the complete review Quarterly
Volume XII, Issue 1   --   February, 2011

State of the Site

Annual Report for
complete review - 2010

  1. Overview:
  3. Critical and Popular Response
  4. General Observations
  5. Outlook

I. Overview

       i. The site

       The complete review went online, at, on 31 March 1999.

       Growth of the site continues to increase by roughly the same amount, year in and year out:

Books under Review
Month Total
December, 2000 529
December, 2001 750
December, 2002 934
December, 2003 1128
December, 2004 1331
December, 2005 1548
December, 2006 1774
December, 2007 1986
December, 2008 2205
December, 2009 2377
January, 2010 2398
February 2416
March 2435
April 2452
May 2472
June 2497
July 2511
August 2526
September 2541
October 2558
November 2579
December 2598

       a. General review data

       Totals: 221 books were reviewed in 2010, the highest yearly total since 2006, and up more than 28 per cent over 2009's all-time low.
       (Only 13 'review-overviews' -- all the links and review-quotes we usually provide, but without our own review -- were added in 2010, down from 26 in 2009. )

       Length: The 221 reviews totaled 179,843 words, an average of 813.77 words per review. The longest review was 2931 words, the shortest 211.

       Languages: Books originally written in 41 different languages were reviewed, the most represented languages being:        Country of origin: Books were written by authors from 51 different nations, the most represented being:        Among the interesting language/nation data:        Sex: Embarrassingly the trend of male-dominance continues:        Year of writing/publication: The overwhelming majority of books under reviewed were written/first published in the past five years. (Year of writing/first publication is not of the first English-language publication, which would make the list even more current-heavy.):        Year by year, for the six most recent years:        Genre: Fiction again completely dominated coverage, with almost 75 % of reviews being of novels or short stories, as reviews were of books in the following genres:        The number of novels written by authors from the following countries were:        The number of works of non-fiction written by authors from the following countries were:
       Grades: No book was graded 'A+' in 2010. (None got a 'D' or 'F' either .....) The number of reviews with the following grades were:        b. Most popular reviews

       The full list of the most popular reviews, for the year and month for month, can be found here.
       The 25 reviews receiving the most page-views in 2010 were:
  1. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
  2. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  4. Disgrace, J.M.Coetzee
  5. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  6. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
  7. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  8. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  9. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  10. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  11. The Children's Book, A.S.Byatt
  12. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  13. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
  14. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell
  15. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  16. Snow, Orhan Pamuk
  17. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami Haruki
  18. Q & A, Vikas Swarup
  19. Saturday, Ian McEwan
  20. Kafka on the Shore, Murakami Haruki
  21. Norwegian Wood, Murakami Haruki
  22. Solar, Ian McEwan
  23. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild
  24. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie
  25. Proof, David Auburn

       c. Review highlights

       As always, it's hard to come up with a list of review highlights (books we are especially pleased to have reviewed (especially those which were not widely reviewed elsewhere)), but among the titles worth singling out -- not necessarily the best or most important titles we covered, but the ones we're glad we were able to get to -- are:        A fair number of the year's most prominent and discussed books were also covered at the complete review, including:

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        ii. Traffic

       Traffic to the complete review increased slightly in 2010, but again hardly faster than the site itself.

       Among outside measures of total site-popularity:        Among outside measures of popularity for the Literary Saloon:
       According to Google Analytics, visitors from 224 countries and territories visited the site in 2010. An average of at least 10 visitors per day came from 51 different countries, and an average of at least one visitor per day came from 105 countries.
       Among the few countries and territories that could be identified as having sent no visitors were: Chad, the Central African Republic, Guinea, North Korea, Somalia, Turkmenistan, and Western Sahara.

       The twenty nations sending the most traffic to the complete review were:
  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. India
  6. Germany
  7. the Netherlands
  8. France
  9. Italy
  10. Ireland
  11. the Philippines
  12. Belgium
  13. Spain
  14. Sweden
  15. South Africa
  16. New Zealand
  17. Switzerland
  18. Poland
  19. Singapore
  20. Norway
       Predominantly English-speaking nations do provide the most traffic, but the site is surprisingly popular in many countries where English is not so widely spoken.

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        iii. How users find our material

       As always, the majority of visitors to the complete review -- 80.35 per cent, which is about the historical average -- reach it via search engines (i.e. specific queries).
       The top five search engines leading visitors to the site were:
  1. Google - accounting for 92.10 (!) per cent of all search-engine queries
  2. Yahoo - 3.12 %
  3. Bing - 2.63 %
  4. Search - 0.95 %
  5. AOL - 0.55 %
       (Clearly, Google is the only search engine that matters, at least in getting users to the complete review.)

       The fifteen most popular specific search query phrases in 2010 -- each asked at least several thousand times -- were:
  1. complete review
  2. literary saloon
  3. book review sites
  4. the elegance of the hedgehog
  5. haruki murakami
  6. the complete review
  7. the shadow of the wind
  8. the white tiger aravind adiga
  9. the literary saloon
  10. the white tiger
  11. elegance of the hedgehog
  12. porno
  13. disgrace coetzee
  14. james laine shivaji
  15. kafka on the shore
       The twenty-five most popular referring sites include a mix of those with static links to the site (or the Literary Saloon) in general (of the blogroll sort, for example), as well as those linking to specific reviews or blog-posts:
  11. (Three Percent weblog)
  12. (The Book Bench weblog)
       Since 15 May 2009 it has been possible to get the Literary Saloon on Kindle. A (small) number of readers do subscribe to it.

       M.A.Orthofer -- the complete review himself -- began posting on Twitter, too, and at the end of the year had 1,151 followers (compared to 504 at the end of 2009). Traffic to the site via Twitter (mentions of stories and reviews, with links) increased dramatically over the course of the year.

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        iv. Review Copies

       Significantly fewer review copies reached the complete review in 2010 than in 2009 (or 2008); it is unclear why this is.

       Submissions to the complete review in recent years break down as follows:

Review Copies
Year Total List value
2010 413 $ 6664.87
2009 483 $ 7092.94
2008 476 $ 7699.84
2007 387 $ 6133.38
2006 348 $ 5775.44
2005 299 $ 5321.78
2004 179 $ 3378.83
2003 131 $ 2673.16
2002 127 $ 2710.27
2001 134 $ 2559.14
2000 136 $ 3257.72

       (The actual 'List value' is probably considerably higher than recorded because titles are only counted once and a significant number now arrive first in proof form (entered at a zero value list price) and then in final print form (at which point we do not record them again).)

       With 113 of the 413 titles submitted in 2010 reviewed by the end of January 2011, a considerably more significant percentage were reviewed than of 2009 submissions (when 96 of 483 were reviewed by mid-January of 2010 -- though an additional twelve of these were reviewed by January, 2011).
       (Review copies are often not reviewed immediately, and in 2010 a record of sorts was set (topping the old one by several years), when the review of The Story of the Madman by Mongo Beti was posted 3607 days after the review copy was received.)

       A small number of review copies continue to come to us in electronic form in 2010, but I continue to find this a hard-to-deal with format; only a single e-book submission was reviewed in 2010.

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       As always, we greatly appreciate that many users follow our links to the pages for the books under review (and, where available, the British, Canadian, German, French, and the newly-added-in-2010 Italian pages), and often go on to make purchases (for which we do receive a commission, which does make up by far the greatest share of our operating budget). Both click-throughs and purchases were relatively flat for much of 2010.
       Purchases at were up a decent 10% over 2009, while they were below 2009 totals at through all of 2010 until the last two months, when sales shot up significantly. As always, performed most poorly: despite significantly more click-throughs than it had only half the turnover.

       Titles from the Stieg Larsson trilogy were popular across the board, though neither at the US nor UK Amazons did any of the titles break the top ten. The UK list, in particular, was idiosyncratic, with George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here the most purchased reviewed title. There was some Jonathan Franzen-fever in the US, but The Corrections out-sold his Freedom by a comfortable margin (though both were top-ten-selling titles).

       As always, many of our users head off to Amazon via one of the links on our page and then go on to buy completely unrelated products (which we appreciate, by the way -- the commissions are most helpful). Among the items purchased by visitors to the complete review in 2010 -- and note we mean no disrespect here whatsoever, and we appreciate being the indirect beneficiaries of your shopping-decisions -- are:        Interestingly, sales of Kindle e-books are still very small -- well under ten per cent of all book sales. The widely reported boom in e-book sales is so far not reflected in the buying habits of visitors to the complete review.

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III. Critical and Popular Response

       There was no significant critical or popular response, beyond what has become the fairly usual: a few blurbs on book covers, a few quotes in periodicals, a few interviews, on- and off-line.

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IV. General Observations

       The Literary Saloon once again offered 365 uninterrupted days of posts in 2010 (as it had in 2009).

       In the fall of 2010 M.A.Orthofer (self-)published a documentary history of the site, The Complete Review: Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews. It received a nice mention in the Times Literary Supplement, and by the end of the year had sold 23 copies (15 print, 8 e-book/Kindle).

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V. Outlook

       Yet again: more of the same, is what the outlook amounts to. Yet again, the (soft) target is once again for 200 reviews for the year, and the hope is to be able to present the usual mix, with the usual emphasis on fiction in translation.

       Plans/hopes for a facelift/redesign/overhaul (bringing the code slightly up-to-date, while keeping the site as ... sleek ? and fast as always) remain, though it'll probably still be a while. Otherwise, we just hope to continue doing what we always do.

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© 2011 the complete review Quarterly
© 2011 the complete review