new york times book review

new york times book review

The Importance of Book Reviews in the New York Times

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1. Introduction

The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of book reviews make them important to publishers. Many publishers keep track of their books’ reviews and press mentions in a publicity database where they can easily be accessed and sorted. The most favorable reviews are excerpted in advertisements for the book, and the full text of the review can be used by the sales force in selling the foreign rights to the book. All of this means that publishers will sometimes send forth several copies of a book to periodicals, hoping to increase the odds of a review.

Book reviews are one of the most important tools for increasing the sales of new books. They are a form of advertising, and like all advertising, they are most effective when they are seen or heard by potential consumers. Comparing different forms of advertising, studies have shown that favorable reviews in major periodicals are second only to recommendations from friends and family in the frequency with which they lead to the purchase of a particular item. They are also more cost-effective than other forms of advertising since they tend to be reprinted in paperbacks and on authors’ websites, and can continue to have an influence on the book-buying public for several years.

2. The Role of the New York Times Book Review

Intent on providing a fresh approach to literature, New York Times Book Review editor Bill Keller in 2000 submitted a 10-part article to the CPI regarding his goals for the New York Times Book Review. Keller saw America becoming more and more visually oriented and wanted the review to go against this by putting out a more text-based approach. He wished to reach a larger audience of potential book readers while maintaining the review’s quality. It was noticeable that the NYTBR was drawing in a literary type audience and Keller wanted the review to be accessible to all people, including the less educated. In order to achieve this, Keller proposed to increase the review’s output by publishing it twice monthly. He also suggested including this review in the Sunday edition of the Times, hoping that it would draw more attention to the section.

3. Impact of Book Reviews on Readers

The New York Times does not require an introduction and The New York Times Book Review is not much different. Book reviews published in that revered journal have a significant effect on the readership of a particular book. Book knowledge is paramount in an age where information is a commodity and reading is a way to pass the time, and when considering the display of a book review in a newspaper, intuition says the reader will undoubtedly look twice. The New York Times is a widely read news source with millions of readers worldwide. The New York Times Book Review is published in the Sunday edition of The New York Times and can also be read online, further increasing its accessibility to readers. The NYTBR’s prime real estate is found within the Sunday newspaper. The cinematic analogy of a movie taking its best shot at success by being released during the summer applies to books seeking a good review in the Sunday edition, which provides a 2-month free-for-all rental period in search for maximized book sales coming from those who desire knowledge, books that turn words into action and experience recurrent by the avid intellect of a reader. This extensive time frame allows a review to be noticed by more readers than those reviews in other news sources which are often looked at only once and not revisited.

4. Influence of Book Reviews on Authors and Publishers

The author of a book review may have an influence from the review written. According to the author, “In some situations, the author’s response is as memorable as the review itself” (309). I found this concept interesting that the author has an impact that will be memorable in some cases more so than the review itself. Usually one would think the person being reviewed is the one who will remember the critical words from the work. The thought of the author being criticized remembering the review can be troubling, which is something I have experienced while writing a review. In my mind I hope to not have a negative impact on the writer, because I now know that authors take the time to critique the critique. Reviews can be bad for an author trying to make a name for themselves. Cheryl Knott has studied the effects of getting a bad review on a first published book. Cheryl Knott interviewed twelve authors on the topic. Knott says “All respondents characterized the experience of a bad first book review as negative and most had vivid memories about the review experience” (316). This is not the greatest way for an author to be remembered. Whether the authors move on to productive writing careers or not, being remembered for a bad review on a first book can be a serious cachet that will have an effect on future book sales. Also the popularity or quality of the book can have the review impacting publisher sales. It has been found in numerous case studies, that a well written or well received good review, has been clipped and placed in advertisements for the book in attempt to bolster sales of the book. This tactic is surprisingly effective and something that I have seen myself do while working at a bookstore. On the contrary to this, a bad review many result in the book being returned to the publisher depending on pre sale figures for the book. This can be discouraging for the author, especially if the book was to be a main source of income.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the importance of book reviews in the New York Times could not be more relevant in this day and age. In the global village we live in, the reality of the situation is that North America is dominating the publishing industry and in particular the United States of America. It is vital that the New York Times continues to recognize the importance of literature and exercise their influential role in the publishing industry by reviewing books. The cultural impact that literature has upon our society is immeasurable, and the literature of today’s world will no doubt be a reflection upon the ideals of tomorrow. As a public forum for literature, the New York Times is saying that these works are worth thinking about, writing about, and reading about. The New York Times is setting an agenda and inviting others to follow. With its immense authority and power, the agenda it sets is bound to have important implications not only in the literary world but in society as a whole. A book review in the New York Times is giving an American author a chance to be exposed to his/her own culture. With the enormous amount of foreign literature and English translations of international work, it is still American literature that is taking precedence in the global market. This, of course, is just a result of global Americanization. Nevertheless, if the New York Times were to review a translated work of fiction by an author of a different country, they are giving that author more opportunities to break into the American market. By reviewing literature of other cultures, the New York Times is enabling Americans to gain a better understanding of the rest of the world, and the world to have a better understanding of American ideals.

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