Did not have a pleasant experience with Kirkus
For those of you that don’t know, Kirkus Reviews was a book review magazine known for having very harsh reviewers, rarely giving a positive review to anything.
In 2004, they launched a service whereby someone could pay for an honest review. In theory, this sounds great because it fulfills a need; few ebooks by unknown authors are given a chance to be read by a reputable house.
Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to help them enough financially and they announced that they would close at the end of 2009. However, a man from the Indiana Pacers swooped in and saved them so that they were able to continue their business model (as Kirkus Indie Reviews).
That’s the backstory.
A few months back, I wrote this post which I can tell you now was about Kirkus Reviews.
I sent them The Men Made of Stone, because: A real artist ships, otherwise you’re just a nutcase with a notebook. Putting my money where my mouth is, requested a review.
And as I said, I got a scathing review of the first 30 pages of my story. Almost half the review – 102 out of 304 words – is spent talking about a minor character that’s killed on page 24 out of a 296 page book.
The hero of the book is given 13 words in the review and called a “minor character” by the editor. The antagonist wasn’t mentioned at all.
That’s like writing a review of Hamlet and saying it’s about the witty banter between Bernardo and Francisco and some punk kid named Hamlet. With no mention of Claudius.
Put another way, that’s writing a book review on The Godfather and saying that it revolves around Bonasera and Fredo.
And if you don’t know read crime thrillers to know what that means, that’s fine, because neither did the Kirkus reviewer, who called the story “completely unrealistic.”
But just like The Godfather, The Men Made of Stone, while fiction, is a roman a clef; the scenes that the reviewer said could not have happened, actually happened.
In any case, I exchanged emails with the editor and asked him to just refund my money, which he refused to do. He essentially said, “We’re Kirkus, our reviewers are anonymous and you can’t do anything about it.”
After countless emails back and forth, I just opened a complaint with the credit card company, printed up the emails we had, and sent in my side of the story.
After about three months, my credit card company said that after hearing from Kirkus and reading everything, they decided that Kirkus Reviews did not, in fact, provide what they were supposed to provide: an honest review by a qualified reviewer who read my book.
Now, logic would say I should just pocket my returned funds and keep quiet.
But it was never about the money. It was about the unfairness of it all. I can brook a lot but I can’t put up with bullies. If I didn’t just get a refund, I woulda just gone to court.
Moreover, I believe in my story and my editors. Enough to write this entry.
For those ebook writers that ask, “Is a Kirkus Review worth it?” For me at least, the answer is no.
I’m not saying that this is going to be your experience with Kirkus – but it is my experience. Moreover, my opinion is that in order to make money at that model, you have to churn quantity. Assuming an average reading speed of 250 words a minute, skimming is an attractive option. Since it’s anonymous, all the more so. As I neither get paid nor am anonymous in my reviews, I know of what I speak.
So take this post as you will.
Kirkus Editor: I’d hope you could appreciate the subjective nature of reviews. [If you go to court, you’ll lose].
Me: Your review make it seem as if my book is about a guy named C and a guy named TT. My position is simple – that is not what my book’s about. I’ll take my chances. Thanks.
I did get a positive review on the San Francisco Book Review but more on that next week. Or just read it for yourself:
Location: getting dressed for work
Music: takes more than what you got to frighten me