EA, can you talk about reviews? How important are they to the success of a children's book? Do all the "big ones" (Horn Book, Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist?) count the same, or are some more influential than others? How about bloggers like Fuse #8? And does it matter how well the review is written? I've been a little shocked by the low quality of reviews written by many teachers and librarians--misused words, poor grammar, incorrect details, and a general miasma of vagueness and confusion.So You've Gotten a Good Review. The Good News Is:
The "big ones" (Horn Book, Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, NYT, PW, BCCB) do make a difference.
People read good reviews and tend to remember them. In the constant storm tide of new books, we're all looking for the ones that we should flag mentally as standing out.
Some review sources are read more by a certain demographic than others (more booksellers read PW; more teachers and librarians read SLJ). But it's hard to say that one is more influential than another. Any good review from the top reviewers gives the publisher's Sales and Marketing people a chance to go back to accounts (like B&N, eg) and say, "Hey, did you see this review? Are you sure you don't want to stock some more?" Good reviews can boost sales. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't but at the very least it's an opportunity.
Of course, we've all seen some books get terrific reviews and sell a paltry few thousand copies, which is hard and frustrating. But if the book added to the publisher's name and image with good reviews, that's some salve to the hurt of not earning out.
So You've Gotten a Bad Review. The Good News Is:
No, really. You're the only one.
It's all kinds of hard for authors to believe, but your editor sees a bad review and shrugs. No, not because she has other books that she now understands are more worthy of her love. Because every one of us has seen reviewers in pissy moods skewer a book that we know doesn't deserve it-- and most importantly because we know that bad reviews don't hurt sales.
This is because people read bad reviews and tend to forget all about them. In the constant storm tide of new books, we're all looking for the ones that we should flag mentally as standing out-- and we simply don't have the RAM to remember the ones that are not supposed to be stand-outs. What this has meant to more than one book is crappy reviews followed by a stint on the NYT bestseller list. Because the book turned out to appeal to a lot of people, and none of them could remember that they weren't supposed to like it.
Bad reviews don't matter.