In an effort to find out why books don't get reviewed (and why they do), I convened a meeting of the Critics Cabal, that super-secret organization of book reviewers that actually controls the publishing world. Cabal members in attendance included myself, Carol Memmott, Oline Cogdill, Sarah Weinman, Tod Goldberg, Hallie Ephron, Dick Lochte and Clea Simon.
I posed to them a two-part question: Why do books get reviewed? Why don't books get reviewed? Here are some of the responses to the second question. (The first question was dealt with in a separate post.)
- NOT ENOUGH BOOK REVIEW SPACE.
- Too many books are published. "Little" books in particular get lost in the shuffle.
- The book is mediocre. Most critics aren't looking to write ho-hum reviews of so-so books.
- It has a lousy beginning. (Critics tend to stop reading books soon if the first 50 pages or so don't grab them.)
- Weak writing. (One-dimensional characters, reliance on clichés, hackneyed dialogue, profligate use of adverbs, muddled POV, etc.)
- Unappealing subject matter. (This varies from critic to critic, but such topics as serial killers, children-in-jeopardy books, and novels featuring torture were cited.)
- The author's last book wasn't very good or very popular. (Although if the book was spectacularly bad, the new one might get reviewed.)
- Series novels in which the protagonist doesn't change/develop over time. (Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels were cited.)
- The author or publicist is annoying. (Constant pestering, phone calls, bad b.o., etc.)
- It's a PBO, POD or some other set of initials; it was self-published, vanity-published, not-really-published. (Note: These factors vary somewhat from critic to critic. For example, I review PBOs, as do some of the others.)
- The book received no publisher support. If nobody's heard of it, it probably won't get reviewed.
- There's no art available for the book. (Virtually every newspaper runs art of either the book or the author with a review. If none is available, the review gets scrapped.)
- And that oldie but a goodie...The reviewer never received a copy of the book.