When the Reviewer Gets Reviewed

I’ve been reviewing books for more than ten years, mainly for my own book review site, aussiereviews. I love sharing the word about books with readers and, along the way, promoting the work of wonderful Australian creators and publishers. But it wasn’t until my own books were published and, subsequently, reviewed that I understood the impact of a review.
Reviews are important, in my opinion, for several reasons:
·
  • They help sell books. By reading reviews, people hear about the book and might go out and buy it (or, online, click through a link and order it).
  • They are free advertising for a book. (If they are positive reviews)
  • For potential readers/teachers/librarians and booksellers they inform them about new books, highlighting their appeal, strengths and weaknesses, so they can make informed purchasing decisions
  • For authors, they can make you feel good (if the review is positive) and (whether positive or negative) they provide feedback.

Note that I’ve put the benefits to the author last because, in the end, reviews are not written for authors – or, at least, they shouldn’t be. They should be written for potential buyers and readers.Along the way that means they help authors to sell books and to learn, but that’s really incidental.
So I knew all this, of course I did. But then, having written a couple of thousand reviews of other people’s books, I started to get reviewed. My earliest trade titles, Doggy Duo, Floatingest Frog and Pemberthy Bear garnered a few reviews. But when my first verse novel, Pearl Verses the World, was published, suddenly lots of reviews started coming in. My little book was reviewed in newspapers, magazines, on websites and on blogs. It is still being reviewed, almost three years after it was first published.

Before Pearl was released, I’d had lots of people tell me how good it was – my mum, my kids, my editor, my friends. But then it was released intot he big wide world and I had to face what people who DIDN’T know me would say. Waiting for those first reviews was scary.

But then they started coming. And reviewers seemed to like it. They said things like:
This slender little book is, like its heroine, a treasure.
                                    (Magpies, May 2009)  and
Expertly written.
                                    (Coast Kids, June 2009)  and
A poignancy that is truly touching.
(Reading Time, August 2009)

Reading these reviews made me feel pretty good. They stroked my ego and made me feel like a real author. I printed them out. I showed them to anyone who’d read them. I cried tears of joy when I read them.

But then…

I got a bad review.

And it  wasn’t just a little bit bad. The reviewer (in a big name newspaper) hated my book. She said the verse was clunky and that she just didn’t feel moved to care about Pearl.  Added to this, the title of the book was misspelled and I wasn’t attributed as the author. Instead, the poor illustrator copped the criticism for her writing skills. (Note, I’ve not named the paper or the reviewer because I do not wish either of them ill-will.)

It was not a good review. There was nothing nice said about the book. Interestingly, the first thing that happened after this review, was that no one wanted to tell me about it. I knew my book was being reviewed on that date, but being interstate couldn’t buy the paper. But friends saw it, and didn’t know whether they should show me it. Once I did see it, I had an email from my publicist trying to reassure me. And my Mum and Dad were very cross on my behalf!

But me? To be really honest, I was a little cross at the misspelling and the mix up over the author, but as for the comments, I was able to get over them pretty quickly. I guess I was lucky because there had been lots of nice reviews previously, so I was able to focus on those instead.

But did I learn anything from this bad review? Yep.

  1. Not everyone will like every one of my books – just as they may not like my new haircut, my new dress, or (shock horror) me.
  2. Clever titles get misspelled (and the verses/versus thing has been a recurrent problem for this book)
  3. Reviews matter to the person being reviewed – but they aren’t FOR that person.
  4. Stuff happens – and then you move on. I couldn’t change the review. I had no right of reply, so worrying about it wasn’t going to do a thing.

In the three years since then, I’ve had lots more reviews – for Pearl, for Snowy’s Christmas and for Toppling. There’s been lots more good ones and, I’ll admit, others that were not so good.  I read them, I smile (if they’re good) or feel a bit sad (if they’re bad) and then I try to move on. With a new book coming out next month, I know I’ll be waiting eagerly for those first few reviews especially which tell me how my book is being received, but then I’ll get busy with my next project.

Reviews do matter – but they can’t rule a writer’s life.

Want to see what two other Aussie authors think about getting reviewed? Head over to Meg McKinlay’s blog As In Egg and then to Anna Branford’s blog. As you can see, we’ve all got together and blogged about the same topic on the same day, so we’d love to hear what you think about our varying perspectives.

366 Books January Update

It’s a new month, which means one month of my National Year of Reading challenge has passed. If you haven’t been reading my posts, or following my updates on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll explain.

This year is the National year of Reading here in Australia. Hooray! A whole year of focus on one of life’s great treasures. All around the country there are events,promotions and challenges designed to get people of all ages, from all walks of life reading more – and loving it! You can see details of the goings on at the official website.

So, I woke up on the first of January and thought to myself – wow, it’s the Year of Reading. I wonder if I can really make it a year of reading, and read a book for every day of the year. And before I could stop and think about it, I’d told the world that that was what I was trying to do. And people have encouraged me,  so I’ve run with it.  You can see my original post which explains the parameters I’ve set for myself, here.

Anyway, it’s been a month, so I thought the end of the month (or, in fact, the first day of the new one) was a good time to check in and see how I’m doing – and, so far, I;m doing fine. 31 days of the year down, and I;ve read 33 books. Here’s the list so far, with links to the ones I’ve reviewed on Aussiereviews.

 

1 Straight Line to My Heart Bill Condon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
2 Only Ever Always Penni Russon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
3 Harry’s War John Heffernan Omnibus Children’s
4 Just Like That Janet Poole Mountain View Self Help
5 Shadrach Meindert Dejong Harper Trophy Chidlren’s
6 Nanberry Jackie French Angus&RObertson Young Adult
7 Extinction 2 Lizzie Wilcock Scholastic Young Adult
8 The Filth Licker Cristy Burne Frances Lincoln Children’s
9 Crow Country Kate Constable Allen & Unwin Young Adult
10 Note on the Door Lorraine Marwood Walker Children’s/Poetry
11 The Golden Door Emily Rodda Scholastic Children’s
12 Lily Gets Her Wings Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
13 Animal People Charlotte Wood Allen & Unwin Contemporary Adult
14 Lily Has a Secret Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
15 Button Boy Rebecca Young & Sue deGennaro Scholastic Picture Book
16 I Heart You, You Haunt Me Lisa Schroeder Simon Pulse YA Verse Novel
17 Froi of the Exiles Melina Marchetta Penguin Young Adult
18 The Red Bridge Kylie Dunstan Windy Hollow Picture Book
19 Nog and the Land of Noses Bruce Whatley Scholastic Picture Book
20 How Now Brown Frau Merridy Eastman Allen & Unwin NonFiction – Memoir
21 Revenge Gabrielle Lord Scholastic Children’s
22 Selected Poems TS Eliot Faber and Faber Poetry
23 Lola’s Secret Monica McInerney Penguin Contemporary Adult
24 The Little Refugee Ahn Do Allen & Unwin Picture Book
25 Cooking the Books Kerry  Greenwood Allen & Unwin Adult
26 Flood Jackie French Scholastic Picture Book
27 City of Lies Lian Tanner Allen & Unwin Children’s
28 Bilby Secrets Edel Wignell Walker Picture Book
29 The Biggest Estate on Earth Bill Gammage Allen & Unwin NonFiction – Memoir
30 Selby Sprung Duncan Ball Angus&Robertson Children’s
31 For All Creatures Glenda Millard Walker Picture Book
32 Autumn Laing Alex Miller Allen & Unwin Adult – Literary Fiction
33 The Attractor Factor Joe Vitale Wiley Self Help

 

You can see I’ve read a real range of books – across age groups, formats and subject matter. So far 7 picture books (yes, I know these are short and help my total, which is why I’m only counting them if it’s the first time I;ve read them AND I review them), 10 children’s books, 7 young adult, 4 adult fiction, 4 adult nonfiction.  Lengthwise they’ve ranged from the picture books to  one of over 600 pages. Some have taken more than one day to read, and one of the challenges I’ve had is to not worry about the tally so much but to really enjoy each book. It’s not a race – it’s an adventure.

I must say that the big revelation for me has been that setting myself this challenge has helped me rediscover some of the fun of reading. Yes, I;ve always loved reading, but as a reviewer with an always-large review pile, sometimes it feels like a chore – especially when I feel guilt about the size of that pile. Suddenly, in January, my pile is going down and I’ve also allowed myself time to read things not in that pile.

Onto February. I’m halfway through two different books at the moment – because I’ve decided to read a chapter of a writing book every day. And, looking at my pile, I have some great reads ahead of me in the next 29 days. I’ll update you again soon.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about any challenges you are participating in this year.

 

Sally

 

366 Books – First Update

It’s 20 days since I woke up on New Years Day and decided (a little impulsively) to set myself a challenge – to read 366 books this year (you can read my initial post on this here). So I thought it might be time for an update.

So far, I’m right on track – I’ve managed 20 books in 20 days. This is my list so far:

1. Straight Line to My Heart Bill Condon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
2. Only Ever Always Penni Russon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
3. Harry’s War John Heffernan Omnibus Children’s
4. Just Like That Janet Poole Mountain View Self Help
5. Shadrach Meindert Dejong Harper Trophy Children’s
6. Nanberry Jackie French Angus&Robertson Young Adult
7. Extinction 2 Lizzie Wilcock Scholastic Young Adult
8. The Fitlh Licker Cristy Burne Frances Lincoln Children’s
9. Crow Country Kate Constable Allen & Unwin Young Adult
10. Note on the Door Lorraine Marwood Walker Children’s/Poetry
11. The Golden Door Emily Rodda Scholastic Children’s
12. Lily Gets Her Wings Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
13. Animal People Charlotte Wood Allen & Unwin Contemporary Adult
14.  Lily Has a Secret Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
15. Button Boy Rebecca Young & Sue deGennaro Scholastic Picture Book
16. I Heart You, You Haunt Me Lisa Schroeder Simon Pulse YA Verse Novel
17. Froi of the Exiles Melina Marchetta Penguin Young Adult
18. The Red Bridge Kylie Dunstan Windy Hollow Picture Book
19. Nog and the Land of Noses Bruce Whatley Scholastic Picture Book
20. How Now Brown Frau Merridy Eastman Allen & Unwin NonFiction – Memoir

I am really enjoying keeping track of my reading in this way, and seeing just what the spread is of age groups, genres, formats etc. Of the 20 so far,  18 are Australian, 7 are young adult, 7 are children’s/younger readers, 3 picture books, thee for adults (one fiction, two non fiction). There is one collection of poetry, and one verse novel. Allen & Unwin and Scholastic are well represented in the list of publishers – which is a reflection both of the number of books those two produce and the number they send me to review.  Another interesting statistic is in the gender balance – four books by male authors and sixteen by women. Interesting because there has been no conscious decision there, it’s just how it’s fallen.

So, how do I choose my books. Usually from the top of my review pile (which is actually not a pile but a shelving system in my office. I shelve them in the order I receive them and generally read them in that order. But this year I am trying to read more  books not from my review pile, and have started a little pile of books I want to read for the first time or re-explore. Also, I do occasionally move books up my review pile if I’m simply hanging out to review them or f I need a shorter read. For example, whilst I was ploughing my way through Froi (almost 600 pages), which happened over four days, each day I also read something shorter.

Am I still enjoying the challenge? Yes. No regrets at having set it for myself at all.
Will keep you updated as it expands

Hope you, too, are having fun reading whatever you can during this National Year of Reading.

Oh, BTW – where I’ve reviewed a title in the list above, I have linked to that review!

A Big Welcome

Welcome to the new look Aussiereviews!  Having been here on the world wide web sharing reviews for over ten years, the site was well overdue for a bit of a facelift.  And now, after a redesign and manually transferring all of the old reviews (over 2000 of them)  from the old html based files to the new WordPress based management system, it is ready to go live. Hurrah!

A screenshot of the old Aussie Reviews layout
The old website

So, what’s new?

  • The look and layout of the pages, especially the pretty new banner designed by Murphlet 2
  • The easier to navigate menus, with the ability to browse the categories easily from the top menu.
  • This blog, which will allow me (and, perhaps, guest bloggers) to chat about the running of the site as well as news and views aboutAussie books and publishing.
  • The use of tags at the end of each review which will make it easier to find books by publisher, author, illustrator or topic

    A screenshot of the current Aussie Reviews layout
    The new website

What is unchanged is that Aussiereviews will continue to review as many new release Australian books as possible.

So, have a look around, see what you think, and please keep enjoying our reviews.

Lots of Love

Sally

 

PS

May I ask one favour? If you are an author, illustrator, publicist, website manager or blogger who has previously linked to this site or, especially, particular reviews, could you take a few moments to update your links? If you have linked to the homepage your link should still work, but if you have linked to particular pages or reviews, it will need updating.  You should be able to locate the new page using the search box in the menu bar above.  Once you’ve found the right page,  simply copy and paste the new url wherever you had an old one. Thanks heaps!

366 Books in 366 Days

Happy New Year to you! I had a pretty awesome 2011 but am really excited about the promise of a brand new year and loving that 2012 is the National Year of Reading. Also really excited about my role as local ambassador for Bunbury, WA.

I had toyed with the idea of a reading meme for the National Year of Reading, but there are so many other really good ones already that I hesitated to add another which might duplicate what was already being done.

But then I woke up this morning and had this great idea for a reading challenge for myself. It’s the YEAR of reading, isn’t it? So what if I could truly make it a year of reading by reading a book for every day of the year? That would be 366 books in 366 days (the leap year gives me the chance to squeeze in an extra book).

No sooner had I formed the idea than I was tweeting and facebooking it, so suddenly I’d made this partly formed idea into something I’d announced to the world. But hey, making it public might motivate to actually do it – or to give it a darn good shot.

So, yes, I am going to try to read 366 books in 2012. These will come from across genres and age groups, so they will range from picture books through to very serious works of literature, and nonfiction too. I’m already an eclectic reader, so don’t plan to change that too much.

However, to avoid the urge to just sit down with my picture book collection and read my way through the first 366 of those, I’m making a rule for myself that I’ll only count picture books that I read for the first time, and also review – because the time it takes me to read and review a picture book is equal to reading a much longer book.

Where possible I will review the books I read on Aussiereviews, if they fit within Aussiereviews parameters – ie I only review Aussie author or published books here, and don’t review a book if I can’t review it mostly positively. But I have also decided independently of this challenge that I need to spend a bit more time in 2012 reading stuff that I don’t plan to review – because there are so many wonderful books from overseas, and classic books, and childhood favourites and so on that I never get around to reading because of my focus on Aussiereviews.

So here’s my plan:

  1. Read at least 366 books in 2012.
  2. Keep a list of these, and chronicle my progress on my Nameless blog and on Aussiereviews, as well as through social media (twitter and facebook)
  3. Review those which can be reviewed on Aussiereviews
  4. Include as many as possible that I read because I want to (whether or not I’ll be reviewing them)
  5. Only include picture books in the 366 if I also review them
  6. Lastly, and importantly, I’m only going to stick to this challenge if I enjoy it. If I find myself beating myself up over getting behind, or not blogging about it often enough or whatever, I’ll stop. Reading should be fun!

I’ll keep you informed with my progress as much as possible. Would love to know if anyone else decided to give this idea a shot.

Now I’m off to do some reading. Happy National Year of Reading!