Kirkus Reviews is one of the iconic book reviewing publications in America. It caters primarily to booksellers and librarians and has the reputation of being “harsh.” They’ve been known to call out authors for lousy language, plots, grammar, and anything else the reviewer could think of. Kirkus truly doesn’t care who you are or how much your book is loved by the rest of the world – they call them as they see them.
For Dave Eggers’s bestselling and highly proclaimed memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Kirkus opened their review with: “It isn’t…” The final sentence of the review states: “It is evidently hard to have been Eggers, though few readers will be satisfied with this nugget of hard-won wisdom in return for their investment of time and good will.” As I said, they’re reputed to be some of the toughest critics in the business.
So, why would I send Vapor Point to Kirkus Reviews and pay them (yes you have to pay them to review your book) knowing their propensity for being unforgiving? Because how else am I to weigh myself as an author? An outside review, by a professional reviewer who doesn’t care about me or my career should provide some valuable feedback about whether I belong in the game, or if I’m simply deluding myself. Kirkus treats everyone from the unknown independent to the most revered authors in America in exactly the same way – we’re income.
For eight weeks, I waited anxiously for the review. I fully expected to be ripped to shreds by the reviewer. I prepared myself for disappointment and stockpiled chocolate and coffee just in case I needed to lick my wounds. However, I appear to have come out reasonably unscathed. The review isn’t great, but neither is it bad. If anything – it’s a non-event.
I’m publishing the review here in its entirety for probably the only time. I’ll do what all authors do – excerpt the good and ignore the stuff that isn’t useful. There will be a follow up post about my (not so smooth) Kirkus experience in the next few days.
Dan McNally says
“Unfortunately, with the dual focus on the drug trafficking and missing person storylines, it is hard to tell which matters more. Even the final pages don’t reveal a point or message. ” Really? Who says one has to matter more than the other? A quote often attributed to Sigmund Freud comes to mind: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Why do reviewers always seek a profound message in a work of fiction? Sometimes a good read is just a good read. “Vapor Point” was a really good read and worth every cent. Buy it, read it . . . you will be glad you did.