Monday, December 12, 2011

Reviewers and Genres

What I'm reading: Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly (Nook); A Simple Winter, by Rosalind Lauer (bike)

I know some of you read my post last week at Jenny Milchman's blog about writing outside the box, or at least outside some of the genre conventions proscribed by the print publishing industry. If you haven't read it, you might want to pop over, as today's post is related to that one.

I got an email from the publisher of my upcoming Blackthorne, Inc. novel, ROOTED IN DANGER, that my ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) were being shipped. These are the final galleys, printed in trade paperback format. It's the last chance to read the book for any errors, and these are strictly errors of the typographical kind.

But what raised my concerns was the spreadsheet she sent of the reviewers that the publisher has sent ARCs to. (Or, to whom/which the publisher has sent ARCs if you're not into ending a sentence with a preposition.)

A little history: Last year, Five Star discontinued its Expressions line, which published romance. My first two Blackthorne, Inc. books were under that imprint. However, they said they would also look at romantic suspense under their mystery line, so I sent them ROOTED IN DANGER, which they bought.

Their target market is libraries, and as such, reviews are the biggest selling point for library acquisitions. Without a review by one of the major review publications (Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, or Booklist, many (I might say most) libraries won't buy the book.

Now, although the publisher is sending ARCs of ROOTED IN DANGER to these publications, they're now sending them to the Mystery reviewers, not the romance reviewers. Also, the reviewers are by no means obligated to read, much less review, the books they receive. Most will go by the blurb to see if it catches their interest.

ROOTED IN DANGER is clearly a romance much more than a mystery. The quality of the writing (at least I hope) is as good or better than the first two Blackthorne, Inc. books. That's part of growing as an author. But will the reviews reflect this? Will the be fair in that the reviewers are going to be looking at the book with their mystery filter in place. Even though readers may love the book, if it's not in front of the right people, it's not going to matter.

Should the publisher have sent this book to the same reviewers she sent the other one? I don't know. But it's another example of how a label influences opinion. If I'm reading a romance, I want a romance. If I'm reading a mystery, I want a mystery. If I'm reading romantic suspense, I expect both…but if my job was to review mysteries and someone sent me a romantic suspense, I'm not sure whether I'd pick that book out of a stack of "pure" mysteries.

Just as readers have expectations, so do reviewers.

I questioned the publisher. We'll see how they respond. It does neither of us any good if the book isn't read and reviewed by the people who have the influence to get it out on the shelves.

Tomorrow, my guest is Jacqueline Corcoran, who's going to explore the differences between screenplays, plays, and novels. Don't miss it.

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Suzie Tullett said...

It's a very interesting point and I'd be interested to know the publisher's response to this quandry, Terry.

And in light of the issues you've raised, the reviewers' response to your book. Hope they give it the attention it deserves x

Bonnie said...

Hi Terry! Great question. I think it's very important to get the right reviewer for your book.

My middle grade novel THE WHITE GATES is a mystery set in a Colorado town featuring a snowboarder named Torin. The novel was reviewed by the sports writer at the School Library Journal. He reviews sports books, like novels about Babe Ruth. He had no clue why there was a curse on the town, or why Torin would try to solve the mystery with his friends. He reviewed it poorly, and there the review sits on hundreds of sites including

Worse, the book was also tagged as a sports book by Borders and Barnes and Noble. Instead of being front and center in the mystery section, it was tucked around on the back bottom shelf.

Do you want your book sent to the right reviewer and not the wrong one? You bet your socks you do.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I have to agree with Bonnie. This is a serious concern for writers.
The big review publications make or break our novels, especially since when publication is with an independent rather than one of the big publishers. Librarians order on the basis of those reviews.

Mario said...

Good question. I had a friend watch his zombie series die because the publisher pushed it as a paranormal romance(?) instead of comedy. By the time reviewers got the drift of the series, it was too late.

Terry Odell said...

Suzie, I'll be waiting to hear, myself.

Bonnie - although we eschew those pigeonholes and boxes, having our books in the right place is vital

Jacqueline - yes, there's a huge difference between reader reviews and those professional ones, and those are the ones that can make or break sales if your publisher is targeting libraries. (And with the price of hard cover books, that's probably where 95% of my sales will be)

Mario - that's so sad. To have done everything 'right' and then die because of someone else's mistakes.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You know, I think this kind of thing is very common. Those publicists at publishers are in a revolving door. I hope this works out for you.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Elizabeth.

Colleen Collins said...

This is a big question mark for me. As I was reading your post, I guessed a mystery reviewer might be open to a story that's romance with a mystery, but after reading Bonnie's and Mario's comments, I'm realizing it all depends on how entrenched the reviewer is in that genre.

Good luck with the new reviewers -- I hope they give it the attention it deserves, too.

Karen C said...

I sure will be rooting for you and the right reviewers! That's one of the reasons I hate labels. If I like the author, it doesn't matter what label your books have - I'm going to read them. And, I really enjoy your books, Terry!!

Terry Odell said...

Colleen -- I face the same "issue" when I judge a contest that's supposed to be romantic suspense, but the author has included paranormal stuff. I have to remember to ignore my bias against paranormal because I'm judging and someone put that book in that box. But a reviewer probably would either pass or say, "too much romance for a mystery."

Karen -- I'm so glad for readers like you! Thanks.