This might be a review or it might be old news, but there is much to learn about publishing.

When I was a child, my mother was a US history teacher. She had a graduate degree in United States Constitutional History (her thesis was on antidisestablishmentarianism and she made me read it). Then one day she was suddenly told that she had to teach a history class called Afro-Asian Cultures. I subsequently spent every Sunday in the American Natural History Museum in the Hall of African Peoples, the Hall of Asian Peoples, and in the research room. My mother knew she wasn’t going to become an expert on these topics. She said her goal was to merely stay a lesson ahead of her middle grade students.

Sometimes publishing feels like that too. I’m in a race to stay one lesson ahead, but then there’s always that ‘kid in the class’ for my mom or that issue that arises for me when I realize that despite my best efforts, I may have been behind before I started. What I realized that I didn’t know when Alone Together on Dan Street was published was the importance of reviews, that not all reviews carry equal weight, that people get friends to post reviews, and that some people pay for reviews.

Today I just got my first Kirkus review! My publisher sent me a message to let me know. I didn’t even know what a Kirkus review was until about a year ago.

What is a Kirkus review?  Kirkus, among others, is an industry standard for book reviews. This magazine and site has a long standing reputation as an unbiased reviewer. The reviews are short and to the point and there is a single line that summarizes the reviewers impression.

So, some reviews earn stars. These starred reviews are a big deal. The Kirkus Prize is HUGE.

What is a starred review? A starred review is a big boost for the book prepublication. It appears in the corner of the review and is something that you would definitely want to add to your website and talk about on social media. Kirkus starred reviews are eligible for the Kirkus prize. The stars themselves are a prize. Some of these starred reviews go on to win other big prizes and some do not.

Who else gives these starred reviews? Well, Kirkus, but also reviewers like Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Shelf-Awareness.

How did I come up with this list? I had a look at the Levine Querido list of their 27 Starred Book Reviews (and counting)!

It’s important to remember that even without stars, books can still win awards and become best sellers. The stars boost coverage in the media and also help with placement in stores.

What I didn’t know until very recently is that authors can pay for a Kirkus review though it is pricey. For a book that is published by a smaller publisher this is often left to the author to do on their own if they with. I was fortunate that my book was sent to Kirkus by Kar-Ben Publishing as I would not have paid the $399 review charge on my own. The Big 5 will send it for you. You can check with your publisher to find out their policy. If you are going to pay for this, you should think about it first. The reviews aren’t always positive. I did not submit my other 2 books for review.

The more I learn, the more benchmarks I add to my list. I always remind myself to remember to review what I’ve accomplished in the 2+ years since I sent my first manuscript out to a publisher. There will continue to be ups and downs, but I’m excited for what lies ahead.

And here it is: ZHEN YU AND THE SNAKE is a novel take on a traditional tale.