Showing posts with label revising. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revising. Show all posts

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Is an Indie Kirkus Review Worth It?

Part of the service of the “vanity” publisher I once worked with was a the inclusion of a Kirkus Review. I call the publisher “vanity” because I paid for a package that included editing, some promotion, promo materials, etc. Due to unscrupulous practices by this publisher, I canceled my account. I was able to retain the Kirkus review, which was received in 2018, and the files for the manuscript and exterior and interior illustrations, and eventually self-published my book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery.

But a dilemma soon surfaced. The Kirkus Review was not an entirely positive one. In that case, I had to make a choice. I could quote the positive comments in my promo materials, including the book cover, but Kirkus reserves the right to publish the entire, unabridged review on their website. Or, I could keep the review private. In that case, I wouldn’t be permitted to use any part of the review in my book’s promotional efforts. Instead, I could use the reviewer’s comments to help improve the book. I chose the latter, and continued revisions up until July 2020 when I self-published the book with Amazon. Once the book was out, in my search for reviews, I revisited Kirkus to see if a second review would be possible. Here’s what happened.

The Pros and Cons of a Kirkus Review

A traditional review starts at $425 and is promised within 7-9 weeks. I received a $50 reduction from an ad I found on Facebook for this type of reivew. An expanded review can be had for $575, and a picture book review starts at $350. 

According to authors surveyed for the Alliance of Independent Authors article, “Watchdog: Is a Kirkus Review Worth the Price?” by Giacomo Giammatteo, the benefits of purchasing a Kirkus Review are mainly:

  • A Kirkus Review lends credibility throughout the industry and by media and libraries.
  • Blurbs from the review can be used in marketing.
  • You can publish your review in; it will be considered for publication in Kirkus Reviews and in Kirkus’s email newsletter, which is distributed to more than 50,000 consumers and industry professionals.

However, Giammatteo’s article points out drawbacks. The majority of authors surveyed for the article (16 out of 21) felt that the reviews were “not worth the money.” Why?

  • “The review didn’t produce sales.” Giammatteo points out that the review is not intended to produce sales.
  • A positive review is not promised, as stated in the Kirkus email I received, "there are no guarantees that the second review would come back more positive than the first."
  • Many authors Giammatteo spoke with felt that the reviews were not well written and weren't inspiring enough for readers to want to buy the book.
  • Much of the reviews are spent in rehashing the plot, which seemed unnecessary to the authors consulted for the Giammatteo article.

An Added Challenge in Applying for a Second Review on the Same Book

I bit the bullet and decided that my book needed credibility. So, I applied for a second review and hit a brick wall. I received a rather curt response indicating that “we cannot review the same book twice, but if you make changes significant enough to render the previous review obsolete, we will consider conducting a new review . . . we ask that you include a letter to our editor outlining the changes with examples and page numbers cited. Our editor will ultimately decide if the changes are significant enough to warrant a second review.”

Give me a challenge like that and I can’t pass it up. The review back in 2018 found five flaws that I admit were significant. I took the flaws seriously, and went through each one, editing them throughout the book. Much later after I had left my publisher, I decided it was an opportunity to do more work on the book. I had the book reviewed by professional editor and revised it even more, until finally publishing it in July.  Here is a condensed version of what the original reviewer found:

  • Author fails to fully explore Abi’s various supernatural abilities and their causes or connections.
  • Secondary characters pop up throughout for no apparent reason.
  • The villain is one-dimensional who does bad things without much explanation or repercussion.
  • Book has an overly complicated plot and undeveloped characters.

In my application for a second review, I listed each of the flaws in large, bold, letters, and then went about looking up the passages in the original manuscript and how I had changed them in the published version. In a nutshell, it was a tedious exercise at best, which took three days to complete. The deeper I dove, the more determined I got. The last comment is what made my blood boil over:

  • Accompany illustrations are simple and charming, reminiscent of the old Nancy Drew novels. They’re just not nearly frequent enough.

GRRR! This was supposed to be an indie reviewer. The maddening part was that an indie author pays for illustrations out-of-pocket. The number of interior illustrations and the cover illustrations were created with what I could afford at the time. Also I found insulting was the reviewer calling Nancy Drew novels “old.” As far as I know, Nancy Drew novels are still enjoyed to this day. I call that enduring, not old.

Many of the authors interviewed felt that their $500 would be better spent elsewhere. One comment suggested Chanticleer Reviews and Matt McAvoy's Book Reviews. Pubby also offers reviews. I tried Pubby's trial offer but declined to continue as I felt I don't have the time to devote to it. The best advice can be found in Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, which I keep on my desk along with her other terrific books, such as The Frugal Book Promoter, and her other books.

My new Kirkus Review is promised by mid-October. I'm hoping it will be positive. No matter. This time around, I am going to use the positive parts--hoping there will be some--in my promotional material. Then I will have come full-circle with Kirkus. I hope my gamble pays off.

"You are now part of my world . . . forever."

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Value of a Good Editor

There is an Appropriate Hat for every Story
Photo by Linda Wilson
One of my writing pet peaves is that authors often get credit that their partnership with their editor(s) is due. Perhaps, if you wade through the "Acknowledgements," you might appreciate the number of people it takes for the author to arrive at the finished/polished product. I confess, I read the
"Acknowledgements," but really, how many readers can be relied on to do that?

Preaching to the choir a bit here, but, we writers know how valuable an editor's opinion is, from pros to critique groups, family and friends; and for children's stories, kids. Others' ideas and opinions open up worlds that may not have been considered. One of my instructors once told me one doesn't write a book, one re-writes a book.

Start by Changing Hats
It is crucial to keep your writer's hat on to revise as much as possible before asking someone else to read your work. If you're a beginner, you may need more advise than a more experienced writer. I know I did and still do. So, if what you offer is the best you can do, after running through your own checklist(s), then be satisfied with that. An editor once told me that I am going to "make it." You know why? No matter how much she finds that needs revision, I'm grateful for her insights and always work to improve by considering her advice. The writers who never give up, she says, are the ones who succeed. For it is well known (to quote the lovely phrase read often in Alexander McCall Smith's books), the best way to learn to write is to: Write!

When it's time to don your editor's hat, run through a checklist to make sure you've covered as many bases as possible. Start with a standard list and add to it as you become more experienced. My list has blossomed into a folder and encompasses the three types of writing I've focused on so far: articles, short stories and now, children's novels.

Basic checklist for a children's story
Make sure your story has:
  • an intriguing title
  • a beginning, middle and end
  • each paragraph that contains a beginning, middle and end
  • a beginning and end that compliment each other. A common way to view this is that your story has come full circle; your ending circles back to the beginning
  • a story arc: the action builds to a climax and ends quickly
  • an intriguing story problem
  • a main character who grows and changes by the end
  • REAL CONFLICT, which is the basis of a good story
  • action that is not predictable
  • age-appropriate names and content that is appropriate
  • everything explained clearly
  • "kid friendliness"--cut "adult" words and references
A Peek at Editor Know-How
Back in the day (in the '90s), I dipped a toe as a correspondent for our local newspaper. My very first published article, now framed and resting on my wall, suffered losing my beautiful, well-thought-out title to a drastic editor-knows-best change. After that, my poignant summaries and heartfelt endings in many articles suffered the last and sometimes multiple paragraph cuts at the end, for lack of space. Most painful, was the cut in pay (pay, you say? Yes, those were the days when newspaper correspondents got paid) I suffered at the lens of my husband, whose accompanying photograph made one-third more than my article. It's how I grew my first layer of skin. The bonus: I learned to enjoy editors' economy of words. I wouldn't call our exchanges conversations, exactly, but in the editors' rushed and few words, I understood what was expected of me; and learned to skip-the-chit-chat, easy with even a glimpse at the volume of paper on my editors' desks.

Today, it is doubtful that any local publication can pay its writers (hopefully some do), but writing for them for free still gives writers the benefit of working with an editor (and getting published). Just for fun, here is a short list of some of the ways editors have helped my pieces and stories see print
(albeit, not without some degree of pain):
  • For one of my short stories the editor cut off my ending and ended the story "early"--inwardly a move I didn't like; but I held my tongue and once published, I saw the wisdom. Lesson: it's best to be agreeable with your editor unless her change, in your opinion, compromises your story's intregity. In my case, her idea improved the story a great deal.
  • In another story, the same editor asked me to add an ending and suggested what she'd like to see. It took me about two minutes to add the ending she suggested. She emailed me right back and was delighted with what I had done, and amazed that the change came so quickly. I chalked the speed of my reaction up to a rapport we had established and her expertise at knowing how to take my story where it needed to go.
  • For an article I researched and interviewed over many months time, my editor loved the piece, but the competition at the magazine was so fierce that she had to fight to get my article published. The outcome is one of my proudest pieces, to date.
  • Saved the best for last: one prominent children's magazine bought three of my articles, paid me, and yet hasn't published one of them so far. It was great to get paid, but I'd really rather see the articles in print. Go figure!
Next month: Critique Group Do's and Don'ts

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has
published over 100 articles for adults and children and six short
stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's
online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently
working on several projects for children. Follow
Linda on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Re-inventing Your Voice

Have you ever struggled with your writing wondering if your writing voice is what a publisher wants or if that voice you feel so strongly about is actually reaching your audience? Here are a few ideas regarding your writing voice that may help to determine if you need to re-invent yourself and your voice.

First are you getting enough writing gigs to make you happy or are you spending the summer wallpapering with your rejections?  If you have rejections, it means you are writing and submitting your work and that is fabulous. But if you continue to get rejections while doing exactly the same kind of writing it may be that you need to change it up a bit.

Consider tweaking the points you are highlighting in a piece of writing to a different point of view. Whether that is from first person to third, or in nonfiction looking at the subject from another angle changing the direction of the piece may make it more marketable.

Look at the writing that has been rejected and make sure it is grammatically correct and the verbiage is clear and concise. Muddy writing will definitely get rejected in this tight marketplace so make sure your are using exactly the words you need to express your voice.

If the writing is clear and factual, the voice is exactly what you want, and your are still not getting clients or publishers interested in your work then look at the audience you have targeted. If your writing voice is exactly what your target audience is wanting your work will be picked up much quicker than if your voice is different than the voice of the magazine or company you are writing for. Sometimes writers must re- invent the voice and tone of their words to mesh with the target audience or the publisher. That doesn't mean that you compromise your values but that you adapt your way with theirs to find that perfect tone for a writing piece.

Writing voice can be tainted or molded by the words used and the tone of those words. For instance sarcasm  may be appropriate for an adult audience but may not be the right voice for a children's magazine. Humor may be a bit more harsh for an adult audience but could be altogether inappropriate for middle grade readers and silly humor may be appropriate for a children's story but in an adult piece readers would not appreciate the laugh.  When you do your revisions make sure your voice matches the tone you want the reader to feel and that it is appropriate for the age of your reader and the purpose of the piece.

I don't have the direct quote nor do I know the original author of the quote but it goes something like this: If you keep doing the same thing you will get the same results..... Eventually if all you get is rejections then it might be time to change your writing a bit. Think about re-inventing your writing voice. It can be more conversational, positive, less condescending, more formal, more direct, authoritative, kind, compassionate, and the list goes on depending on what kind of writing you are doing. Rest assured though, writing voice is important to the reader and those that publish and buy your work.

How can you re-invent your writing voice? Your thoughts on what difference writing voice may make in your acceptance rates?

Writers: Tips on Writing Humor, Part One

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