Sascha Illyvich joins us here on Insane Hussein and gives us an insider scoop to the book review world.
By Sascha Illyvich
Your manuscript has just been bought, published and is now on its way for the public to purchase, read and enjoy. Congrats! Even with the emerging E-book revolution, it’s difficult to get that far to begin with, but now comes a difficult choice. Do you submit your book for review? The publishers certainly will in most cases. But aside from that, should you?
Yes! Even at the risk of taking a personal hit, you should send your work out for review.
You as an author have a platform to develop and that includes the use of reviews in order to market your work. I’m going to show you how to take risks and make the most out of your reviews, regardless of how favorable they are.
Let’s look at something I know about, my work. Years ago, I released “Dedicated to Her”, a short story collection of BDSM tales blended with romance on CD. Eager to gain reviews and get the buzz out about my new “product” I sent a copy to Sensual Romance, seeking reviews. Sensual Romance at Writerspace.com caters to the entire romance genre but holds more traditional themes on love and romance. There is room for BDSM but generally the focus isn’t on the acts of BDSM.
I thought that marketing myself as a romance writer with an edge would catch their attention. Three of the stories had been published previously; I hoped I had a chance at a favorable review. This was almost ten years ago FYI.
A few days before I released the CD, I submitted the MS to Sensual Romance and discovered I had readers. When judgment day came, (Isn’t that how we all feel?) my shit got blasted. The reviewer called my stories boring. She recapped three of the five stories on the CD, and didn’t bother to read the latter two, which in my opinion were the best ones.
The nerve! I had a good mind to email the reviewer and point out how unfair she’d been with my precious MS. I didn’t bother seeking quid pro quo. One review does not sink an author. Throughout your career and mine, we’re bound to receive less than favorable reviews. It’s part of the job.
Ready to give up, (this is where support from others comes in) I let the MS sit, as did my plans to release the CD with such an unfavorable review already out amongst the Sensual Romance readers. Two days later, another review had been released along with a note from the Sensual Romance Reviews Managing Editor saying how my CD was “one of those books that appeals to a very specific niche audience.”
That’s not bad. This was a risk, after all. A quick glance at my website will reveal that most of my fetish work gets excellent kudos from various people in the fetish scene. Great. The real weirdoes like my work.
The review that followed was better.
“Quite interesting, and very powerful in a way, the stories in DEDICATED TO HER felt almost foreign at first because of their content. They are not for everyone, with their controlling, almost arrogant, women and violent sexual acts, but readers who enjoy Female Domination stories and tales of BDSM should find DEDICATED TO HER much to their taste.”
The following reviews spoke along the same vein with praise of my characters, stories and content. While none of the reviews stated my CD was a masterpiece of carnal delight or a sensually satisfying read; they were still considerably favorable than I had expected.
Writing for the BDSM genre in particular is difficult to write for because you truly have to impress editors. So much of the genre is filled with the same scene reports, beatings and typical acts that it has become boring. This is true of many other genres, not solely erotica alone.
When I asked a group of readers traditionally not associated with hardcore BDSM fiction to review my work was a risk I'm glad I took. The reviews could have all come back negatively, showing that I failed in my attempt to blend the romance and BDSM genres. Instead, they gave me a chance to see that from some of the reviewers, the humanity I try to portray in my fiction came across.
Many years ago, in a column for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, M. Christian stressed the importance of stressing one’s creative muscles by writing for a different genre. My first nonfiction attempts led me to write how to articles for the craft of writing in general. Eventually, the now defunct http://ssspread.com approached me with the idea of my own nonfiction column. After negotiation, this added another notch on the bedpost of writing credits.
The underlying point was that I took a risk. Writing in general is a risk because much of it is subject to interpretation. It’s always going to be put under scrutiny by others and that’s partially what drives us as authors. To step outside the lines of established genres and take that leap into bigger, uncharted territories.
Writers must learn to develop a thick skin and get used to being trashed. It’s part of the nature of our business as we’ll find favor with some audiences more than others. The lesson here is to know your audience.
That’s what breaking out of traditionally established boundaries for different genres do. Your readers vary with individual tastes so why shouldn’t your writing.
Go forth and submit your work for review! You might be amazed if you’ve done your job correctly.