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  • Grant Handgis

Book Reviewers ~ Things to Think About


One of the avenues for advancing the profile of a published book is finding a reviewer willing to read your book, then give it a fair review. That's the plan. There are pitfalls. The first stage of this interesting process is finding a reviewer. What I can say at this time is that there are reviewers out there, and usually blogging on various aspects of their experiences, authors who don't seem to have spell check, which is one of their pet peeves, writing crappy query emails without any detail and sometimes the crappy books sent them. Finding a reviewer is one thing, finding the right reviewer is essential. There are numerous reviewers, as a business. They charge to read and review. Some do it for their blog or find other ways to use the practice in other ways. Know your reviewer(s). Read some of the titles they have read, then the review they gave the book. If said reviewed books get slammed for elements that are used in your book, or similar writing style, it is one indication this might not be the reviewer for you. Also if a reviewer has a list of books only in Goth, or Vampire novels, Witchcraft & Dragons, and your book is all about humor. . . push on.

My personal experience with reviewers has gone both ways. Having six books in print, I have more than one genre represented. There will ALWAYS be two sides to your books, as the reading palate has so many variant taste buds. As an example, I’ll use one such book I wrote. "The Story of Teeny Tiny Tammy". A children’s book, a fairytale for little girls, learning the process of becoming a woman. The story is a fairytale, the ‘moral of the story’ has to do with moral character, and learning that a young girl doesn’t need a magic Golden Rod to become a woman. Turns out it is her character and actions that are the things that bring this about. It is the cloister of women whom she befriends along the way of her quest that teach her these values. As in real life, when mother, aunt and grandmother, make up a girl’s cloister, who then bring her into the circle of women for support and learning. Quite different than for boys.

This fairytale was first penned over thirty years ago, when my daughter was eleven. What was lacking was the reason for the quest, and the ending. Those two parts of the story were developed after reading Robert Bly’s “Iron John”, about Myth and Fairytales and their part to play in society. The difference in the coming of age practices for boys, and girls. I offer up this information as it goes to show writers are influenced by other writers. Also, Robert Bly deduces correctly those inherent gender differences and their consequences when not allowed to unfold to the benefit of the boys and girls.

What this has to do with reviewers is simply this. One reviewer is an English teacher, active or retired I do not know. His review was short and angry. Basically the story was 'the worst kind of dreck, but the illustrations were so nice as to be hung on the walls as art'. On the other side was a reviewer who is an author of children’s books, and blogs on children’s books. Her praise of the story and the illustrations was extensive. She also audio recorded the opening prose of the story, reading it as she would to children before her, then added praise to the ending, encouraging purchasing the book before sending the file to me. There is no higher praise and affirmation than that. Her audio blurb is proudly posted next to the book’s listing on the landing page, and the Books listing page.

What to take away from this. Find a reviewer that fits your genre. Find out the books they review, which they usually always proudly display, then go through those books to get a feel if your book matches well with the general reading theme, and design/graphics, for that reviewer. Once a reviewer has put their stamp on your book, either a gold star or a shiny black eye, it is out there on your book’s listing for God and everyone to see. The black eye I received from said English teacher was the first of the reviews left on the amazon.com listing page. All those that came afterwards are 4-5 star ratings with glowing remarks about the story, and the illustrations. The reading public loves the book, and that, dear readers is what counts. One more point about reviews, as mentioned earlier, many reviews require a fee, for a “professional” to do the reading. I leave that to the author to decipher, and research.

Create Space, and I imagine other service providers have opened up the UK, European and Asian book markets for their published authors. Very good news for said published authors. That would open up finding reviewers in those markets as well, with the added caveat of language to deal with for some countries. Two things that cannot be stressed enough about this process is getting it right, before any book or manuscript (usually pdf file) is sent out for reading, and secondly be very certain you are sending your work to someone not only qualified (in some manner) to be judging your work, but the right judge for your genre of writing; historical novel, fiction, short stories, Sci-Fi, Mystery/Suspense, poetry, humor. . . All of which is to say simply that this process is a double edged sword. It can be useful, and spread the word about your book, as in "good read" "this is worth reading", but it can also become "keep your day job" "have you thought about taking an English course?" review. Having your shorts yanked down in front of a few thousand potential readers just cannot be fun. I speak from experience, although I confess I haven't gone back for more. I keep researching reviewers, and one thing I've learned is that there are more than you can imagine. Just as there are likely more self-published authors than one can imagine at this time. This new dance of self-publishing being coupled with public reviewing can be a beautiful thing, and just as easily it can become a wicked playground for Egos run amuck. When self-publishing your book, making the right marketing decisions is part of the process. Trust your instincts, but verify, verify, verify. . .


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