Sunday, May 18, 2008
Storm clouds on the book reviewing horizon
1. According to last Thursday's GalleyCat, a newsletter of Mediabistro.com, Publishers Weekly is halving -- from $50 to $25 -- the pittance it pays freelance reviewers for their unsigned capsule notices of upcoming books. Even though many who labor for the publishing industry's leading trade magazine are eager young writers seeking to make a small mark for themselves, some veterans churn out these mini-reviews just to keep "Publishers Weekly" on their resumes. My suspicion is that many such contributors don't try very hard, merely reading the first and last chapters and carelessly skimming the rest, knowing that anonymity will protect them if they're caught in glaring mistakes. As partial restitution, PW will now list the names of freelance contributors -- but won't reveal who wrote what.
2. Also according to the same issue of GalleyCat, an unnamed author is offering to split $500 among the contributors of the first ten reviews of his new self-help book on Amazon.com. He says he isn't soliciting puffs, but the mere offer from an author to pay $50 for a review of his book violates all kinds of ethical standards. This is deplorable -- but understandable as an act of desperation. Now that many newspapers have dropped book review coverage (my new Cache of Corpses got fewer than half the reviews than did the first in the series, Season's Revenge, in 2003), it's getting harder and harder for the lesser-knowns and unknowns to pass the word that they've got a new book out. Poor bastards.