I plunged into the world of self-publishing in 2012 after many years of frustrating encounters and near successes with the traditional publishing industry’s arcane system. I hired a well-respected editor to polish the manuscript of my adult novel and won numerous awards in national writing contests. But I continued to accumulate those dreaded rejection letters, many with lovely, encouraging words that got me nowhere. The slow and laborious process left me disappointed and cranky (my husband can attest to this). My chances of being discovered appeared as likely as winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

I decided to put Across the Mekong River out in the universe and let readers decide its worth. With thousands of self-published books being released each month, I needed a way to give my book credibility. I purchased a review from Kirkus Reviews, considering the cost an investment that would pay dividends down the road. I liked being able to submit the manuscript in advance of publication. This allowed me to put a quote from the review on my book cover. I also liked that I could choose not to have the review published if it turned out to be critical. The first time around, I was very nervous about the outcome. To my delight, I received an excellent review, which was well-crafted and deftly described the substance and conflict of the story without giving away the outcome.

Kirkus Reviews helped launch my book and provided a stepping stone to other successes. The novel subsequently won four indie awards and was selected for the IndieBRAG and Library Journal’s SELF-e curated lists. The book was featured on promotional programs like BookBub and Kindle Nation Daily, helping me achieve significant sales. Through one of the award programs, I was invited to the 2014 Book Expo in New York to sign books. In turn, these accomplishments led to a wealth of positive reader reviews and strong ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. My dreams had come true!

In the past four years, I also self-published two middle-grade novels in the Martin McMillan mystery series and a young adult book, Montana in A Minor. These books received positive reviews from Kirkus as well, which helped elevate them to the next level with more indie book awards and positive reader reviews.

I am thrilled that my books are reaching appreciative readers. I might not have achieved this success if I hadn’t started out with a Kirkus Review.

Elaine Russell began writing fiction and nonfiction over 20 ago. She loves traveling and much of her work is based in part on the places she has visited. Her novels and short stories have won numerous awards. Her latest publication is a picture book (ages 8-12 years), All About Thailand, released November 8, 2016, with Tuttle Publishing. Elaine’s inspiration for first adult novel, Across the Mekong River, came from her involvement with the American Hmong and Lao immigrant community. She is also the author of the Martin McMillan middle grade mystery series. The stand-alone books are set in Peru, Thailand, and Scotland and offer fast-paced adventures appropriate for reluctant readers.