Friday, November 21, 2008

Reviewing the Reviews

Charles here,

Much discussion of late (see my esteemed blogmates below) on the nature of reviews, their role in the marketplace and the questionable ethics of some in that profession, to which I will now add nothing of significance.
1. If X is the amount of time I spend thinking about good reviews, then 10X is the amount of time I spend thinking about bad reviews. They are disproportionate to their actual value, and the more horrendous the review, the greater that disparity.
2. If 10X is the amount of time I spend thinking about bad reviews, then 10X to the 10th power is the amount of time I spend not thinking about reviews at all. Oh, there’s that heady rush of reading reviews when a book comes out, but, unless you’re one of those authors who has a book magically coming out every three months*, a book launch is a—at best—once a year event.** All the rest of an author’s time goes into writing the next one.
3. All as used in the above refers to all time not already committed to sleep, employment or watching episodes of Arrested Development.
4. While a bad review will reduce the chances that I will see a movie, it doesn’t impact my book buying decisions since I have so little time already to spend on reading (see above), the little I have can’t be spent on reading reviews for books I want to read.
5. That said, I do enjoy reading reviews for books I don’t plan on reading. The first thing I read on Sunday mornings is the NY Times Book Review, not because I think I’ll find my name there•, but because it’s interesting to see how far you have to read into the review to discover if the reviewer likes/does not like the book.
6. I also like the ads on the back cover for a bookseller that specializes in rare first editions.
7. Recently there was a great copy of Fleming’s Casino Royal offered (unsigned, dust jacket, fine condition) for $1,700
8. Apparently the key to making money in the book world (and I include authors here) is to correctly predict which books will be worth the most down the road.
9. In 1954, Kirkus said that the writing in Casino Royal was “dressy stuff” and said that the book would only appeal to those with extravagant tastes.
10. Given the above, I plan on getting a copy of Vicki’s Valley of the Lost and keeping it in fine condition, with the dust jacket and maybe even a signature.

* Look for authors with a TM or ® symbol after their name
**Unless you’re me and then it’s a once a lustrum
• If you take the time to rearrange random letters from each review, you will be surprised just how many times my name does in fact appear in the pages of the NY Times Book Review, and, prophetically, The Book of Revelations

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