Before launching Leave of Absence last year, I researched many aspects of book publishing, not the least of which was reviews and their degree of importance. Seasoned experts nearly unanimously agree that reviews are important; indeed, readers like to know if a novel is worth their time and attention. These experts, though, place varying degrees of importance on just how seriously an author should take individual reviews. One school of thought is that any given review can make or break an author; thus, the author should closely follow any and all reviews received. Another one says that that’s unnecessary. Patterns should be watched for (for example, are most reviews horrible, or are most favorable?) but beyond that, the author should let go of obsessions.
I fall into the second school. That said, I do worry about reviews because I do care about how people feel about my novels. Every time I send a book out for review, or every time a surprise review pops up online, I’m a bit nervous. I’m especially nervous when I send a book to Kirkus Reviews, a professional book review company in the US who reviews for the traditional publishing giants as well as for indie authors. They’re respected and reputable, and their opinion is sought by readers and industry professionals alike. A reason for this? They pride themselves on being discerning. No, let’s cut to the chase. They’re downright tough. Harsh. Critical in the negative sense. To be sure, they do laud books (and they do pick them apart). As I sent them My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel, I wondered why I was subjecting myself to this veritable torture.
Why? Because I needed to do so. Kirkus Reviews is professionally respected. A favorable, and even a moderately favorable, review lends credibility and professionalism to one’s work. Leave of Absence received a good review with just one negative opinion given among positives. Would My Life in a Nutshell fall flat in their eyes? Delightfully, Kirkus Reviews loved My Life in a Nutshell, and they gave it a glowing review. Further, they awarded it their coveted Kirkus Star, which they reserve for “books of remarkable merit.”
What does this mean for me? At its core, it means that as I present my novel to the world, I can do so confidently. Not everyone will like it, I know. But knowing that such a discerning group of critics has awarded it their highest honor helps me know that my work isn’t shameful and that I can comfortably present it to readers.
Review from Kirkus will appear on FFP web site very soon, so please come back!