All you authors out there: you’ve spent months, maybe years, researching, interviewing, writing a book. When you’re finally done (though never completely satisfied), you send it out into the world to make its own way like a mother bird feeding, preening its young until it’s time to let the chicks leave the nest.
The world for writers—as the world for free birds and all other animals in the kingdom—can be a scary, dangerous place, even life-ending. For writers, there are critics, sales figures, book signings, print and TV interiors (sometimes live), podcasts and all things online. You may shell out a chunk of change and hire a PR company to do your bidding with the hope that they’ll do a better job than you ever could and, with luck, snag some primo “placements” that help spread the word.
I don’t know the stats, but I have to assume that those reviews from influential critics writing for influential publications can make a big difference. Sure, the experts you interviewed have a vested interest and should be pleased that you’ve shared some of their wisdom. But the strangers out there—those folks who don’t know you from Adam and hold your potential success or failure in their hands. They are the ones who can make our break you.
So when that first review from a major publication arrives in an email or in the publication/online site, your palms begin to sweat, your heart races like a revved-up Indy 500 race car, and you feel as if the rest of your life hangs in the balance.
Thus, that’s how I felt earlier today when the red flagged first review of Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide hit my inbox. What did that red flag mean, anyway? Was it a warning? Was there danger up ahead? Should I ignore the damn thing and go about my day?
Yes, I have a thick skin from the many book proposal rejections and tepid reviews over the thirty+ years of my writing career. I was prepared to rationalize that this was only one review of many and that, even if it weren’t stellar, there would be others that might be. Time to buckle up.
The review was written by one Melissa Wyske, a reviewer for Foreword Reviews which, by the way, I’d never heard of until my publicist filled me in on the details:
Readership includes 30,000+ librarians and booksellers, including 1,100 American Bookseller Association members, 7,400+ followers on Twitter, 3,500+ followers on Facebook. Not bad!
I opened the email. I missed the 5 stars and the opening quote to be used on the back jacket cover and in future PR materials. I went right for the heart of the review: ” . . . the book’s compelling, important goal is to save the lives of young people. Leder executes this task with fervor and assurance.” (Wow!) “Leder unpacks the emotional realities of those who are suffering and for those who are left behind.” (Good deal!) “The voices of teens—through interviews, quotes and stories— are a highlight of the book. The depth of their pain is vital and moving.” (You can say that again!) “This updated version is as fresh as it is urgently needed—a life-giving essential resource.
I started to cry from a sense of relief, accomplishment, and validation.
Thank you Melissa Wyske. You made my day and, with luck, set the tone for the book’s success.