Is a Kirkus Review Worth It?

Kirkus drawing 2In March, I purchased a professional review of The Case for Killing from Kirkus Reviews. I received it last week. The final sentence: “A slight variation on the whodunit—a whomightdoit—but with all the trimmings of a satisfyingly complex murder mystery.” —Kirkus Reviews. The full review is here.

This blog is part of my stream on how to self-publish. I thought it more relevant to discuss why I chose to pay for a review when the review was released rather than when I blog about self-promotion.

First about Kirkus. They’ve provided reviews of traditionally published books for many years and are recognized as tough book critics. Users of their reviews are booksellers, librarians, film producers, editors, book clubs, and others. Their Indie program “curates the self-published segment of the industry to help consumers and industry influencers discover books they may otherwise never find.” The indie author gets a review from a professional reviewer in their genre in Kirkus’ traditional format.

From the author’s perspective, the key is that they choose whether the review goes public (presumably a good review) or stays private (a not-so-good review). A public review goes on Kirkus’ website; is distributed to their licensees, Google, BN.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and others; and may be included in Kirkus Reviews magazine and/or their email newsletter. And Kirkus allows authors to excerpt the review consistent with their guidelines.

For this, the author pays $425(US) for 7-9 week delivery. Not cheap. Is it worth it?

So far, my take is yes. I thought it important to know how I stacked up in the Kirkus world. If I’d gotten a negative review, I would have taken my lumps for a few days, then extracted what I could to improve my writing. With a positive review, I have validation and a promotional tool. The expense is significant, but it’s part of my marketing budget, which any author needs to have. Also, there are cheaper review services available.

Some doubt whether a Kirkus review translates into sales. Others worry about the subjectivity of the Kirkus review. And still others see an ethical issue in paying for a review. I’ll let you know on the first count in a year. On the second count, reviews are always subjective, but you need them for word-of-mouth promotion. And as for the “ethical” issue, which seems to relate to Kirkus cross-selling editing and promotional services, their pitch seemed low key and part of running their business.

Thanks to my good friend and amazing artist, Peter Fischer, for the drawing above.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

6 Replies to “Is a Kirkus Review Worth It?”

      1. Thanks for the reply. Your comment in the post “It is unclear that it has had any material impact on sales” meshes with our small press and with our authors.

  1. My experience with Kirkus was unsatisfying. The review was superficial and read as though the reviewer only read the first third of the book or so. Now, maybe my book put this person to sleep. Fair enough! But I’d like to know that. Given that I paid for the review, I can’t say I really got any value out of it.

    I suspect that Kirkus is a crap-shoot. You may be reviewed by someone who is conscientious and cares about their work, or you may get someone who is trying to bat out as many reviews as possible to make it worth while economically.

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