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 offers. The two I accepted promised to take the editing and formatting off my hands. Knowing they’d chosen my books over other books they might have published gave me an ego boost, but that optimism was short-lived. Having a book in print did not mean book clubs would be clamoring to read it or that librarians would add it to their collections.
How could I let readers know that this was a book they would enjoy? As a lifelong reader, I knew that compelling cover blurbs often proved to be the deciding factor in book-buyers’ decisions. The books on my shelves all had quotes from Kirkus Reviews.
Close to the publication date and with some trepidation, I sent my debut novel through the indie portal. Back came a thoughtfully written review by a reader who got the book. Whew! Most importantly, at the very bottom of the review, I saw a glowing “money quote”—the single sentence that summed up what the book was about. It gave me a credible quote for the back cover, and I featured the quote on the landing page devoted to my book launch.
What I learned from this first experience helped me when my short story collection came out. I was pleased that a highly selective independent publisher using print-on-demand technology had chosen my book over others. That was great. It saved me having to upload the book to Ingram and Amazon. But what independent publishers typically don’t do is send pre-publication-review copies to Amazon Vine, Edelweiss, or LibraryThing. I wanted to have a bigger, better launch than I’d had the first time.
With my prior experience, I knew that a successful book launch should begin with a pre-launch campaign. I needed to get into the Kirkus pipeline early so that I could begin tweeting out the “money quote” prior to the launch date. Three months prior to the pub date, Kirkus sent me the review. Because I had taken the trouble to get Kirkus Reviews involved, the publisher of my second book put out press releases that got me coverage in several newspapers. That brought invitations from book groups.
Recently, the Kirkus review’s credibility factor helped me get a couple of great, new gigs. I’m teaching for the Piper Creative Writing Center at Arizona State University and serving as a faculty member at their Desert Nights, Rising Stars conference. And, I’ve just been appointed Writer-In-Residence for Mesa, Arizona’s library system. This exposure will help me build my platform, or at least my shaky, little stool.
The bottom line is that Kirkus Reviews provided credibility that got the ball rolling. A positive review opened doors to local newspaper coverage, book groups, writing conferences, and library audiences. Sure, I know Kirkus Reviews charges money, but that review is gold. By forming a partnership with Kirkus Reviews, indie authors gain credibility, and the review is just the beginning of the many ways this investment can pay off.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of Bonds of Love & Blood and Montpelier Tomorrow. She blogs about writing and reading at http://maryleemacdonaldauthor.com.