Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bell Tolls for Kirkus

Asking a writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp post how it feels about dogs - Ann Landers

Reviews... the word sends a chill down an author's spine (okay, I exaggerate a little) We authors, no matter how nonchalant, can't help but notice what others are saying about our book. You can ignore most, but it's hard to ignore professional reviews that appear in the media -- they have the power to affect  book sales and perhaps, even your career as a writer.   Interestingly, a paper titled "Is Any Publicity Good Publicity? A Note On the Impact of Book Reviews", by Alan T. Sorensen, a business school professor at Stanford university, shed some light on the topic.
The paper used detailed weekly data on sales of hardcover fiction books to evaluate the impact of New York Times book reviews on sales. In order to weigh the relative propensity of reviews to inform and to persuade, the analysis utilized a measure of review opinion obtained through a systematic reading of each review. The estimates indicated that in the case of bookreviews, any publicity is good publicity: even negative reviews lead to increases in sales.These findings were interpreted as evidence that book reviews serve largely to inform consumers about books’ content and characteristics (including the books’ existence). However, positive reviews can have a larger impact on sales than negative reviews, suggesting that reviews also have a persuasive effect.

So, there we have it -- reviews, good or bad can help boost sales! So it is with great sadness that I note that one of the venerable reviewers in the book industry, Kikus, is shutting down. Founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus, it is currently scheduled to cease publication at the end of calendar year 2009. Both, Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, two venerable chronicles of the newspaper and book publishing industries, are closing as their owner, Nielsen Business Media, gets out of the trade publication business.

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