After a long wrestling match between my wallet, my ambition, and my common sense, I decided to submit The Valkyrie for a Kirkus review on December 10, 2014. My thinking boiled down to this:
There's only one negative, and it's a doozy: Kirkus reviews are expensive. No two ways about it. They advertised 425.00 USD, and I just found out that due to the length of the manuscript, they felt the need to tack on an additional 150.00 USD and four additional weeks to finish the book and write the review. When the review process already takes 7-9 weeks, I'm rather flabbergasted by this. I'm almost more astonished by the length of time to read and review, than I am by the cost.
[Note: I understand why they increased the price. Time is money, and if a book is longer than the average 450-page bestseller, it takes their people longer to read. Time spent reading and reviewing that book is time not spent reading and reviewing another text. I still wish that their page-count threshholds were clearly posted somewhere.]
Kirkus, short of the New York Times, is probably the biggest source of notable reviews in English. I didn't honestly know who they were before I started looking into self-publishing, but once I saw their name, I started remembering opening each new Pratchett book, for example, to the slew of carefully edited praise from other authors and newspapers, and there's always a Kirkus review in there.
So, they're known. They're credible. People in the publishing industry take their word seriously.
Now, taking those ideas and weighing them, well, I had to take a look at what my goal is. Is it to sell a million copies and be a known author? Well. . . yes. [Isn't that pretty much everyone's goal? :-P}
I found a pretty decent blog post out there that discussed the value of a Kirkus review vs. investing the money into The Midwest Book Review (immediately got back to me) and/or The San Fransisco Book Review (never heard back from them at all). The author broke it down by goals, and said, "If your goal is sales, put your book out for sale in many places, like Shelfari and Goodreads and this place and that place, and eventually, you'll achieve name recognition by selling, hopefully, many copies. A Kirkus review won't sell you more copies." He recommended other alternatives, such as "working Goodreads." (Okay, doing that, a bit.) I've advertised. I've done all the things that can be done to sell an unknown quantity, by someone without a large media deparment backing them.
But. . . and the blog I read tended to acknowledge this. . . Kirkus provides a sort of imprimatur of credibility, and a really good review from them? Might well catch the eye of an agent or a publisher who might otherwise dismiss the indie author.
And since signing with a big house would let my books be published both electronically and to the dead-tree edtions without my having to foot the bill (and without having to price the copies exorbitantly high to cover printing and binding costs), that's my goal.
It's either a gamble or an investment, depending on how you look at it. And hopefully one that will pay off with a review that's at least as kind as the one from the Midwest Book Review. *crosses fingers*
And, now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose I should go look up the SF Book Review site again, and poke it with stick. . . .