Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Reviewers- the Unsung Heroes, by Karen Rock

As a debut author this year, the process of watching an idea hatch into a proposal, the proposal transform into a story, the story become a sale and the sale emerge, through revisions and edits, to a published book has fascinated me. Although I’ve been reading books on writing craft, what I’ve learned the most this year has had more to do with the actual business of book publishing and the integral role each person plays, from the slush pile reader who saw your story’s potential, to the editor who asked for more pages, bought your book, and molded it along the way, to the copy editor who caught more mistakes than this former ELA teacher cares to admit,  to the fabulous art team who combs through our Art Facts sheets to capture the best images and back cover copy to interest readers, to the sales/marketing department who researches and targets the best audiences, and the PR department for their tireless work in spreading the word about our novels. I now realize it’s a large machine and as a writer, I am only one part of it.



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But there is another, unsung hero in this process: the reviewer/blogger. Reviewers do not work for publishing houses, they may or may not get paid, must read a large number of books critically and thoughtfully, and commit their insights on blogs, websites, and social media in a very short time period. They can be easy targets: loved when a good review is given, dismissed when one is not. Yet these individuals sacrifice their time to provide a critical service to this industry. They help readers make informed decisions on book purchases. As an avid reader, I’ve relied on them and have even thanked them on their websites or Goodreads. As a writer, however, my gratitude turned to fear as the release of my novel WISH ME TOMORROW neared. Would they like it? Pan it? When I found out RT was no longer reviewing Heartwarming books, I was crushed. I was anxious about reviews, but, having read so many, eagerly anticipated an authority on romance giving his or her opinion about mine.

With ARCs not arriving until the day of my release, I had limited alternate reviewer options as many review sites won’t consider your novel unless they have it one to two months in advance! Nevertheless, I researched and found some that would review a book near or after its release date and wrote them, asking if they would consider reviewing WISH ME TOMORROW. Better yet, I heard from Harlequin that WISH ME TOMORROW would be available for review on NetGalley! Although it was still too close to the release date for some reviewers, many requested it. Additionally, it made a promotional blog tour possible. It starts Sept. 23rd and I’m thrilled. Since then, I’ve received reviews of WISH ME TOMORROW and I’ve been grateful for the knowledge they’ve provided both readers and myself.

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The other day, I was on Goodreads and saw that someone who’d never read my book rated it a two based on interest. I felt crushed when I thought about the months the publishing team had spent to produce, market and distribute my story. Yet this rater is not in the same category as an actual reviewer. Although a formal review does not guarantee a good opinion of your book, it’s comforting to know that the reviewer is skilled, knowledgeable and has carefully analyzed your story. Even if a poor review is received, a thoughtful reviewer will back up that score with reasons that will inform both the reader and the writer. It’s incredibly helpful knowledge to have once you’ve drowned your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a Project Runway marathon. Reviewers are the voice of the people, the book buyers we hope to reach. It is important to listen to what they have to say and value their opinions when we are fortunate enough to receive them.


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To win a print-copy or e-copy of WISH ME TOMORROW, please share your experiences and thoughts about reviews in the comments section and include your email address or email me at karenrock@live.com with it. I’ll select a winner tomorrow and contact you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts J

 

17 comments:

  1. Lol, three books later, I'm still terrified for reviews of my upcoming release...though honestly, I'm actually more concerned over what you ladies-my Heartwarming family will think:) I've read some of the talent here and look forward to reading others and I just hope I measure up:)
    Congrats on the great reviews!!

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  2. Thanks so much, Jennifer! And I know your books are going to DAZZLE us. I cannot wait for the Brookhollow series. Agreed that reviews will always be scary. But I'm grateful to them as well!

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  3. Karen, you're at the start of your career. It's an exciting time! Enjoy every single precious moment of it. Just remember there'll be high and lows - learn to bounce!

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    1. Hi Aimee :) That's good advice! I went to a great seminar at RWA where bestselling authors like you talked about that very thing. I hope to be in this amazing career for the long haul and I will need to bounce to get through the lows!

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  4. Karen, I'm so looking forward to receiving my copy in my subscription which should arrive any day. As well as knowing you through your blogs, the blurbs on the book caught my interest. IMHO someone who has no interest in the content of a book shouldn't give it a grade. After more than 50 books I've figured out that good reviews outweigh the bad overall. That's good. I give more credibility to the readers who take time to write to me, or who send me emails. But I appreciate formal reviewers. They amaze me in the amount of books they read. Even people who read books and post insightful reviews on Goodreads get kudos from me. I agree with Amy--bask in the awesomeness of getting a book and more sold, written, and published. But don armor along the way.

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    1. I so excited to hear your opinion of my book, Roz! It means so much to me to have my fellow authors share their thoughts and great advice. I grew up in a large extended family where grandparents, aunts, uncles and even first cousins acted as parents- giving what some would consider criticism but I understood to be love. When people take the time to share their experiences and give me guidance, even if it's to say- uh-uh- wrong way, Karen, I believe it to be an amazing compliment. It shows they care as you so clearly do! Thank you for your tips on surviving bad reviews along with the good. I copied your advice, along with Aimees and Muriel's in a document I titled SOS so that whenever I feel like reaching for the ice cream, I'll reread your advice instead... oh who am I kidding? I'll eat the ice cream while I reread your wonderful advice!! lol

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  5. Karen - Aimee and Roz are absolutely right! A rating based on interest has no value that I can see. Informing a reader on quality of writing and plotting skill has merit, but one reader may love the subject of a book while another won't find it interesting at all. That's why we have such a diversity of lines and approaches to romance. And in the end - a review is simply someone's opinion. Pay some attention to informed ones, but just put your head down and keep writing. Your book's great, anyway. Nothing to worry about.

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    1. I'm so happy you like my book!! I can't wait to read Always Florence and once I get past this Oct 1st deadline it is my next read. I agree that reviews can be subjective and to take from them what I can to help me grow. But the best thing I can do for myself is, as you wisely pointed out, to keep my head down and keep writing :) I feel so lucky that I have the chance to do that. It is a blessing.

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  6. Karen, you are a social media guru and we are lucky to sit and learn at your feet. I had no clue about to do half of this stuff, but I will know more the next time a book launches. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    And a Project Runway marathon is good anytime!

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    1. Hehe- we can watch Project Runway marathons together on Skype, Syndi!

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  7. The only review I care about, really, is RT. I've subscribed for more than a decade and now I buy with my Kindle the books that sound good based on their review. But, ack, they don't review us.

    So, GoodReads and Amazon are my next favorites.

    I think it's so cool when a stranger posts a positive comment. With Katie's Rescue, I get all kinds of animal lovers saying, "Cooooool."

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    1. Hi Pam :) I agree that hearing from readers is such a thrill! It means so much. And I'll add, as an animal lover, 'coooooool'

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  8. Karen,

    I have been watching all your comments in the goodreads Clean Romances group. I am so happy for you that you have been so successful with a clean book and that it is published by a major publisher. I have been wanting to try it out. I tried to get it from NetGalley, but was denied because my reviews only go on goodreads and Amazon or other such sites. I don't do my own blog or work for a company that might get the review out other ways. I do share my reviews with friends and suggest ideas for their book groups. Because of a very tight budget I almost never buy books, so I love receiving a review copy and always give one my full attention. I would love to read and review your book! I wish you all the best!!!!!

    Cheryl

    Cheryl(dot)larson(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

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    1. Cheryl!!! You won :) I'll email you to see if you'd like a print or eBook copy :) Congratulations!

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    2. Thanks Karen!!!!! I am so excited! I'm looking forward to it!

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  9. Why doesn't RT review Heartwarming?

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    1. That is an excellent question, Mari! One our editors are tirelessly trying to figure out :) In the mean time, we are so fortunate that there are other wonderful reviewers who will share their opinions on our books. Their valued insights are so helpful!

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