This continues a series I’ve been writing for authors who are breaking into the biz or will be doing so soon. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can search my blog (in the sidebar to the right) for Stuff They Never Told Me About Publishing and you should generate the whole list. OK, onward!
It wasn’t until after Hounded was accepted, about three months after the deal, that it occurred to me that someday, somebody was going to review my book. A fleeting smile crossed my face and then I thought of it no more, because I had two more books to write.
After I wrote Hexed and Hammered and settled in for the long wait before publication, I got around to thinking about it again. “Somebody’s going to review my book! Hee! What a trip!” But I had no idea who, how those sorts of things got done, etc. So here’s what I have learned up to this point—I’m sure I’ll be learning plenty more in the next couple of months, but this is a good place to start:
First, the publisher will print a buttload of ARC’s or ARE’s. They will then give ‘em away in various places, and this is where your marketing budget goes instead of into things like signing tours. You get much more mileage out of giving away a few free copies in advance of your release than you do from sitting down in a bookstore where no one’s heard of you. They give them away on Goodreads, Facebook, Library Thing, and Amazon’s Vine program, then they also send them out to a SUPA SEKRIT list of reviewers, and often provide some copies to bloggers who’d like to run a giveaway on their blog. They also take boxes full o’ your books and give ‘em away at conventions. RIGHT NOW, they’re giving away a couple hundred copies of Hounded at C2E2 in Chicago. They’ll doubtless be giving some away at San Diego Comic Con too (because I’ll be there, and I’ll sign ‘em if you’re going!) and maybe another convention or three. All of these giveaways will translate into online reviews. Hardly anyone gets printed reviews anymore…but apparently, those few printed reviews carry a lot of weight!
I have one (1) printed review so far. It’s a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and it’s only a paragraph long. I’ve read some long, thoughtful, and extremely kind reviews online—the Vine folks on Amazon have been very nice—but lovely as they were, they didn’t cause my editor and agent to email me with congratulations. The starred review from Publisher’s Weekly did.
It kind of rocked my world a bit. Why was this anonymously written paragraph such a big deal? I found out the very next day. I got an email from a producer in Hollywood, inquiring about whether the film rights were still available. (Why, yes, they are!) Said producer hadn’t read the book, mind you; he/she had only read that wee paragraph in Publisher’s Weekly. Now THAT got my attention. Publisher’s Weekly isn’t read much by the general populace, but it’s read religiously by people in the industry, and a good review there can generate some buzz. (I wish there was a better term than that. How did we ever start equating humans talking about entertainment with the flapping of insect wings?)
So I am very grateful for that starred review, and not only because being contacted by a producer is insanely fun. It’s the review that gets used on Amazon (and Barnes & Noble too). If you get a meh review from Publisher’s Weekly, it’s still going up on those sites and will stay there FOR EVAR; PW is thus the alpha dog of reviewers, because its review is printed first and will stick with you wherever you go.
But I’d also like to stress that I really appreciate those thoughtful reviews that customers (and serious bloggers) write—especially in these early days. I finished Hounded in June of ’09. Aside from maybe (?) six people including my editors, no one has given me any feedback on it until now, so it’s fun for me to see what sorts of things people are enjoying in the books. They tend to be amused by things that I never expected, like my dedication and parts of the pronunciation guide. Some of them focus on the action and the pace of the plot, others are swooning a bit over Atticus, still others are entertained by Oberon’s antics. That’s the miracle of writing: once it’s out there, readers get to have their own experience, and each one is as unique as every reader.
A couple of bloggers are currently running giveaways for Hounded in conjunction with a guest blog I wrote (and there will be more of those coming in the future), so I’d like to point you to them so you can enjoy. On Tynga’s site I wrote a St. Patrick’s Day blog about the Druids and how very, very little we know about them, and I talk about alpha readers on Suzanne McLeod’s blog, where she’s giving away Jim Butcher’s new one as well as Hounded.
Cheers, and many happy reviews!