Monday, October 31, 2011


Guest Post by Jacqueline Church Simonds



It’s not easy to be a self-publisher, or an unknown author. Sometimes it seems as if the whole book industry is deliberately against you. It’s hard to get reviews—and then someone gives you a negative review! What do you do?


Sit down, take a deep breath, and examine what’s happening without your old pal, ego.


I am an editor and book packager. About 2 years ago, I did a book for a client, called Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber: The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI’s Most Elusive Criminals. It’s about his bank robber uncle who never used a gun, but eluded the FBI for 30 years. Rogge was the first fugitive caught via the Internet… and all because he fixed some kid’s computer! It was sort of a fun book to work on.


My client did all the steps to try and make the book a success: he sent out the book for pre‑publication reviews (Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, ForeWord Book Reviews), he did loads of marketing—both the old fashioned sort and social media. He got a little traction with true crime reviewers and bloggers. But there was nothing big; nothing national. Fortunately, he was stubborn and wanted to continue. Last Summer, I reminded him of what I told him originally: “The book will cease to sell the day you stop marketing it.”


So he kept at it. He had a very professional-looking book trailer done. He sent the book to book awards—and was undaunted when they gave him a “finalist” award, rather than a medal. And still he kept submitting the book to new reviewers he discovered, created new press releases to dovetail with current events, and learned new ways to get people to notice his book.


After a long hard slog when nothing seemed to be working, the author is just about to sign a movie option (which means he will receive $X for the right to make it into a movie—which isn’t guaranteed. After 3 years, if the movie isn’t made, rights revert back to the author, but he doesn’t have to pay back the money).


Eighteen months after he launched the book, Publisher’s Weekly posted a review about it. And it’s a real stinger.‑0‑615‑26845‑3. It relentlessly bashes the book—not on its merits, but about the favorable treatment of the criminal (Les Rogge is in a Supermax prison now, 10 years into a 75 year sentence. He’s 69).


Wisely, the author not only is unfazed by the criticism, he is widely pointing out the national press he’s receiving.


And he’s right to be pleased at a book the reviewer hated so much, she had to share her revulsion with the world. Because that is a reaction, too. We can’t always get warm and fuzzy love from reviewers. Sometimes the negative is just fine. In this case, the reviewer was showing a clear preference for a type of book that this is not. I often see author/publishers get their noses out of joint over an unfavorable review. Unless there’s actual libel/slander, you should let it roll off your back. Everyone can read the review and see the writer’s agenda. Trust your audience to see the same thing.


Now if the criticism is that the book is full of typos, logic flaws and falsehoods, THOSE you should take to heart.


Here’s the kicker to the story: the author got a call from a film rights agent, saying they’d seen the Publisher’s Weekly review and asking if rights available. It didn’t matter to the agent that the review was bad. It mattered that the reviewer had a strong reaction. The author will probably receive other queries from other sources, too.


Jacqueline Church Simonds is a book shepherd/publishing consultant and distributor. Her company, Beagle Bay, Inc (, has been publishing award-winning books for 12 years. She is the author of the historical novel, Captain Mary, Buccaneer, which has also been published in Italy and Russia.

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3 Responses to “Bad or Late Review? No Problem!”

  1. Phyllis V. Gallagher Says:

    The old regime isn’t likely to be toppled any time soon; a “starred” review in PW still increases a book’s chance of getting media coverage and showing up in your neighborhood bookstore. One author recently suggested that PW’s negative review of her book had caused O magazine to pull an article about her. Worse, the author can’t take the review off the book’s page on Amazon, no matter how much she’d like to.

  2. Jose H. White Says:

    That said, the truth is that no matter how tough you think you are and how accustomed you are to the terrain, ugly reviews are never easy to read. I’ve published two novels, which has meant that twice in the past two years I’ve sold a book to a publisher and gone through the edits, and then the publication date is scheduled, the lead-up begins, and the first pre-publication reviews trickle in. It’s a nervous, hectic, mostly pleasant time, filled with anticipation and exclamation-point laden emails from booksellers and publicists, and then Publishers Weekly weighs in. By “weighs in”, I mean that Google Alerts delivers the literary equivalent of unexploded ordnance into my inbox. The next few hours are always a little rough.

  3. Dane Says:

    Amen to that! I have number 2 coming out next month, so here comes the pleasant, nervous anticipation all over again. A few book sales might soften the blows though. Great comment by the way…thanks!

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