When my illustrator, Bret Burkmar, and I decided to self-publish, we were able to do so quite inexpensively. We decided to invest in a professional edit and a professional review. It was important to us that our books be in libraries, and I had read that Kirkus reviews are highly regarded by librarians as well as publishing professionals. That helped guide our decision. It was also comforting to know that if the review was unfavorable, we didn’t have to publish it on the Kirkus website.

Waiting for our Kirkus review was nerve-wracking. When I received it, I almost didn’t want to read it, but I needn’t have worried—we were paired with a reviewer who was on our wavelength and who saw what we were trying to do with our series. As I read through the description of the story, the negative comments I had been dreading weren’t there. It turned out the critic liked it, and the review itself was fun to read and contained great descriptions and blurbs we could use for marketing. It was Bret who told me that we had a starred review—I hadn’t even noticed in my state of disbelief. Then we started researching what it means to get a Kirkus Star. A Kirkus Star is awarded to only 2 percent of the 4,000 indie books Kirkus reviews each year, and a book has to be of exceptional merit to receive one. To say we were over the moon is an understatement.

Receiving a starred review also meant we were nominated for the Kirkus Prize, which was very exciting. We later found out that we had been named as a book of the month and to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014 list. This was a huge honor, not to mention wonderful to put on the covers of our books. When our second book was ready for reviewing, we couldn’t wait to send it to Kirkus Reviews, and we were relieved to receive a second starred review and to be named to the Best Books of 2015. The review of our second book was also placed in the magazine. For the cost of one review, I feel that the extra exposure we received from Kirkus Reviews, not to mention validation for all our hard work from a trusted source, was well worth it. Everyone I spoke to at Kirkus was kind and easy to deal with. Our books are in several libraries now, and I do feel that it was our review and subsequent inclusion on various Kirkus lists that helped them get there. As we continue to send out queries to literary agents and publishers, it feels less daunting to have the backing of a Kirkus Star and to be able to include all the positive comments from a credible outside source. Overall, it has been a great experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone debating whether to take the plunge.

Claudine Carmel is the author of a new children’s series with monster-battling heroine Lucy Lick-Me-Not. The first two books in the series have both been named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of the Year, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters in 2014 and Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins in 2015. Claudine grew up in a seaside town on the south coast of England, and currently lives with her husband and their dog in the Pacific Northwest.