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    "Mr. Wickett is that rarely heard from but best of all possible reviewers - the dedicated and knowledgeable fan. He writes clean-cutting and fresh reviews that represent a sensibility unspoiled by over-exposure to the biz of books, but deeply in love with them." Daniel Woodrell, author, Winter's Bone
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    April 29, 2007

    Comments

    Richard

    Very thoughtful post, Dan -- just as I'd expect.

    Getting lost in the debate regarding blogs is the premise of the NBCC campaign about newspaper reviews. In my experience, there's nothing quite like a newspaper review of a book for an author, whether or not it helps or hurts sales. (A pretty good review of my book in the January 7 Philadelphia Inquirer did not sell a single additional copy.) Of course I started publishing my books in the late 1970s, when the alternatives were the trades (there were more of them too), the mainstream magazines, the alternative weeklies (most of which long ago gave up book reviews, once a standard section in them), the mainstream weekly and semiweekly newspapers (mostly in smaller markets; for example, my first book got reviewed in The Ventura County (CA) News); the college newspapers; and the literary magazines. All print, of course.

    So many papers ran so many reviews back then that it was possible for someone like me, a kid with a debut short story collection from a small publisher, a book that wouldn't sell even 1,000 copies, to get a long daily (weekday) review in the Los Angeles Times, to be reviewed jointly with a book by a pro like Jim Harrison in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and to get other reviews in newspapers big and small in places like Orlando, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Long Island, South Florida, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and New York.

    I learned a lot from all those reviews, especially the many not-very-good ones. And as a reader of books, I knew back then if I found myself in New Orleans or Detroit or Albany on a Sunday, I'd find a book section with five to ten reviews of books both famous and obscure.

    But over a quarter of a century has passed, and the newspaper business has changed a great deal and is currently in crisis. It's nothing new. I can remember being on a panel in 1984 with Bill Robertson, then the book editor of the Miami Herald, who said his section was shrinking because of lack of advertising and corporate decisions from Knight Ridder. Back then, my close friend George Myers Jr. was book editor of the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News and a board member of the NBCC. The Patriot-News hasn't had a book editor in many, many years. (George went on to become book editor of the Columbus Dispatch and over a decade ago started doing other things for that paper, things his employer found more valuable.)

    I don't know how the NBCC thinks it can fight market forces with pleas and petitions, all of which make good sense (save perhaps for the occasional blog-bashing) but the book sections of newspapers aren't the only ones dying. Has anyone noticed the incredible shrinking Sunday Business section in the New York Times?

    Perhaps when newspapers were family-owned enterprises far removed from shareholder pressures that large corporations are subject to, the Bingham family could have their most brilliant writer preside over a jewel like the book review section of the Louisville Courier, but that time is gone.

    I will miss it. But unless the NBCC can somehow change the economics of newspaper publishing, all the thoughtful commentary isn't going to save one newspaper book section.

    Erika D.

    Dan, this post very much needs to be read, for many reasons. Thank you for sharing it.

    Colleen

    This is an excellent post Dan - and I particularly like your point about pride. When you have started something from nothing as so many of us have and received no income from it as it developed and grew then to see it reach some point of significance in the community you enjoy is a great and wonderful thing. I think that many bloggers work harder at their literary contribution to the world then most print reviewers give us credit for and that stings.

    I should be above all of this and not let it bother me; but I just can't seem to get there yet.

    Erika D.

    Colleen, there's a lot about this "campaign" that's bothersome--don't worry about not being able to get beyond that. You're certainly not alone.

    annie

    As a reviewer for print and online venues (PW and others), I have to say that I value the bloggers so much, and am surprised that you guys aren't praised to the skies all the time. You guys do the hard down-in-the-trenches work, and you do it for love. I thrive on the blogosphere, and admire the hell out of all of you guys for keeping it so open and cool and interested in all sorts of new lit. I should also note that when my first novel came out, I got as many reviews from blogs as I did in print, and most of the blog reviews were better than the print ones. I don't think there needs to be this bullshit one-upsmanship. We're all in it because we love lit. We are the lit community.

    caitlin

    you should be VERY proud of all you do and have achieved. as someone who joined early on, maybe as number 22 or 23 (talking about pride, i'm proud of that!!), i've got to say that you gave my writers a chance as increasingly other reviewers turned to celebrities...and still do...and you shaped a community where we really needed one, and clearly, still do...what a pity about the snide remarks.

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