“Free” Review Copies and Other Headaches for New Authors By Gilbert Lawrence

I’d like to share the experience of our first novel, On Thin Ice, recently published by Booklocker, with readers of WritersWeekly.com. Our enthusiasm for our creative work was matched by the number of friends and acquaintances who offered to review our work before and after publication. They assured us they were newspaper and magazine writers eager to support us. One said, “I am an English professor and would love to review your book.”

We were happy to take them up on their offers and gave them free, printed copies of the book. We sent out “many” copies and received “zippo” reviews and comment, even after gentle reminders.

Our first reaction was one of self-doubt. Was our book so poorly written that the reviewers did not want to hurt our feelings? Did the reviewer not know where to start (or end) with the review process and elected not to commence the writing? Should we reassure them that only a few comments would suffice? Still, some had not even begun to read the material weeks later. “It’s at the top of my to-do list,” some claimed. These were the ones who requested a copy and assured us it would be “an honor to review the book.”

Have others encountered the same let-down by non-writing writers? Angela Hoy at Booklocker.com said she has heard this complaint from many authors.

Fortunately, after these initial experiences, we eventually received many great reviews (on style and substance) which can be seen on Booklocker’s web page at: http://www.booklocker.com/books/2194.html.

These compliments are the satisfaction for our undertaking. Angela’s check is the icing. The best compliment was from a former TV reporter. He said that On Thin Ice was very educational and our writing style was very similar to that of Thomas Wolfe, a very prolific writer who lived from 1900 to 1938. We may not get inducted into the “Thomas Wolfe Society” but the thought counts.

Selecting local reviewers proved tricky. One never knows if they will be happy or upset that they were not referred to in the book. A mention of one hospital in the area would raise the ire of the others and their staff (potential readers); the mentioned hospital may perceive being given “not enough” exposure. Most non-writers do not appreciate the constraints of “word count”.

Friends are always great at proposing ways to promote the book so that our work can make the “best seller” lists. The top award goes to the suggestion, with slight variations: GIVE an autographed copy of your novel to EACH member of this association. A rep of a national corporation suggested, “Send a copy of your book. I can evaluate it as a promotional item for our company.” This being a local, community-based medical novel, I suggested to one physician that he could use the book as an educational tool for his staff, to which he responded, “They really do not read.”

Another approach suggested, “Thanks for giving me the book for Christmas. I find it very useful and will surely pass it on to my staff.” Here we get the cake without the icing, and I guess that’s the experience of most authors.

But at some point one has to ask one’s self why did we write the book? Perhaps to entertain, but most likely to educate others after we had the fun and excitement of educating ourselves. Finally, can any WritersWeekly.com readers enlighten us on how to get across that our fictional novel “On Thin Ice” is not an autobiography? A dear, elderly friend insists the main characters of the novel are the authors and she, “goes to bed with you guys after reading a couple pages of the book.”

As ours is dubbed the funniest-serious novel, we see the humor in these situations and have collected many tips for our next endeavor. And we will be wiser next time about offers from non-writing reviewers.

Gilbert Lawrence was born in Bombay (Mumbai), India, where he and his wife and co-author, Meena, completed their postgraduate studies. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and live in Utica, New York. Meena is a reporter and a human interest feature writer. Gilbert is a physician. You can reach him at readnewyork – at – yahoo.com. His novel, On This Ice, is available at http://www.booklocker.com/books/2194.html, or can be ordered from your favorite online or brick and mortar bookstore.