Friday, January 29, 2010

Do Book Reviews Still Matter?

This was taken directly from the email that I received

Reviews have traditionally played a major part in a book's success. Authors and publishers looked to the trades to start a book's trajectory and then to the major newspapers and magazines to bring a book's merits to readers and book buyers. In the age of the internet, marketing and publicizing books is being radically altered. Print coverage is shrinking and the shift to online is marked by inconsistent, sometimes unreliable information by bloggers. Our panel will address what this changing climate means for the future power of book reviews
  • What is the impact of book reviews, both print and online? How do they affect buying habits? Does a good review sell books? Does a negative review hurt sales?
  • Is the authority of the book reviewer and the reputation of the publication still important? Will their hard won status hold the power in the new "democratic" climate?
  • The critic James Wood said "prizes are the new reviews." Is this true?
  • What does a publicist/author hope for these days in relation to reviews?
  • A book could in the past be "well-reviewed" and a reputation established without astronomical sales. If authoritative reviews disappear, will this no longer be possible?
  • Will the breaking down of the authority of the review mean the end of 'the ivory tower,' opening up possibilities for self published books and books that would not typically generate reviews?

So did the highlighted green part tick you off just a bit??????? Unreliable information by bloggers??? WTH?? We're the real readers out there, not the "professional reviewer." What are your thoughts on this and any of the bullet marked topics???? Speak up you naughty, unreliable bloggers.....let your thoughts be heard!!!

EDITED TO ADD THE PANEL(Sorry I should've included this! 6:27 pm 1/29/2010)
Carol Fitzgerald is co-founder and president of The Book Report Network, a group of Internet sites about books and authors with programming for adults at, reading groups at, graphic novels at, Christian readers at, teens at and children at

Lev Grossman is Time magazine's book critic and the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Magicians.

Peter Hildick-Smith is president and founder of Codex-Group, a leader in book audience research. In addition to the firm’s author and new book development programs, Codex tracks ongoing book consumption trends nationally through its Early Read Book Preview survey. Peter was previously the vice president of merchandising for Bantam, Doubleday, Dell Publishing Group.

Dori Weintraub is deputy director of Publicity at St. Martin’s Press where she is also editor-at-large. Before working at St. Martin’s, she was the director of advertising and publicity at Harcourt. She began her career at Newmarket Press and is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute.

MODERATED BY: Louisa Ermelino, Reviews Director, PW

If you want to attend here's the info:
DATE: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | TIME: 8:30-9AM (Registration); 9-10:30 AM (Panel)
LOCATION: Random House, Louis L. Amour Room (14th fl)
1745 Broadway (at 55th Street), New York, NY 10022


  1. I whole-heartedly believe that people find reviewers of their like mind in the blogosphere and stick with them. They don't rely on professional reviews anymore because the reviewers seem out of touch with what most of the consumers actually like.

    To be critically acclaimed is one thing, but to appeal to the masses is another.

    Even though I think I know where they're going with the statement in green, I think it's worded poorly and is offensive.

    The impact of book reviews is that if I trust a reviewer, I'll probably listen to them. If there are three to four bloggers that I read and they all say the same thing, then I tend to think it's reliable.

    I think authority is only important for critical analysis... if you want to sell something, word of mouth is the best tool and always has been.

    The rest of the questions are speculative and no one has enough information about the future to even try to answer them accurately unless they have a crystal ball... :o)

    Thanks for the post! It was fun to read and get a rant in!

  2. I tweeted about this awhile back when they first announce the the conference. Would love to be able to listen in on this convo, especially one short-sighted enough to not have an unreliable blogger perspective on the panel.

  3. Tsk.
    I hear you, we are the real bloggers, those "real" reviewers, well that reviews are always so bla blah, I never get any of the answers I am looking for when I wanna know if the book is for me

  4. That's a poor choice of adjectives for sure. I can definitely see the point of those who say that bloggers mostly don't have the means or the time to cover the same amount of books, especially new releases, as professional publications do. But "unreliable" seems to imply something else.

  5. Well, to be fair, they do say sometimes unreliable, and there are some unreliable bloggers unfortunately.

    But of course it's the tone that implies getting a review from a book blogger is worth nothing, and THAT's offensive.

  6. I don't see how authors or the public can do without book reviews, from whatever source.

  7. I'm wondering what they mean by unreliable. Is someone unreliable because they don't agree with you? I sure would love to know just what they mean.

  8. It seems that there is not a lot of faith in the ability of readers to evaluate and select. And a lot of assumption that "professionals" always give "reliable and consistent" reviews, which is questionable also. Ah well, I think they just feel threatened.

  9. The other problem with professional reviewers is that they're only talking about what's happening right this second. Bloggers range all over the publishing timeframe. In fact, right before I read this entry, I read another blogger's review of a book originally published in 1948 that sounds really good, and I'd never heard of it. Bloggers give older/midlist books a far better chance than most reviewers do.

  10. WOW...this is the first time I've seen this. Yes the wording is "offensive", and it is sad to hear that no bloggers are on the panel either.

  11. Normally I would trust bloggers' opinions more than someone who is paid to write a review. Like blurbs on the back cover of a book, does anyone actually take those seriously?

    There should be a balance on the panel, not necessarily half and half but at least some representation of bloggers.

    Good topic, Staci!

  12. I rarely, if ever, agree with the professional reviewers. Maybe that's what makes me unreliable and inconsistent.

    I'd rather know what other reader thinks about a book based on their own experience with the book. Professional reviewers tend to focus on literary merit. I'm more interested in enjoyment.

  13. I saw this when Nicole tweeted it and it did bug me to read "unreliable information from bloggers". I'd like to hear what it is they mean by that. Unreliable in what way? Since publishers and authors continue to seek us out, someone thinks enough of us to rely upon us.

    If it wasn't for other bloggers, I'd never hear about half the books I end up reading.

  14. OF COURSE, there are no bloggers on the panel *dripping sarcasm*...why would they want someone there who could dispel the myth that bloggers somehow are incapable of putting together a cohesive, well-written review? We all know that only professional reviewers have that skill!!

    This is just another attack on what is perceived as a threat to professional and print reviewers - the truth is, that if bloggers weren't having an impact, the publishers and publicists (and authors) would not still be sending out ARCS and review copies in droves to them.

    Readers will continue to read reviews by those reviewers they have come to trust - whether they be bloggers or professionals. It really is no more complex than that.

  15. I agree with Kathy (Bermuda Onion) -- define "unreliable." Are we "unreliable" because we don't all march in tandem, holding the same opinions?

  16. Nice! Not!!! I'm not sure how their discussion will turn out, but insulting a bunch of people can never be a good start.

  17. Okay, I see by the other comments that I was one of the few that was not offended by this. I must be feeling very content this morning :) I think it needs some clarification. I mean the internet is full of unreliable information and there are reviewers who seem to always give positive reviews, so just because most of us are great doesn't mean all reviewers are. When I read it I just assumed they were talking about someone else ;)
    It does seem telling that they don't have a blogger on the panel.

  18. How it any different than a friend giving you a recommendation? Should any and all book information only come from reliable sources? What might not be my cup of tea might be the greatest book ever written to another.
    Boo to these folks for being so narrow minded. All press is good press!

  19. What does that say about me, who through book reviews by bloggers have brought many (MANY) books into my home because of the blogger reviews. I would take a blogger review over a publicist review any day. I want true reviews and through the blogging community I feel I get them.

  20. I don't find the wording offensive at all, in fact they have a point.

    SOMETIMES online reviewers give out unreliable information about the books they read.

    How many times do certain fans of books make multiple accounts to go on how wonderful their favourite book is, to boost up ratings on amazon? Write bad reviews because the book they wanted wasn't offered in ebook form to their liking? Or because they don't like that particular author? Or they just want to make fun of people who read the book?

    That is the "unreliable" information the sentence is referring to.

  21. I agree that the wording is a little on the insulting side. I know that I tend to trust reviews by book bloggers much more than I'd trust a review by a professional.

    I want to know if I'm going to enjoy the book and if it's worth buying, which professionals rarely tell me. A blogger with similiar tastes is much more reliable than a pro who spouts off about literary merit and influences of the 21st century!

    They should definitely have a couple of bloggers on the panel!

  22. I can see how this can come off as very critical to many of us book bloggers. Although, I agree that I'd like to know what they mean by "unreliable" information. I think that there are some bloggers out there (the minority) that may only write positive reviews but they shouldn't lump all bloggers into that category. They did state "sometimes unreliable information from bloggers". I think it's unfair that they don't have a blogger on the panel to look at both sides of their argument. PW should look at the positive sides of book bloggers as well. We are book bloggers and not paid professional reviewers and there is a difference.

  23. Well are these people the mean kids in the school yard? Meh (sticking out my tongue)
    The heck with them. Do you know how many books I bought from reading professional reviews and they stunk? Never again people! I stick to my blog friends who I know will give me honest opinions and answers. They can suck it as far as I'm concerned.
    (Hope that wasn't too much)
    btw, updated my browser at monkey central and it's all good now ;)

  24. Was Alice Hoffman part of this panel? :)
    So ridiculous.
    Like Chris said "If it wasn't for other bloggers, I'd never hear about half the books I end up reading."
    If it wasn't for bloggers, there wouldn't be best sellers!

  25. Great conversation here Staci. I actually feel sorry for the person who wrote the piece. Their career cannot be on a very good path right now. It's very poor business to insult your customers and that's what this person did.

    Book Bloggers are, for the most part, ordinary people who love to read and talk about books. We don't just talk about the latest books published and we don't always love everything we read. But that's why ordinary people read us for suggestions on what books to buy and read next.

    If the person who wrote those insulting words hasn't already been talked to, I'm sure they will be soon. Let's hope this becomes a means of education for this person,

  26. seriously staci....before i "met" u and started reading your reviews....i read TWO major magazines that did reviews and since i have started following your blog...i have stopped reading them...period. i find your reviews fresh and i know in my heart that u actually READ the books U have reviewed...and i would take your opinion over anyone's "professional" i loveeeeeeeeeeeeee when u have your DS review and u have introduced me to soooooooooo many books that i never would have found without your amazing reviews!!! i am blessed to know u and your WONDERFUL reviews! keep up the good work! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)P:):):):):)

  27. Well, my feelings are hurt!

    I would think publishers might prefer to have reviews to refer to that don't carry quite the weight of the big guys. We might not be able to make a book single-handedly, but we can't take one down all by ourselves either.

  28. I hope you don't mind, Staci, but I had so much to say on this that I wrote my own post on it. Here is the link:

    My Thoughts

  29. *Jules in an earlier comment has answered the question about "unreliable information". No one in this discussion has ever done the things outlined by him, I'd bet on it. I've read hundreds of book blogs and never noticed these practices. But there are clearly out there. We all read each other's posts very carefully, and as you can see, are quick to speak up when something is said that we don't agree with. We have a clean conscience on this one. They were not talking about us in that article.

  30. I've said it before when this argument came up, and I'll say it again. I don't listen to the so-called "professional" reviewers, because I don't want to analyze the life out of a book. They often write with more mean-spiritedness than the snarkiest blogger, and I think they do it sometimes out of jealousy and self-importance.

    No, I'm a whole lot more likely to read a book that's been recommended by a fellow blogger. If I know another stressed-out mom was able to read it, make sense of it, and write a review of it while getting kids up for school, running spare clothes to school, volunteering in the class, running to Karate class, Girl Scouts.. Cub Scouts... soccer practices... make dinner and manage to get more than 3 hours of sleep, keep the house clean AND hold down a job, well... then I'd say it's one I can tackle, too. :-)

    Add to that, the snarky blogger doesn't make fun of me, a lowly peon reader, AND is funny with his/her review, and I'm going with the "unreliable" reviewer.

    Oh, one of the bullets that I did think was interesting. James Wood does have a point: Giveaways do draw more attention to a book review than a "respectable" name on a magazine/newspaper. And that's just a fact, honestly. Yeah, I love to know what you thought of the book, but gimme free stuff and I'm your fan for life!

    You are right, Staci. We ARE the real readers :-)

  31. If book bloggers are so unreliable, then why do authors and publishers/publicists still contact us to read and review their books? These people are looking for someone to blame so let's go blame the people that do what they do for no bloggers!

  32. Wow. What is wrong with this picture??? Hmm, we're not paid to read? They are...maybe they are the ones providing unreliable information?!

  33. I'm not offended. I assume the target audience for this panel is people in the publishing industry, marketers and such. Unless they happen to be in the habit, like we are, of checking their regular blogs for recommendations, I can see where they'd feel bloggers as a whole are inconsistent/unreliable. It's not a personal attack on any of us, just an indication of the changing book scene and their efforts to stay on top of it.

  34. Count me among those who feel a bit insulted.

    I hardly ever read professional reviews prior to blogging, and since I discovered book blogs, I don't read them at all. I've had scores of recommendations based on blog reviews, and I'm not sorry that bloggers have weighed down my shelves. (My husband might be, but not me.) I'm guessing they feel threatened. Why read an overanalysis of a book when you can get a recommendation from friends?

    Diary of an Eccentric

  35. I like Margot's comment and agree with her.
    All of us who apparently write "inconsistent, sometimes unreliable information" in our own personal reviews should be insulted. We are the consumers. We are the ones who buy books. Why should the opinion of a "professional" panel of people in the publishing industry tell us what books we should like or dislike? Plus, my thoughts on books I read are just that - my own, personal thoughts. I'm not trying to sell anyone anything.

  36. I agree, I've discovered so many new books and authors since I started blogging. I also feel they give a more realistic sense of what the book is about.


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