Happy New Year everyone! All the best for a safe and prosperous 2021!
Welcome to my first blog post of the new year, an exciting new year filled with hope and promise, and the year A Drowned Kingdom will be published! I’m ecstatic and can’t wait to share my novel with all of you, and the world!
So, onto the topic for this two-part post: author peer and professional reviews, and why I sought them for A Drowned Kingdom.
I will omit the profanity, but I’m sure most of us have heard the expression “opinions are like… (substitute any vulgar words here) …everyone has them, and they stink…”
Yet, in many ways, being a creative has so much to do with the opinion of others. For most of us, that’s a large part of why you release your poetry, book, short story, song, art-piece, or other work. out into the world. You release it, so others can see or hear it, hopefully love it, and conjointly you will receive immense satisfaction from their enjoyment. Assuming, of course, they do enjoy it. Or at least, more enjoy it than don’t enjoy it. Or, the segment / target audience whose opinion matters to you personally, enjoys it. Or…it gets complicated however I believe you understand where I’m going. You need the opinions of others, in many respects, to help validate your work. And we seek that validation beyond our own inner sense of self-satisfaction received by the mere act of publishing. You need the initial belief and confidence in your own talent that others will want to see what you have to offer.
Still, once you’ve displayed your wares, potential negative criticism, and potentially lots of it, can await you. While constructive criticism can certainly help improve your writing, the negative stuff, even if accurate, can damage your confidence, and unfortunately, because opinions do matter, potentially even your reputation and credibility as a creative.
In my October 2020 blog, I mentioned the paradox of being a writer in terms of waffling between almost hubris versus despair about the quality one’s writing and the expectations of success and sales. One moment, one thinks, “Readers will love my writing, I’m good enough to be a best-selling author!” and “Readers will hate my writing, I’m going to be a flop!”
I believe that dichotomy is exacerbated when one is a first-time, yet-to-be published Indie or self-published author, such as I. Additionally, the challenge to garner the amount of attention to your work to generate even the most meagre sales, much less any acclaim, can be extremely daunting. Why? Because you are a virtual no-body in the writing world. No one knows who you are, what your work is about, or if what you’ve written is worth their money and time to purchase and read. How can you overcome this obstacle to your dreams of reaching best-seller lists and collecting writing trophies?
Well, I opted for both author peer reviews, and professional reviews, to mitigate the problem. Since, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, opinions do matter. I certainly believe that they matter when it comes to marketing and selling an epic fantasy novel series, like The Drowned Kingdom Saga. The number of books in my genre, fantasy, including all traditionally and Indie/self-published, are untold, and can never be properly estimated. New ones emerge daily. There are innumerable fantasy books, and so many amazing and famous works among them. The good news is that there are millions of potential readers out there. But those readers have literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of books to chose from, and one can only read so many books in a lifetime.
Regardless, someone like me needs to stand out enough to have people choose to buy my book. Those buyers need to like it, recommend to others how great it is, and generate more buzz and sales, and eventually formal accolades, to raise the profile of A Drowned Kingdom even higher in the literary world.
Therefore, once completed, I opted to have A Drowned Kingdom reviewed by two highly established, reputable, and prestigious professional reviewing companies, prior to publication. Those companies were Kirkus Reviews (Kirkus Reviews), and Clarion Foreword Reviews (Clarion Reviews — Foreword Reviews). My Indie Publisher, FriesenPress (FriesenPress | Self-Publish Your Book in Canada), endorses the reputation of both companies, and most of their publishing packages offers reviews from these entities, as FriesenPress believes such reviews are highly beneficial for an authors’ publicity. After some research, I concurred with my publisher, seeing the value in professional reviews as well.
Both review companies employ writing industry people such as authors, journalists, librarians, publishers, and agents to conduct the reviews of an author’s work. It’s important to note, that neither one of these organizations promise positive reviews for anyone who submits their creation to be critiqued. That said, in most cases, if a less than favourable review is received, it does not have to become public. Thus it is retained by the author only as useful feedback. However, if the review is positive, it can be made public, and this can greatly boost the author’s work. If such a positive review is published on the website and social media pages of the review companies, this can lead to great exposure for any author, particularly fledgling ones as I am. Readers, literary agents, book publishers, and others you want to know about how amazing your book is, can discover your novel. Moreover, prior to publication, or afterwards, depending on your print cycles, you can add excerpts from your positive review by a trusted source in the writing industry like Kirkus or Clarion, to the inside jacket, front and back covers of your book. This can make a tangible difference in terms of the readers decision-making when they first see your book cover on Amazon, Goodreads, or in the physical bookstore. A glowing endorsement from a well-known, professional reviewing company, right on the outer garments of your novel, will assuredly lend an air of legitimacy to your book as being worth delving into, to see what lies beneath the beautiful cover design.
A word of caution, these professional reviews are not inexpensive, and of course, to take the required time and properly provide a review of your book, they are not completed for several months. In my case, this delayed the release date of A Drowned Kingdom, and made the difference between a potential 2020 holiday season release, versus the novel coming out in Spring 2021. So, there are financial and publication timeline implications for pushing back your “book-birthday” a season. All so you can get a sentence, or a few words (which is typically what can fit on a front or back cover) on your book jacket. But those few words can make a huge difference in sales and outreach, so I felt it was worth the investment of dollars, and patience in waiting a couple of extra months to publish.
Being reviewed by Kirkus, Clarion, and similar businesses, have other advantages for the author. Kirkus and Clarion both award distinction to notable authors in the form of prizes, such as the Kirkus Star/Kirkus Prize, and the Foreword Awards. The Kirkus Prize in particular, is quite substantial from a monetary view: it’s $50,000!!!
There are more benefits that come with these prizes, even for finalists and semi-finalists, such as free magazine subscriptions, discounted advertising, free marketing advice, and more.
Yet the real lure, for many authors, is to have a winner, finalist, etc. gold seal provided to grace the cover of their books. That type of eye-catching, glossy recognition, prominently displayed, can convince readers to add your book to their “To Be Read” over another equally well-written and well-packaged novel. Therefore, not only might receiving a great review from a Kirkus or a Clarion provide you with excellent positive promotion for your cover it might also lead you to even greater opportunities for reward and recognition. It can all begin with having your book professionally reviewed. That is my hope, with the time and money devoted to having Kirkus and Clarion read A Drowned Kingdom and provide their feedback.
While I have been convinced of the importance of professional reviews, peer author reviews are, in my estimation, certainly no less critical, if not more crucial. When my blog returns with Part Two of this post, I will examine the relevance of peer author reviews.
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
P.L. Stuart's Blog
I am a Canadian high fantasy author. My debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom - first in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is now available! Book 2 in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans, is now available here!