Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The New Zoo Review

Let's talk about reviews.

The four main reviewing publications are Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. There are also hundreds of newspapers and magazines, and thousands of websites, that review books. Some reviewers are professional (paid.) Some are semi-professional (not paid but they appear in respectable publications.) Some are simply readers without any writing experience who share their thoughts on Amazon.com or elsewhere.

If you're a writer, you want to be reviewed in as many places as possible. A good review in a respectable publication will lead to three important things: in-house enthusiasm, bookseller and library orders, and sales to fans.

Consider Marcus Sakey, whose novel The Blade Itself recently received a starred review in PW which said, "A brilliant debut and a must-read, filled with unbearable tension." Will that help him sell some books? Of course it will. Do you think that made his publisher happy? Of course it did. It also made Marcus happy, and for three days afterward he was forced to tether himself to a chair to keep from floating away.

Any review is better than no review at all. Whiskey Sour received some good reviews: "The best debut of the year so far." - Chicago Sun Times, and "A fine debut thriller." - Kirkus.

But it also received some less than glowing reviews: "This ill-conceived cross between Carl Hiaasen and Thomas Harris should appeal to less-descriminating suspense fans." - PW.

Bloody Mary also got reamed by PW: "Konrath's predictable sequel is no more original than its predecessor."

Oddly enough, PW's review of Rusty Nail began: "Konrath's third outing to feature Chicago police lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, like its predecessors, Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, offers violent thrills peppered with hilarious one-liners."

Even bad reviews can sell books. It's better to be talked about in negative terms than not talked about at all. A review has your name and book title on it. If a person sees your name and title enough, it will stick in their head. You want to stick in their head.

Some writers claim they don't read their reviews, and perhaps they are telling the truth. I read all of my reviews. But I don't listen to any of my reviews. I don't take them to heart. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and all opinions are valid. I'd much rather have someone read me and hate me than never try me at all.

How does one get reviewed? It isn't easy. Reveiwers are bombarded with books. If your book is a lead title, you're a brand author, or there's a lot of buzz about it, you're likelier to be reviewed. Your publisher (or you) sends advanced reading copies to reviewers at least three months ahead of your street date, and you cross your fingers.

I didn't get as many reviews for Rusty Nail than I did for my previous books. This is something I'm going to work on changing for Dirty Martini. My plan is to send out the books myself, signed copies with personalized letters. David Ellis did this with In the Company of Liars, and tripled the number of reviews he normally received.

The hitman anthology I edited, These Guns for Hire, hits the streets today. It just received a glowing review in Booklist, which said: "Readers who aren’t keen on stories about paid assassins probably will pass on this collection, but that’s their loss. For everyone else, it’s a guaranteed hit." Library Journal also commented: "The many pleasures of pulp are here in abundance, befitting on several levels the anthology's subject."

I was happy. My publisher was happy. Hopefully it will help us sell a few.

Amazon.com has allowed reader comments for many years now. But just recently, they have allowed people to comment on comments. If you don't agree with a user review, you can post a rebuttle connected to their review.

I've gotten my share of negative reviews on Amazon, and when I saw that I was now able to reply to some of my critics, I considered it. But what would be the point? Would starting a flame war with some reader on Amazon help me sell books, or make me look like a petty egotist?

So I haven't replied to any comments. I do, however, encourage everyone who has read my books to leave comments on Amazon. We should all do that. I've reviewed several dozen books on Amazon, because it's a simple and effective way to support my peers.

And speaking of supporting your peers, while you're on Amazon pick up my latest Amazon Short collection, A Six Pack of Crime. It's six mystery thriller stories (over 15k words) for only 49 cents. There's a Jack Daniels story, and a Phineas Troutt story (which I consider the best thing I've ever written) and four more crime tales, some funny, some nail-biting.


All the cool kids are doing it. Get yours today.

And after you've read it, feel free to review it. Who knows? You may be hitting me up for a blurb one day...