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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:31 am
Do good reviews sell books?
Posted by: Keir Graff

In The New York Sun (“How Not to Write a Best Seller“), David Blum asks whether good reviews actually sell books. It’s a good and obvious question, one worth asking even if we BookPeople (TM) prefer to focus less on money and more on the cultural conversation. (Money, we’ve learned, has a great effect on the cultural conversation.)

His conclusion? Maybe not so many. (Note that he’s talking about newspaper book reviews, not journals like Booklist — Booklist reviews sell a lot of books.) Who does he blame? Publishers, authors, newspapers — and bookstores:

Right now, bookstores place all their marketing muscle behind bestseller lists, meaning that prize positions get awarded to those who’ve already won the horse race. Even movie theaters operate according to more democratic principles than that. Shouldn’t good bookstore placement go to good books? Just a thought.

Sure, that works in theory, but in reality, the only place they have room for the piles of James Patterson books is right in the front of the store.

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