A Review that Carries Weight (and Got me a Book Deal)

Writing is like life. You must practice it as an experiment for yourself and as a service for others. I dedicated over five years to researching and writing The Sworn Virgin—a historical novel that takes place in the mountains of 1910 Albania. It follows an obscure Albanian tradition that allows a woman, otherwise traded like cattle, to swear to remain a virgin her entire life in order to gain the legal rights of a man.

If I did not believe that The Sworn Virgin offered an emotional journey I hoped would resonate with women everywhere, how else could I have spent that time crafting my story? Throughout the journey, I sought feedback—sometimes gracious, sometimes harsh, but always helpful. When I finally self-published, I was ready for the some of the most decisive feedback—a review from Kirkus Reviews.

While the publishing industry has changed dramatically since 1933, Kirkus has remained a redoubtable critic. Kirkus is the bible for bookstores on what to buy, and a good review from Kirkus is as close to an objective measurement of quality in the book industry as you can get.

I crossed my fingers and mailed The Sworn Virgin to Kirkus Indie. I was warned by my friends in the publishing industry to brace myself. Months later, I took a deep breath and opened up the latest issue of Kirkus Reviews. Seeing my novel’s cover and title in such an esteemed publication was almost as good as seeing Kirkus’ positive and intelligent review.

My review has carried more weight with people in the publishing industry than with the thousands of followers my book has on Facebook and the many starred reviews it has gained on GoodReads and Amazon. Kirkus’ review helped The Sworn Virgin earn a publishing deal with HarperCollins’ prestigious imprint William Morrow. It is set for publication on August 8. The title was slightly adjusted, the manuscript expanded by 100 pages, and the cover has a new illustration—topped by the lines: “A compelling story of a woman’s trauma and strength.–Kirkus Reviews.”

Kristopher Dukes was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has been a nationally published writer since high school. Her work has been featured in the bestselling book series Written in the Dirt and Women’s Wear Daily. The Sworn Virgin is her debut novel. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with her husband, Matt, and Doberman, Xena.

MORE BLOG POSTS

An Essential Stepping Stone to a Captive Audience
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 ...
Kirkus Got my Book Noticed
After over 20 years sending work to literary magazines and winning prizes for my stories and novel in progress, I still didn’t have an agent. I was not getting any younger. On New Year’s Eve 2013, I vowed that, come hell or high water, I would find a publisher. Rather than self-publish, I approached independent presses. Soon, I had three ...
Alternate Bards
With my first book, Shakespeare’s Dark Lady: Amelia Bassano Lanier, I quickly found out that getting reviews is a tricky business. Journals have many criteria for the books they review. Some will only review university press books (mine was a trade book published by a specialized U.K. history publisher), while others will only review books published by university-level academics ...