So, you’ve had your fun writing your new book, placed the period at the end of the last sentence, and finally dropped your shoulders in a sigh of relief: you have your baby and you are happy with it. You already contacted all your friends, family, and acquaintances in order to share the fruit of the last months or years of your labor and graciously accepted their congratulations.
Now it is time to unveil your creation to the professionals. Here comes the really hard work that, for most of us, is not nearly as enjoyable as writing: the process of editing, proofreading, publishing, promotion and marketing. At this point you don’t give a hoot to how much fun you were having while actually writing the book; this is more tedious and much less satisfying than anything you have done before.
The first professional reviewer is a key person in this process. After you get over the wave of gushing compliments of your family and friends, the reviewer provides the first official, learned feedback about your book.
Here are some tips for turning this first voice representing your audience – that of the professional reviewer – into an asset:
Shoot for a Win-Win Situation
- Always check on the qualifications and experiences of the reviewer you are about to work with. The easiest way to do this is by visiting his or her website. Match whatever you find out about the reviewer to your professional needs. Authors usually want highly qualified reviewers who will examine all the important elements of their writing, including plot, character development, originality, and style. On the other hand, there are less scrupulous reviewers and uncounted companies that offer reviews for free or close to free on the internet. Some of them never read the books they review (I found one who actually stated that she would love to read the novel she had just posted a review about). The point is: find a reviewer who appreciates and gauges your efforts according to your, the author’s, purpose and audience. If you already have a reviewer, go with him, or accept his judgment in recommending others who would be suitable replacements. It is a tight industry; professional reviewers share ideas, discuss reviews, and are aware of the work of their competitors.
- Read a number of the reviewer’s previous work before hiring him or her. This exercise will give you an insight about the quality and style of the review you will get, also, the specific pet peeves or niche of the reviewer.
- Study the reviewer’s Terms of Service, and make sure to comply. Be aware of what is included in the contract once you hire your reviewer, even if he or she is referred to you by another professional.
- Have the grace to accept critique, particularly if it is constructive. No respectable reviewer will promise an all favorable review in advance, even (and especially) if you are a paying client.
Star Sticker Gone
- Never question your reviewer’s integrity. Understand that he is an unbiased, knowledgeable professional who represents the audience. He is not your friend, but he is not your enemy, either. He is supposed to be objective and honest. In case that’s not what you want, you have other choices: browse the sites that offer free reviews, or assign prewritten taglines for your friends to post, if these strategies line up with your ethics and integrity. But make your decision before hiring a professional reviewer. After you receive the review, it is extremely inappropriate to suggest changes that would make the review more favorable for your own purposes, or criticize the reviewer’s style or writing skills. Understand that you are dealing with professionals, and it is expected that you demonstrate professional conduct, also.
- Never argue with a reviewer. The reviewer’s job ends with completing the review and forwarding it to you. Whether the review is favorable or not, take the review as it is: one person’s opinion. The more one reads, the more valid his or her opinion about a book is. If you add education and experience to that, the reviewer’s opinion is bound to be more valuable and reliable than that of a layman. But it is still just one person’s opinion, which might have no credit when it comes to the reception of your novel by the wider masses of your target audience. Reviewers are not content editors, but as representatives of the consumer, they will address the weak points of your writing. Have the grace to take the review in stride. Use what you can and discard what you find irrelevant, and then decide if you want to work with the same reviewer in the future.
- Never ever try to rewrite the review or change any words the reviewer used. This would infringe on copyright laws and could get you in legal trouble. You do have the right to request the review not to be published or use only parts of it in promoting your book (check the disclaimers of individual reviewers), but you never have the right to alter the review. Some professional reviewers will be open to discuss your issues after completing the review, others will not. Your best bet is to respect the boundaries of a professional relationship.
The bottom line is that, although you are a team, you and your reviewer have different agendas. Reviewers are not members of your marketing team, but you need them for successfully promoting your book.