The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners
I am a media junkie. What I really wanted to know was whether this book on the BBC was worth $29.95 and four hours of my time. That could have been accomplished in 55 words and one, two, three or four stars.
Meanwhile, in the 48 column-inches that included the reviewer’s puerile drivel—and which featured a useless a 4-1/4˝ by 5-1/4˝ cartoon-like drawing—the Journal could have performed a real service to readers, authors, booksellers and publishers by printing 55-word capsule reviews—with star ratings—of 25 or more new titles.
Last week, Rupert Murdoch made a bid to buy The Wall Street Journal. How would he change things? “I’m sometimes frustrated by the long stories,” Murdoch told interviewers from The New York Times, adding that he fails to finish many of the articles.
How I hope the Bancroft family agrees to the sale, allowing Rupert Murdoch to take over and inject some adrenaline into that dreary, wordy rag.
The Anatomy of Book Promotion
The key to book sales used to be reviews.
No reviews, no sales.
My friend and neighbor, Cordelia Biddle, has written a humdinger of a mystery novel, “The Conjurer,” set in old Philadelphia. The work received two dandy reviews from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Except for readers of these two newspapers—plus attendees of her various book signings—no one in the country will have any way of hearing about this beautifully written, gripping book.
Without reviews, many, many copies of “The Conjurer” that have been fed into the vast book-distribution maw will be returned unsold to the publisher (at great expense), and reshipped (at great expense) to remainder tables—often in the same stores that just returned them. Ultimately, they will be squirted out publishing’s back end and used as landfill.
Under the current broken system, the one thing that book publishers do best is turn trees into landfill.