Monday, December 10, 2007

NBCC Reviews the Review Process..sort of

I belong to the National Book Critics Circle, a great organization if there ever was one. Recently they took a survey of all of us members about the whole process of book reviewing. The finds are the kind that made me dying to know who in the NBCC thought what! Shoot, it's anonymous!

Anyway, here are just the facts, ma'am, and see if you agree with them. For me, this all applies to the reviewing I do for newspapers and magazines, not for my blog, where I give full disclosure if I know someone in any way before I rave about his or her book.

68.5 percent of book reviewers think anyone mentioned in a book's acknowledgements should be barred from reviewing it. (I agree)

64.9 percent think anyone who has written an unpaid blurb for a book should also be banned from writing a fuller review. (I agree)

76.5 percent think it's never ethical to review a book without reading the whole thing. (Oh, gosh, I agree. You have to read the whole book! What if a dull book catches fire on page 450?)

And 52 percent think it's not okay for a book-review editor, in assigning books for review, to favor books by writers who also review regularly for that editor's book section. (Oh gosh, it's the word favor that gets me....)

40.1 percent think a reviewer shouldn't read other reviews of a book before writing his or her own, but 17.9 per cent think that's perfectly okay, and 33.5 per cent feel it's complicated enough to require commentary rather than a firm answer. (I don't think it's okay, but sometimes it's hard not to see the other reviews!)

60.5 percent think it's okay for a newspaper book section or magazine to ignore self-published books that authors submit to them, e.g., iUniverse type books. (Well, it depends. Nowadays there are some writers who started out that way and ended up with deals with the bigger publishing houses. It's worth a three minute read of a first page, no?)

See the whole survey here:


Clea Simon said...

This was a very interesting survey. Thanks for starting a conversation about it, Caroline. I agree with the majority on all things except the point about book review editors not favoring - that word again - books by contributors. Now, clearly I am biased - I write reviews, and I want my books reviewed. But I also think that if you are an editor and you have writers contributing to your section whose writing you admire, why wouldn't you make a point of assigning their books? Well, I guess that's why that one question is borderline!

Caroline said...

Hey, I'm with you and also biased. I write reviews and want my books reviewed, and I don't see any problem as long a the assigning editor isn't reviewing your books him or herself.

Clea Simon said...

Or telling the reviewer what to write! I mean, as long as the editor doesn't say "this person writes for us so you have to like her/his book," then I think it is fine to assign a review!