Five years ago, I had never heard of CreateSpace or Kirkus Reviews. When my children dared me to write a book, I arrived the next day with a final draft of Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life, and my journey in self-publishing began. We took the BIG package with CreateSpace for a children’s book, which included an illustrator, one round of editing, a marketing/publicity package and a review from a couple of top-notch reviewing sites. I clicked on yes, not understanding anything I ordered, and until I received my review, I had no idea what I bought.
I never noticed I received a Kirkus Star until the publishing consultant at CreateSpace called and congratulated me. “This is big,”he explained. I cleared my throat and asked in a quiet voice, afraid to speak what was on my mind. “Don’t they give that to everybody? I mean I paid for it.” Oh, the innocence of the uninitiated! “No!” he burst out. “So, the review is for real?” You bet it’s for real, and it’s something special when you get noticed with a good review. Within three months, I received an email from Kirkus that my book was now going to be included in Kirkus’ Best of 2012. That was easy, I thought.
I submitted my next dozen culture books (If You Were Me and Lived In…) and at least six more Captain No Beards, and while the reviews were mostly positive, I didn’t see another star until Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis was published in 2015. By then, I was psychotic every time I opened a new review. I wanted that star because I understood the prestige that went along with it. Kirkus didn’t give them out like candy on Halloween. They are a big deal!
A Kirkus review lets everybody know you are not writing dreck. You are being reviewed and judged along with people who have legions of professionals behind them polishing and marketing their books. Kirkus reviews each book individually, based on content, illustrations, plot, style, you name it. They are spot on, whether you want to read what they are saying or not. Even when they point out a weakness, it is done without cynicism, and I learned that their reviewers know their stuff. Whatever shortcoming they perceived, usually turned into a running theme with other reviewers, causing me to rethink things I was doing and even change direction in future books.
I think of a Kirkus review as a barometer of how a book will be received, and despite the cost, I think it’s a valuable part of the publishing process.
I have advertised with Kirkus and found a wide reach with their magazines and newsletters. I don’t think libraries would have seen my books without the Kirkus review wedging that door open for me.
Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the Captain No Beard series. Both Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life and Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis have received the Kirkus Star. The first book in the series was named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis has been named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2015. Each book in the series has won numerous awards including the NABE Pinnacle Award, IAN Award, Moonbeam Award 2014, National Indie ExcellenceAward Finalist, Shelf Media Outstanding Series Award, ForeWord Review Five Star and Finalist in the Book of the Year, and Reader’s Views Children’s Book of the Year 2013. Roman is also the author of the award-winning non-fiction culture series, If You Were Me and Lived in…. that explores customs and cultures around the world. She has co-authored a self-help book, Navigating Indieworld: A Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children and grandchildren.