reviewer described the novel beautifully, and captured the salient points in a compelling manner. I was thrilled to see playfulness of language noted, and poignancy of the story’s themes lauded. The reviewer seemed to develop affection for the main character, which pleased me beyond words.
Since there are so many books flying off the presses daily, it is absolutely a blessing to have the sort of expertise that Kirkus provides. The association garners respect and magically open doors to new opportunities. As soon as I had the Kirkus “nods of approval,” inquiries came in from film scouts and foreign publishers. Bloggers, reviewers and other authors sat up and took notice, requesting radio and website interviews.
I am deeply honored to tell the world that my book earned a starred review and the distinction of Best Indies Books of the Month. Thank you, Kirkus Reviews, for singling out my book, for giving it a rocket boost into the world. Since then, it has won several awards, and the Kirkus star glitters cheerfully alongside them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Robin Gregory has worked as a journalist, lay minister, and infant massage instructor for mothers and babies at risk. Her studies include literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Stanford University's writer’s workshop. Her debut novel, The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, is an allegorical tale, a mystical adventure that challenges our beliefs in physical, mental, and spiritual limitations.