The Kirkus Tool: How Are You Using It?



ToolbagImagine This…

You go to the store and see a nifty new tool or kitchen gadget. It’s the hot new thing. It’s on everyone’s ‘must have’ list so you grab one. Now it’s all yours. You can already imagine how much easier it will make your life. So far so good, right?

Then you get it home. Sleek and shiny though it may be, you haven’t figured out exactly how to use it. So you look at the instructions and they’re Greek to you. It goes from bad to worse when you finally do try to use it and discover it does only one thing. You thought it would be the answer to all your problems, but it’s not. It does one thing, just one thing. It doesn’t move on to the next thing and complete the project you were envisioning. Suddenly, that shiny new tool has lost its luster. You now see it as money down the drain. Bottom line: Is it the tool/gadget’s fault or the users?


A couple of months ago, an author friend contacted me for further clarification on my support of Kirkus reviews. While I love Kirkus reviews; he doesn’t. As I thought back on our conversation, It came to me; many authors see Kirkus as that shiny do-everything tool which it is not. Kirkus does one thing—review your book—but their reviews are respected industry-wide. The problem occurs when authors lack an understanding of how to use a Kirkus review and the power it wields.

Kirkus Branding

Whether one likes it or not, Kirkus has a strong brand. Small and traditional publishers, booksellers, libraries and reviewers, recognize it as a leader in the review industry. Kirkus reviews stand head and shoulders above the average book blog reviews, fellow author reviews and even those from other highly credible sources. It is a well-known fact that Kirkus has no perceived agenda, no quid pro quo. There reviews are based on one thing and one thing only—the quality of the work they read. The professionals at Kirkus are just that—industry professionals. Reviewing books is their only job. It isn’t a hobby and they will not do a positive review in exchange for a word or praise or friendly referral.

What Does Success Look Like?

In an earlier post on this subject, I discussed author Darcie Chan who went the Kirkus route. Darcie used her Kirkus review to market her debut novel “The Mill River Recluse.” She used a quote from the Kirkus review in all her marketing material, on her book jacket, and to solicit interest from other newspaper reviewers. The response was that her book hit the NY Times Best Seller list and that success led to a book deal with a traditional publishing house. When I asked if she would go the Kirkus route again for her upcoming books, she answered emphatically that she would.

Inside a Kirkus Review

When I was talking to the author I mentioned earlier, his comment to me as to why he dislikes Kirkus reviews is that they are just a regurgitation of the storyline with a couple of points afterwards. Those points afterwards are the golden nuggets you use to promote your book.

Now, how can you use this golden nugget your marketing material?

  • Capture the quote and say “Kirkus Review says….” In all marketing collateral. Include your websites, flyers, mailers – everything.
  • Use it in review requests, particularly to professional reviewers at newspapers, magazines, bloggers, etc.
  • On the FRONT cover of your book. Make it prominent! Make it stand out!
  • On the book’s and your author page on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

The bottom line is don’t be bashful. Use the wording Kirkus Reviews says… everywhere and anywhere you can.

Take off the blinders and stop thinking about Kirkus as that shiny do-everything tool and start thinking about how you can actually use it. There is no do-everything tool, live with it.

Rachel Thompson and the Whiny Author Syndrome…

On a final note, in one of the greatest blog posts I have read, Rachel Thompson pointed a finger at authors looking for that magical do everything tool or what you can also call the easy road. Earlier this month, she published the post Tough Love for Authors: Stop Whining and Do the Work! on her BadRedhead Media (link) site. Her premise is that just doing one thing will not make you a successful author and she is correct, it won’t. This includes a Kirkus review. A Kirkus review is a tool in your marketing tool box of methods used to make up a successful marketing plan for your book.

I always say that practice makes perfect. Learning how to make your Kirkus review work for you as part of an overall marketing plan will help increase your visibility and move you one step closer to the achievement of your publishing goals.





Comment here!


  1. Wonderful article. I am definitely taking another look at using Kirkus for reviews. Thank you for sharing this information.

  2. Thanks for the great article, Naomi. I’ll give Kirkus another look when I begin a new series.

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