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Dealing With Reviews And Critics Of Your Teen Novels, by Paul Volponi

The Final Four by Paul Volponi

I normally have two reactions to critics. The first is to put my arm around them after a good review. The second is to tell them how little they truly know about writing and novels after a review with which I am displeased. Do these reviews really matter when it comes to YA literature? Well, they do and they don’t. In general, teen readers don’t listen to reviewers. They pick up books penned by either authors they know, or with titles or covers that grab their attention. I have yet to meet a teen who quotes a NY Times book review in his personal observations about something he has just read. Teens also spread their own opinions about books they like and dislike by word of mouth and on sites such as Goodreads.

Reviews get to be important in the arena of immediate hardcover sales in the early months after publication. How so? When a librarian, whether in a public library or a school setting, first comes across a new author’s work, it will mostly likely be in a publication that reviews YA books. Among the better known publications are Book List, Publishers’ Weekly, VOYA, School Library Journal, and The Bulletin of the Centre for Children’s Books. The librarian will read the review (starred reviews, signifying a book is rated in the top few of that publication’s current issue, garner the most attention) and then decide if that book fits the collection a particular library is building. An average or bad review could dissuade librarians from purchasing your book, even though teen readers might love it. Your publisher will most likely send advance copies to all of the major outlets, to increase the number of opinions that librarians may access.

Even though many teens go to book stores and purchase books, a huge number of teen readers (especially reluctant readers) only view books that their teachers and librarians set before them. It’s sad to say, poor reviews and slow sales can stop a first-time writer from ever getting another chance at publication. Personally, I have seen the very top and the bottom of the ladder. The Final Four received four starred reviews and Black and White three, which helped my novels to gain exposure with librarians and teachers, and to be read in many school settings. But two of my personal favorites received less than stellar reviews. Even though I think they are excellent novels, they are less seen in libraries and less read in classrooms.

Can I give you any advice about shaking off a bad review? Sure. Reviews have absolutely nothing to do with the writing process. Only you do. Just like you wouldn’t be stopped by other negative outside influences from working at your craft, don’t give reviews that kind of weight.


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Black and WhiteThe Final FourHurricane SongRikers High     HappyfacePowder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor

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