“Sticking the landing” on the ending

Allegiant, the latest book in the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth, has been released this week. It’s the end of a popular trilogy. It’s riding right now at Number One on Amazon, and that’s all books, not just a specific category.

Please know that I have not yet read these books, so I have no opinions at all on this best-selling series. But what I did notice today was this:

Divergent Series Amazon Reviews


Hopefully as more reviews come in that picture will look a bit better, but it’s apparent a lot of fans were disappointed, and many of them in the reviews mention the ending.

When you have a successful series, the pressure is on for each book to “top” the last one, or at least match it. Naturally, this tends to make the last book a lot more important than the early ones. Particularly the ending of the last book, where the author really has to wrap up the whole story and then kick it right through the center of the goalposts (apologies for mixing sports metaphors).

Me, I’m old-fashioned. My personal prejudice is toward happy endings, which may not be award-winning or “artistic” nowadays, but are still a lot more fun to read than certain “realistic” or “sophisticated” endings I could name. I like endings where the loose ends are tied up, and your favorite characters come out on top with happy and interesting times ahead that you’d love to stick around and see. If the author kicks the ending smack between the uprights, the readers will wish there was another book, but still be satisfied with what they have. This isn’t always easy.

In my opinion, the epilogue to the Harry Potter series got the kick right up the center from sixty yards out. A writer can do a lot worse than winding up a long and amazing story with “all was well.”

On getting reviews (updated)

If you’re self-published, it’s hard work landing reviews for your book.  If you’re selling Kindle or anything else on Amazon, readers can enter reviews, but a very small percentage of them actually do. If your sales haven’t taken off, that small percentage can calculate out to “less than one.”

There are a number of ways you can get reviews other than just waiting for them to show up.  Some reviewers will write a review for money.  This is legitimate.  At the top end of this category Kirkus Reviews, a well-known and respected review organization, has a special pay-to-play category for independently-published books. They charge a minimum of $425, but for this you get a real review (not guaranteed to be positive) from a big name for you to use as you wish. The review can also be put up on their website, and some reviews are chosen for their newsletter. Considering it’s Kirkus this is probably not a bad deal, but I’m not ready to go that route yet.

For free reviews, you need to seek out groups and individuals willing to do reviews for self-published books. I discovered that there is an amazing number of bloggers who seem to do this for a hobby, as well as more organized book review sites with multiple reviewers on hand. It will cost you only the price of sending them a book, which may be as cheap as e-mailing a PDF file or as expensive as mailing a real book.

This website has an extensive list of review sites that will give any self-published author a pretty good start. You can google others. Print out the list and go over it with a highlighter. Look for reviewers that like your kind of book and sound like a good fit.

I set up a Word submission chart for reviewers that is very similar to the ones I set up to track agents and publishers (see illustration back at this post). The process of asking for reviews is very similar to the standard agent query process. In most cases, you sent a request first, and if they want the book they’ll ask for it.

As with agent submissions, pay close attention to their requirements for requests and book formats, and deliver exactly what they ask for.

Have your materials ready to go. If you’ve published a Kindle book, you can “gift” one to a reviewer so that’s no problem. If you need hard copies (like a Createspace or Lulu version) it doesn’t hurt to order a few to have them on hand if someone needs real books quickly. It doesn’t work very well for me to order them from the printer and have them sent directly to the reviewer. I don’t have the option of a cover letter that way, and I also like checking the books over for possible problems before I send them.

If they do accept your book for review, be patient. It goes without saying that the waiting line for free book reviews is a long one, and the turnaround is often measured in months. When the review comes out, some reviewers put it on their websites. Others will also post it to your Amazon site or other places you’re selling your book.  Check their individual review policies.

Another good article on this subject here, by Ken Brosky.

My first review from one of these sites (LL Book Review) showed up on Amazon yesterday. They accepted the book on June 29th based on an online submission (see the “Pick Me” tab on the website). They posted the review to Amazon immediately, but the review won’t actually be on their web page until the end of September.


One of the other sites I’ve submitted to is Midwest Book Review.  Not only is it a good review site for independent and small-press publishers, but their submission information page has a list of articles on it that’s very useful for authors wanting to learn more about the review process.