Kirkus Reviews

Ok, in the world of bookselling & purchasing, Kirkus is big stuff. You’ve probably heard of them, but may or may not know why they are so cool.  From their site:

In 1933, Virginia Kirkus (1893-1980), once the head of the children’s-book department of Harper & Bros., launched the book-review service that bears her name. It was an innovation in the field of publishing and selling books.

Arranging to receive advance galleys proofs of books from publishers–only 20 or so at first, but eventually nearly every firm of any size in the industry–Kirkus read the galleys and wrote brief, critical evaluations of their literary merit and probable popular appeal. Initially, the reviews were sent only to subscribing bookshops in the form of a bimonthly bulletin. Bookstore managers were thus given an informed and unbiased opinion on which to base their orders and promotions. Two years later, the service was also made available to libraries.

Today, after almost 70 years of uninterrupted twice-monthly publication, Kirkus Reviews continues to provide critical, descriptive, and concise reviews of forthcoming books. The reviews normally appear two or three months prior to publication. As before, the review in Kirkus is often the first review of a book to appear anywhere, and a good many books may receive no other notice than the one they get in Kirkus.

Twenty-four times a year – on the 1st and 15th of every month – Kirkus covers approximately 200 titles. These include all the new hardcover and trade-paper fiction, significant nonfiction, and the most important of children’s and young adult books. Extensive as this coverage is, it remains to some extent only an attempt at an ideal: Kirkus cannot review every one of the hundreds of books sent to its staff each week. But for those Kirkus does choose to review, we point out not only the merits (and the faults, if need be) of each book, but also how each compares with others in its field, whether it has been written by a first-time author; by a recently emerged writer with a possibly strong future; or, perhaps, by an established figure whose work must be considered in the context of a full career.

They review books pre-publication and their newsletters are a HUGE source for the decision makers who buy books for libraries and bookstores. Unless it is a self-published book (they use Kirkus-Indie– a paid service, which also provides editing to unpublished authors, coolness), the book must be submitted after it is under contract, but BEFORE publication, and in galley or manuscript form. They request a minimum 3-4 month window to get the review done at least a month before the release date.  Here are the rules for what might get reviewed:

There are a few hard and fast rules. By and large, we review all new adult hardcover or original trade-paperback fiction, general-audience nonfiction and children’s and young adult books. Beyond that, editors make individual judgments based on factors having to do with merit or potential interest.

Kirkus Reviews does NOT review books in the categories listed below. (Kirkus Indie, however, does. Go to Kirkus Indie for more information.)

  • already published books
  • reprints
  • mass-market titles
  • self-published titles
  • print-on-demand titles
  • poetry
  • textbooks
  • specialized technical or professional works
  • any work intended for an academic audience
  • reference books
  • instruction manuals
  • screenplays or other types of dramatic scripts
  • computer & technology handbooks
  • books of regional interest

IF your book is chosen for review (they get 100-200 requests a DAY), and it is favorable, the publisher can request that it be posted online and printed in the bi-monthly magazine. Note that Kirkus SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT GUARANTEE a good review.

And now we get to the awards section. If the folks over there think your book deserves EXTRA commendation, it can receive a STARRED review. cool stuff. EVEN BETTER, it might make it to one of the “Best Books” lists compiled annually.

Here is the overall site.

Here are some of the lists.



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