Reviews

I used to say any review is a good review. I said that because a review gives your novel exposure. Most reviews consist of a brief summary of the plot and then a few lines with the reviewer's comments. Be glad that your book has been summarized for you and exposed to the readers of the review. Accept that the reviewer's comments have been written and there is nothing you can do about it.

However, there is no doubt that bad reviews can hurt, not only in terms of ego, but also in terms of sales. One thing that is hard about writing for a living is that the product of your work is out there for anyone to look at and make comments upon. The decision by on-line bookstores to allow anyone with access to a computer to post an anonymous 'review' of any book for all the world to see has been a curious phenomenon and one many writers groups are fighting. What is guaranteed is that someone will not like your book. I'm not a fan of this policy by on-line sellers, even though over 95% of reviews I've gotten have been great. It's a system that is susceptible to abuse and only time will tell how that shakes out. Ultimately it may be needed as more and more books come out in e-format and there is a need to tell quality.

It is a curious phenomenon for many writers that once a book has been published it is no longer as important to them. That is because, as noted above, the writing of that particular work is years in the past and you are presently working on something that is several manuscripts removed. That is fortunate because it allows you to not get as hurt by a negative review.

For example, by the time my third manuscript was released in print, I was working on my ninth. I could hardly remember the entire plot of the third. I certainly felt my writing skills were somewhat better, thus being hit up again for weak characterization didn't hurt as much—indeed, it gave me a focal point to work on improving my writing skills.

Pay attention to responsible reviews. Take what is said seriously and as a learning point. Also, you have to do some work yourself to get reviewed. Your publisher will hit the usual places (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly) but it's up to you to find all those other avenues of exposure such as alumni newsletters, trade magazines, local papers, etc.

You have to target venues for reviews. There are magazines out there for every conceivable subject matter. You have to dig out the ones that relate to the subject matter of your book. Be prepared to purchase copies of your book from your publisher in order to send review copies out.

One last thought on on-line reviews, many posted anonymously. My take on that is to borrow a quote from Richard Russo' excellent book Nobody's Fool: "The best she was able to do was to reflect that people invariably exhibited the very worst side of their flawed natures when invited to put their thoughts into writing, especially when the invitation was sanctioned hit-and-run posing as democracy in action."

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