This interview up at Identity Theory (Robert Brinbaum interviews Ploughshares editor Don Lee) makes some pretty sobering points about today’s publishing world.
RB: The discussions go on, and people rage and fume about it, but there is the irony that most of the people who take issue with the Book Review don’t need it to be aware of the books that it is or isn’t reviewing. So what is the point? The New York Times Book Review is not making a cultural contribution with their reviews.
DL: It matters to other newspapers about whether they’ll run a review or not. But it’s also just to book sellers, whether they are going to put it on the table featured face out, on the shelves, that sort of thing. A good New York Times book review will do wonders for you.
RB: I just read that a good Times review doesn’t do much if you are an established writer, but it does a lot for a new author.
DL: . . . if you didn’t make it in that three weeks the book was dead. I don‚Äôt know if that is imagined or not. My publisher says no, you have a longer life span–
RB: Yeah, six weeks.
DL: The differences in those three years? Computers. Bookscan. The way that Barnes & Noble and Borders order their books and keep them or return them. They can see the movement of sales or the lack thereof and either order more or start returning them. So the shelf life has really shrunk.
RB: The trick is to go to as many cities as possible, sign as many books as possible and then the stores can’t return them.
DL: No, that’s changed. They can. That changed a long time ago. They can return signed books. So you going and signing thirty or forty books, it doesn’t matter.
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