Monday, July 27, 2009

The New York Times Book Review Selection Process Revealed by Scott Lorenz

At a Harvard University speech, New York Times Book Review Editor Barry Gewen revealed unknown details about The New York Times Book Review's "inner workings" Authors wanting to get the scoop on the process will find insight into the minds of the reviewers at "The Gray Lady" These inside secrets from that speech and gleaned from other sources may give authors a better idea if their book ever has a chance at making the cut.

As a book publicist, I talk to authors and clients every day and most have two ultimate goals: Get on Oprah and get reviewed by The New York Times Book Review. As one of the most influential and widely read book review publications in the industry, a write-up in the New York Times usually results in a strong sales surge and other media outlets writing about the book as well.

In the New York Times article, "Secret Workings of 'Times' Book Review Exposed!," Gewen discussed who takes part in the review, how books are ultimately chosen, and how unglamorous the job really is in the Times building.

Gewen says The Book Review does not print the names of its editors except when they write articles. Furthermore, he stated that there are only about 17 people on the Review roster including support staff.

First named is Editor Sam Tanenhaus who came to the Times with intentions of creating "fireworks," but found that with all of the "disgruntled authors, agents, editors and publishers who call to complain about coverage," reality can be wearing. "There is no bitchier industry than publishing," Gewen said.

In addition, preview editors – Alida Becker, Rachel Donadio, Dwight Garner, Barry Gewen, Jennifer Schuessler, and one other editor - are responsible for "choosing books, finding reviewers, and editing"

There is also Deputy Editor Robert Harris and Senior Editor Dwight Garner, as well as copy-editors, an art director, a children's editor and a clerk on the team.

The process of deciding what gets reviewed and what doesn't is quite demanding work. "It begins with the clerk who goes through the pile of 750 to 1000 advance manuscripts that the office receives each week," says Gewen. However, don't expect your self-help book, reference guide or travel manual to get any attention in the initial review by the clerk. Those books are "tossed"

Then, the rest of the manuscripts are taken to Tanenhaus's office where the senior editor and deputy editor divide them up and get rid of more.

This leaves the six preview editors with about 25 books to look through. Keep in mind this winnowing process has just cut upwards of 750 or more books! Gewen said he spends at least a half hour on each book and chooses four or five, then rejects the others. Reasons most often cited for exclusion, "too narrow for us" or "workmanlike"

In an interview with Tanenhaus by Michael Orbach of "Knight News, "If a writer is not bringing something new to the conversation or is not very well-established with a following, long-awaited book, or has really superb narrative or analytical skills, there's a good chance the book won't get reviewed"

In another article that tries to depict the workings of The New York Times Book Review, "The Book Review: Who Critiques Whom- and Why?" by Times Editor Byron Calame, Tanenhaus continued to say that books often get rejected because they "lack originality" or are "packaged assemblages of smaller pieces"

And for those of you authors who want your first novels to be reviewed, Tanenhaus said, "It has to be strikingly good"

Competition amongst similar books plays a role too. Often authors and even publishers are unaware of another book on the same topic being published at the same time. So the New York Times may decide which one is plowing new ground and is the better of the bunch. It may only review that one book and ignore the others.

Of his job Gewen said, "One has to have a hard heart at the Book Review"

Finally, after the preview editors choose their book selections, they meet again to discuss possible reviewers, all of whom have their own ideas of who to consider. Once they've made their picks from lists compiled from "scanning magazines and other publications" and talking to editors and friends, editors go to their own offices and start trying to reach people.

Overall, Calame said in his article, "Much of the judgment about the books falls into the realm of opinion - and beyond the public editor's mandate" As for the process, he believes that the Times editors "genuinely care about general readers and the literary world, and want their choices to have credibility"

Though choosing books to be featured in the Book Review is a time-consuming, important task, according to Gewen, the Review is isolated from the rest of the building and its influences.

Gewen said "The Sunday Magazine lives in an office down the hall" and "pays the salary of all the rest of us" Furthermore, he said, "There is a real class division here" The Review editors are not in the luxurious offices as the rest of the magazine staff, but they pride themselves in believing they are "smarter" than the rest.

The New York Times Sunday newspaper circulation is 1.5 million. A 1/5 page size ad in the Book Review (1 Column X 10.87 inches) will cost a whopping $8,830 for small presses. If you're a major publisher it'll cost even more! Check out the rate sheet.

The Bottom Line: If you're an author with expectations of having your book reviewed by the New York Times Book Review there is hope. Just don't send them a self-help book, a travel manual or self published book. And if you're a first time novelist, save the postage and send a resume instead since it might first help to get a job at the Times. It's proven that Times staffers have a nice edge in the review process… not that I could blame them.

Or take the advice of Garner: When asked in another "Knight News" interview by Orbach, "What's the way to get your book reviewed?" Garner said, "Write a good one. Really"

One More Thing: Book reviews in newspapers are dying. The Los Angeles Times published its last standalone Book Review July 27, 2008. Newspapers around the US are cutting in-house book reviewers and running syndicated reviews. Why? First they can save money and as for the pressure to save money, it's all about a shrinking news-hole caused by advertisers shifting dollars to the internet and TV. Furthermore, conglomerates who own media outlets try to squeak the last dollar out of everything. And, finally it's the same thing plaguing the book industry in general, sadly, a decline in the number of readers.

About Scott Lorenz

Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm with a special knack for working with individuals and entrepreneurs to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz has handled public relations and marketing for numerous authors, doctors, lawyers, inventors and entrepreneurs. As a book marketing expert Lorenz is called upon by top execs and bestselling authors to promote their books. Learn more about Westwind Communications' book marketing approach at http://www.book-marketing-expert.com/ or contact Lorenz at scottlorenz@westwindcos.com or by phone at 734-667-2090.

9 comments:

Asrai said...

The only problem with "write a good book" advice is that what is a good book is subjective.

Rick Nance and Rhonda Roth said...

Even good books have to be read first. It's great to hear that your book is awsome and is very unique but reviewers have to get this message from somewhere.

無敵數鈔機 said...

何謂「看護」?
所謂「看護」指的是由病患(或其家屬)自行出資雇用,於病患住院期間擔負起看顧病患生活起居與簡單護理照護等事宜的人員;雖然坊間民眾、醫院、仲介單位等均常將這些工作人員稱之為「看護」,但「看護」並非政府照顧產業政策中的正式名稱,因為在照顧政策中,在服務對象家中、醫院中、或安養護機構中的照顧工作者已被統一稱之為「照顧服務員」,因而在照顧政策上,這群工作者應被稱之為「醫院病患照顧服務員」。其實此職業群體的其他職稱還有許多,諸如「看護工」、「護工」、「護佐」、「病患服務員」等都曾用來指稱這群工作者。在這些職稱當中,由於「看護」是這群醫院病患照顧服務工作者最常見的稱號,又認為和其他職稱相較、「看護」這個用詞最能精準表達這個職業看顧、照護病人的工作本質。
由於醫療科技進步,延長了人類的平均壽命,產生包括病人的照護問題。和病人照護關係最密切的,除了醫院中的主要成員─醫師及護士,在台灣醫院中因為醫護人力不足,看護人員、看護工,或稱為病患服務員、護佐擔負了簡單而大部分的照護工作。因急病或慢症的差異,病患需要看護人員的時間亦不同,可能一星期左右的臨時看護人員,也可能如癌症長期住院而需要雇請看護一個月以上,甚至像老人癡呆病患,家裡需要請長期照護者,在台灣引進的女性外籍勞工中,有一大部分是擔負醫療照護的工作,家中的看護人員工作內容從洗衣煮飯到為病人拍背催痰,無所不包,角色是傭人兼看護,其影響的層面除了醫療照護品質,也包括家中成員關係的改變。在台灣沒有家屬在旁的住院者,幾乎都會請看護人員。因此,病患整體照護的就醫環境,應受到重視與考量,不應將責任由家屬或請來的看護人員分擔,避免照護者因為照顧知識不足,影響病患的權益。


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Aro Lynn Vladimir said...

Good books should have plenty of thing going on in the book. And should never go on about nothing, but about something really bad or good. What is great about book is you can be any one, go any were, and do what ever you amagen. what isn't so great is when you close the book and your back to a boring life.

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