Nothing Risked, Nothing Gained

The Visitor’s Choice: A Search to Make Things Right is my first published novel. After a year of rejection letters and emails from publishers and literary agents, a small press from my home state of Michigan finally reached out and offered to work with me on this project. Becoming a published author was a goal of mine since elementary school, so I did not hesitate when the first run of this book nearly wiped out my meager bank account of a young, new teacher. This was my big dream, after all! And now I have a published book with my name on it.

Needless to say, after my book was released, I ran pretty low on funds. I was familiar with the Kirkus reputation, but when more research proved that this would possibly be a costly venture, I laughed and pushed the notion aside. Why should I pay more money for a review that might not even be a positive one? I had other plans of a meteoric rise to success in mind that would not cost me a cent.

I resorted to any and all free attention I could get. However, even with all of the social media blasts and online giveaways, I was still not as successful as I hoped. My book was not hopping off the shelves or causing any major cultural waves. Maybe the book blurbs from friends, fellow teachers, and my students didn’t have the clout to compare with an institution like Kirkus? Of course, they didn’t. It was a costly risk for someone living on credit card debt and bulk food deals at the time, but one of the major lessons of my book is that choices have consequences. Even choosing not to act can have a major effect. Nothing risked, nothing gained. I made a choice to submit my novel to Kirkus and kept my fingers crossed for positive results.

And it paid off! In the review, I was called a “gifted writer,” and The Visitor’s Choice was named “an imaginative example of fantasy done right.” I plastered clips from the review all over my website and new promotional materials. I even printed out a copy and had it framed for my table at local book fairs and signings. At the first book fair with my new Kirkus review, a woman came by and read the framed review. She was surprised and impressed. She told me that Kirkus does not lightly give such glowing praise. And then she bought a copy! If there was any proof that a Kirkus review results in book sales, that was it.

After that experience with Kirkus, I gained confidence in myself to put my book out there more, even if it cost money or sounded like a risk. I submitted it to contests with fees, and the novel earned some first- and second-place prizes in fantasy and young-adult literature. I never would have done that if it weren’t for the success I had with Kirkus. The attention for The Visitor’s Choice was rising with every new event. Not only did the review give confidence to potential readers about the quality of my book, it also gave me a positive sense of worth as a debut author as well.

Alexander Davidson is an author, secondary educator, and certified reading specialist with a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A.T. in literacy education from Madonna University. He has been a member of the National Council of Teachers of English since 2011 and has presented at the National Conference for Peer Tutoring in Writing, the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference, and the international Jesuit Schools Network Colloquium on Ignatian Education. While teaching, reading, and writing to middle school and high school students, Davidson strives to create written works that will interest his students and teach them valuable lessons at the same time. The Visitor’s Choice: A Search to Make ThingsRight (Ferne Press, 2014) is his first novel.

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