Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Reviewer's World

There's an eye-opening entry from Guest Blogger David Montgomery on M. J. Rose's blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype. David Montgomery is a freelance reviewer, and discusses how he selects books to review.

What staggered me is the number of books he receives to review, as opposed to how many he ends up reviewing:
"Deciding which book to review, or even which book to read next, is one of the hardest parts of a critic’s job. I receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 books every month. I try to read 12-15 and review 6 or 7."
That's over 2,400 books a year, and only in the crime fiction genre.

Wow. Now I understand why it's so hard to get someone to review your book, especially if he or she is a well-known, well-respected reviewer.

We authors all have a tendency to be self-centered. How else can we dare believe that the stories we have to tell are worth sharing with the world? Unfortunately, that quirk of personality (yes, let's euphemize) makes us think that our story is the only one that exists at this time, that the reviewer --or agent, or publisher, or bookstore-- is waiting with bated breath to receive it. I admit it, I wear these blinders. They prevent me from thinking that I don't have a hope in hell in succeeding at what I desperately want: to have people read my words. If I begin to think I'm only one in a horde of authors in stand-by mode, I'll turn off my computer and get a "real" job.

Mr. Montgomery also mentions something that I'm hearing over and over again: the only way to get noticed is to have people start talking about your book. Word of mouth, he says, "is crucial in this business".
"I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the mystery community over the past few years, including reviewers, writers, publicists, bloggers and fans, and I get recommendations from them. A lot of what I read is influenced by what they say. After all, there’s no better endorsement than the word of someone whose opinion you trust."
Easier said than done, but feasible, on a small scale at first --your favorite bookstore, your community-- then hoping it'll spread. Takes time, and a whole bunch of good friends. Or willing acquaintances.

It's not only unknown authors like me who have a problem getting known. On her very frank blog, Tess Gerritssen talks about how difficult it is to become known, and what she think the solution is:
"...to illustrate just how hard it is for an author to become known. Just a few days ago, I was signing books at a Kroger's store in Cincinnati, and quite a few customers frowned at my books, confessed that they'd never heard of me, and said they weren't really willing to buy a book by someone they didn't know.

I don't know how to get past that. No amount of advertising will change it. There's only one thing that can change it: Word of Mouth. It's the most powerful force on the planet. It takes time to generate it, and in the meantime, many an author's career has crashed and burned, many an author has found himself abandoned by his publisher. We can't force word of mouth. We can't even beg for it. We can only hope it happens, that our readers like our books enough to tell their friends, their colleagues, their room-mates."
There's that word-of-mouth thing again.

So I'd like to do what Tess did on her blog and thank everyone who's ever talked about my book, who's encouraged others to read it and/or buy it. You are the ones who'll end up making it happen for me, and you deserve my thanks.

No comments: