Kirkus Reviews and the Continuing Fallacy of Paying for This Service

I’ve often discussed Kirkus Reviews and what the company has become since Mrs. Kirkus sold the name many, many years ago.  A writer can currently pay $425 directly to Kirkus for a review, and if the blurb comes out negative can be kept from being published.  Or an affluent writer can pay an ASI imprint such as Xlibris, AuthorHouse or iUniverse $4,000, and an account executive will secure a Kirkus Review for the writer. Yes, that concept is insane.  The Kirkus namesake has been sold more times than Kentucky Fried Chicken, and this is not a joke. I defy any author to honestly state, in today’s sardine-crowded marketplace, that a single sale of that person’s book can be attributed to a Kirkus Review.
But I’m not writing about Kirkus Reviews to repeat what subscribers have read from me for many years, as here’s where I’m going with this: Kirkus Media (as it’s been renamed in 2010) offers monetary awards of $50,000 to the winners in the various categories; which, outside of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the largest monetary amount I know of.  To put this in perspective, a Pulitzer comes with a $10,000 check, and the winners of the National Book Award receive just $10,000, as well.  Of course, any writer winning a Pulitzer or an NBA will, by way of immediate book sales, gain more than the $10,000 stipend, but many category winners will not, even with the upsurge in book sales, reach a $50,000 aggregate.
Once again, writers must look between the sheets, and there’s no pun intended. It’s my opinion that these awards are Kirkus Media’s marketing strategy to legitimatize Kirkus Reviews–and absolutely not one thing more. Kirkus Media sells an ad program in which it places display ads in various media. These DO NOT SELL BOOKS. I cannot make this clearer. There’s an Internet post by a poor soul who spent $8,000 with Kirkus before he finally figured it out. Kirkus Media rakes in an enormous profit from its activities to “promote” writers who use the firm’s services. It doesn’t take long to see that a few $50,000 rewards can generate tremendous credibility.
I ask any subscriber who might be considering a Kirkus Review to look at those that are published. Do they really offer a “specific” analysis of the book? Or do they fall into the generic clichés of “riveting,” “amazing,” “spellbinding,” “must read,” “can’t put down,” “roller-coaster ride,” and all the other hoopla that says absolutely nothing?  This sort of vapid rhetoric reminds me of a review I read of NUTS, a movie Barbra Streisand starred in some time ago. The blurb in the newspaper read “HILARIOUS.” I’d like to find one person who found anything funny about that movie.

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