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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, November 21, 2007 4:29 pm
The Reviews You Never Get to Read
Posted by: Keir Graff

Almost out the door. But I did read a few good things today. Here’s one of them, a peek inside the little-known craft of writing reader’s reports. Think book reviews, but for a really small audience (and with a sometimes larger impact). From the Guardian (“Literature’s invisible arbiters,” by Esther Allen):

Worse, the power of a reader’s report is almost entirely negative. Barbara Epler of New Directions famously decided to publish the great WG Sebald on the strength of a negative reader’s report, but in general a bad report guarantees that a book won’t be published. A good report, however, is likely to be ignored. Worst of all, even when a good report does lead to publication – and the publisher finds a translator who’s up to the task – the translated book will probably be left to its own devices in the marketplace, with little or no publicity, and will therefore ultimately be deemed a failure. All of which leaves those of us who write reader’s reports in a rather ambiguous position.


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