Ah, now here is the real chance for a writer to find an audience; the book review.
Anyone who’s ever glanced at New York Times will know The Book Review is a big deal. Once you get your book reviewed, you’re an instant blockbuster! They’ll sing praises to you in the annals of history, they’ll backyard-slaughter ducks in your name. Get a book review and you can finally connect to all those thousands of people who share your love of sixteenth century goat braising and who would love to read your coming of age story about one sixteenth century goat braiser caught twixt her twin loves of fuzzy animals and tasty meats. In other words, the book review will help us sell books—if all the tiny, finite pieces of the book review puzzle fall perfectly into place.
And they’re probably not going to.
To elaborate: Puzzle piece #1 is finding a reviewer. Oh, sure, we found the New York Times Book Review, but no one’s getting in that unless they’re Jonathan Franzen or some other ivory tower academia lit-jerk. (I myself aspire to be a kind of ivory tower academia lit-jerk, so its okay if I say it.) Then there’s Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, and all those major pubs with a book review section—just don’t worry about those. By the time a writer has a review in those periodicals, they don’t need it all that much.
Most likely, the reviewer catering to our book is with a specialized industry magazine, book blog, or Amazon-flavored venues. And there are quite a few to choose from, so no panic there.
Puzzle piece #2 is convincing that reviewer to review your book. Sounds easy. Say one particular reviewer loves goat braising books, just loves them, then it should follow that she wants to read ours. Of course, our book has to stand out among all the gajillion other goat braising books sitting in her inbox asking to be reviewed, but that’s no big thing. Most of those are about boat braising, anyway.
But then, after the reviewer agrees to read our book, hopefully she’ll not be a jerk and actually do the review. People compensated for their work in “love” as opposed to paychecks are notoriously unreliable, or so I’ve heard. (No, I’m not speaking from personal experience, I’ve always come through on my writerly commitments how dare you suggest such a thing?!) Anyway, it’s hard to eat love, innuendos notwithstanding.
Puzzle piece #3; the review, or a portion thereof, is actually good. Sigh.
And, finally, puzzle piece #4 is that people actually read the review and it causes them to buy the book. This depends on so many factors outside our control, that’s it’s like staring into the dark spanse of cold space, full of unknown horrors and unfathomable creatures. How many people actually read the book blog our review appears in, how many of those people actually have the $2.99 to spend on a Kindle ebook version? How many of those people might buy the book, but never read it? How many are lit jerks bitter that their goat braising book didn’t get reviewed, so they’re going to spend their money on the newest New York Times Book Review recommendation? Truly, one can go mad trying to correlate all the potential contents.
So yes; while the book review is the most useful tool for a new writer, it’s also the most infuriating. And not very useful half the time. But that half of the time it is useful, it is very, very useful—so much so, it might even be worth putting up some book blog links for those searching out a review! I know, constructive, right?
Well, don’t worry; the sunshine and lollipops won’t last long. Because get ready for the single most terrifying, most soul-crushing activity in which a writer can partake…the dreaded book signing.
…To be continued! Flee in terror!