Pros and Cons of Kirkus Reviews

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If you’re an author who’s spent any amount of time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen promoted posts from Kirkus Reviews. If you haven’t heard of Kirkus, they’re a company that will give your book an honest review. But this review is more than just a review. Kirkus has about 50,000 subscribers to their newsletter, and they put out a bi-monthly magazine that goes to industry professionals such as bookstores, agents, libraries, and movie producers.

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As exciting as that last sentence sounds, I would like to caution there is no such thing as a magic bullet in the publishing world. Yes, some books hit it big as soon as the author hits publish. Some of these books are first time books, and sometimes the author is completely unknown. The likelihood of that happening to you is slim, so please don’t think something like “I know if I just get a good review from Kirkus, I will have it made!” Don’t play lottery with your book. Have a strategic plan in place and use that plan to decide if Kirkus Reviews will help you achieve what you’re aiming for.

With that said, big publishers (and some indies) garner reviews from a heavy weight to give their book more clout with readers. Having the name of a famous author, or even Kirkus Reviews, on your cover or in your product description can lead to a boost in sales. I mean, if they liked it, then the reader who looks up to them will likely enjoy the book too. However, I don’t know how many readers truly know what Kirkus Reviews is, so there’s that issue.

Most of the pros and cons listed came from looking over the FAQ section of Kirkus Reviews website.

Pros

One of the biggest pros I see to Kirkus Reviews is the ability to use it in advertising. It’s a reputable source, and their reviews carry weight. You can easily slip a snippet of the review on the back of the book and in your book description. How many sales will this get you? No idea. What are some other pros?

  • Placement: Kirkus Reviews is more than just a review from a known source to mark up your book. Again, I don’t think the large majority of readers know, or care, about Kirkus, but that’s not the benefit I see with paying for their services. Kirkus has a catalogue that they send to bookstores and libraries. These outlets often use Kirkus when making a decision, reading their reviews and deciding if the book is worth the shelf space. If you’re someone who thinks you can reach your target audience better through libraries and bookstores, then this is a good bet.
  • Publishing date: Kirkus Reviews doesn’t care when the book is published. The book could have been out for several years, or it may not even have a planned release date. That doesn’t matter to them when doing a review.
  • Thorough process: What I was most amazed about is how Kirkus Reviews goes about selecting a reviewer for your book. An editor will first go over your book and analyze it to see what reviewer would best fit your book. They don’t just send out a mass e-mail asking reviewers if they’d like to nab your book for a review. Once the reviewer is selected, they read the book in its entirety, write their review, and then send it back to the editor. Editing then happens on the review, including fact checking to make sure the reviewer is citing things in your book, and then the review can be published on their site, if you’ve opted for them to do so.

Editing Process

Cons

One of the biggest cons I’ve seen of Kirkus Reviews is the pricing. It’s very expensive. A few authors I’ve seen have stated it’s best to save that money for advertising, and I tend to agree. But there’s a question that floats around in my head: isn’t a review from Kirkus advertising? As we’ve seen in the pros section, there are benefits of having a review done by Kirkus. What are some of the cons?

  • Review: Kirkus Reviews will review your book honestly, which is good. You don’t want fake, fluffed up reviews. The point of reviews is that they can tell a reader, honestly, what they’re in for. It’s a way of connecting with readers using social proof (what others just like them are saying about the book). Negative reviews are really the way I make a buying decision if I’m on the fence. I will look at the 1-star reviews and decide if what they’re complaining about is something I tend to dislike in books. If not, I’m likely going to give it a try. However, we’ve seen the benefits of Kirkus Reviews, and having a bad review is basically throwing money down the drain.
  • Placement: While having placement in their magazine (which is published twice a month) is a great advantage of purchasing from Kirkus Reviews, it’s not guaranteed that your book will be included. Their site states that only 40 titles are published in each of their magazines, and inclusion is up to their editors. This means, you could spend nearly $600 and not even see your book listed. However, they do state that those books with the best reviews will be chosen from.
  • Cost: Kirkus Reviews’ costs are rather high. For an author that’s bringing in six figures a month, it may not seem like a lot of money, but let’s face it, most indie authors don’t bring in six figures a month. They’re lucky if their books bring in a couple hundred. The review prices depend on if you’re wanting a speedy review, or they can take a little longer with the review. It costs $425 on the low end, and $575 on the high end.

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Should I Use Kirkus Reviews?

Kirkus Reviews might not be the best choice for every book. If you’d like the placements they offer in their catalog, be sure that you’re submitting a book to them that you believe has a good chance of garnering a positive review. Of course, most authors aren’t always the best judge of their own work. But there are some authors out there who can be very critical with their book. You should never put out work that isn’t your best—doing so will damage your name. But if you have a book that’s stellar, and you need the placement, Kirkus Reviews may be the way to go.

You can opt to have each book in your series reviewed, but with series, typically the first book sells the next, and then the second book sells the third. Honestly, if you haven’t hooked a reader with book one, they’re probably not going to care if Kirkus Reviews says the second book is stellar.

Ultimately you have to decide if Kirkus Reviews is a good match for your goals. It is a rather large sum of money for most indie authors. I would review your marketing plan and your sales goals to see if purchasing a review was going to bring you any closer to your goal.

Have you used Kirkus Reviews? What did you think of the process and the experience? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

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