the complete review Quarterly
Volume XIV, Issue 1   --   February, 2013

State of the Site

Annual Report for
complete review - 2012

  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
December, 2010 2598
December, 2011 2810
January, 2012 2825
February 2843
March 2865
April 2887
May 2909
June 2927
July 2944
August 2966
September 2984
October 3004
November 3026
December 3046

       a. General review data

       Totals: 236 books were reviewed in 2012, the most since 2000 and considerably above both last year's 212 books reviewed and the soft target of 200.

       Length: The 236 reviews totaled 197,916 words (2011: 163,841), an average of 839 words per review (up from an average of 772.83 in 2011).

       Languages: Books originally written in 33 different languages were reviewed, the most represented languages being:        Country of origin: Books were written by authors from 64 different nations, the most represented being:        Gender: Embarrassingly the trend of male-dominance continues:        Year of writing/publication: The overwhelming majority of books under review 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 seven most recent years:        Genre: Fiction dominated coverage even more than usual, with novels alone accounting for more than three-quarters of all titles reviewed.
       Reviews were of books in the following genres:        In no other category were more than four titles read.

       Grades: Again, only one book was graded 'A+' in 2012, but overall grades skewed slightly higher than in 2011 -- though it's unclear whether this was because of more generous grading, or a better selection of books. The number of reviews with the following grades were (2011 totals in parentheses):        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 2012 were:
  1. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
  2. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
  3. The Three Mistakes of my Life, Chetan Bhagat
  4. Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  5. Five Point Someone, Chetan Bhagat
  6. Q & A, Vikas Swarup
  7. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  8. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
  9. Disgrace, J.M.Coetzee
  10. 1Q84, Murakami Haruki
  11. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  12. One night @ the call center, Chetan Bhagat
  13. Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection, Kalidasa
  14. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  15. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami Haruki
  16. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  17. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
  18. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
  19. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  20. The Gift of a Cow, Premchand
  21. The Dilemma of a Ghost, Ama Ata Aidoo
  22. Proof, David Auburn
  23. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  24. Spies, Michael Frayn
  25. 'Art', Yasmina Reza

       c. Other pages - most popular

       The 10 most popular author pages in 2012 were:
  1. Murakami Haruki
  2. Amélie Nothomb
  3. Patrick White
  4. Antonio Tabucchi
  5. Amos Oz
  6. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  7. Hilary Mantel
  8. Herta Müller
  9. Juan Goytisolo
  10. Tom Stoppard
       The index pages receiving the most page-views in 2012 were:
  1. Books Written Before 1900
  2. French literature
  3. Books Written Between 1900 and 1945
  4. Eastern European literature
  5. Mysteries and Thrillers
  6. Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
  7. Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related books
  8. Contemporary British fiction
  9. Latin and South American literature
  10. Selected Imprints and Publishers
       The top four were, in a different order, also the top four last year, and nine of the top ten (the top nine, in fact) all made the list again; I'm most surprised that the Erotic literature index didn't maintain it's top-five position.

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        ii. Traffic

       Traffic to the complete review was again down from the previous year: the number of unique visitors was lower by -23.96% than in 2011, while page-views were down -23.5%; from 2011 (and a whopping -39.78% from 2010).

       Among outside measures of total site-popularity:        Among outside measures of popularity for the Literary Saloon:
       On 1 April 2011 a Facebook 'like-button' was placed on several main pages, and on all new reviews. As someone who doesn't use Facebook, I still don't really know what this means, but:        On 8 June 2011 'Google +1' buttons were added on several main pages, and on all new reviews. 'Google +1' has clearly not caught on quite as well as Facebook 'likes':

       According to Google Analytics, visitors from 215 countries and territories visited the site in 2012 (2011: 220). An average of at least 10 visitors per day came from 46 different countries (48 in 2011), and an average of at least one visitor per day came from 102 countries (106 in 2011).
       Among the countries and territories that could be identified as having sent no visitors in either 2011 or 2012 were: Chad, American Samoa, Christmas Island, Falkland Islands, North Korea, Norfolk Island, San Marino, and Tuvalu. (Montserrat -- a no-show in 2011 -- did send a visitor in 2012.)

       The twenty nations sending the most traffic to the complete review were:
  1. United States - 38.91% of all visits
  2. United Kingdom - 10.91%
  3. India - 5.71%
  4. Canada - 5.11%
  5. Australia - 3.48%
  6. Germany - 3.23%
  7. the Netherlands - 1.82%
  8. France - 1.78%
  9. the Philippines - 1.60%
  10. Italy - 1.39%
  11. Spain
  12. Belgium
  13. Sweden
  14. Ireland
  15. Russia
  16. Switzerland
  17. South Africa
  18. Turkey
  19. Japan
  20. Norway
       India continues to move up the table, now overtaking Canada for the third overall spot; otherwise the top ten remained unchanged, while Russia moved up from 20th overall.

       The ten cities sending the most traffic to the complete review were:
  1. London - 3.53% of all visits
  2. New York - 3.20%
  3. New Delhi - 1.21%
  4. Melbourne
  5. Toronto
  6. Sydney
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Chicago
  9. Paris
  10. Bethesda
       London surprisingly overtook New York as the top city, while New Delhi -- part of the Indian surge -- leapt from eighth to third. Dublin dropped from tenth to fifteenth.

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        iii. How users find our material

       While the majority of visitors to the complete review reached it via search engines (i.e. specific queries) in 2012, poor Google-showings for search results continue to have an effect, and only 72.98% of users now reach the site via searches (down from 75.84% in 2011 and 80.35% in 2010).
       And, despite it being much worse at pointing visitors to the complete review, Google continues to be by far the most popular one leading visitors to the site:
  1. Google - accounting for 90.08% of all searches (up from 89.38% in 2011) of all search-engine queries leading visitors to the site
  2. Bing - 3.98%% (a decline from 4.32% in 2011)
  3. Yahoo - 3.30%
  4. Search - 1.79%
  5. Ask - 0.35%
       (Clearly, Google remains the only search engine that matters, at least in getting users to the complete review.)

       The twenty most popular specific search query phrases in 2012 were:
  1. literary saloon
  2. complete review
  3. book review sites
  4. the complete review
  5. porno
  6. ny times steven heighton
  7. complete review literary saloon
  8. haruki murakami
  9. the literary saloon
  10. cloud atlas review
  11. the white tiger review
  12. the white tiger
  13. amelie nothomb
  14. the talking cure
  15. decolonising the mind
  16. book review of five point someone
  17. our sister killjoy
  18. decolonizing the mind
  19. literary saloon blog
  20. kafka on the shore
       The twenty-five sites referring the most traffic to the complete review via static links to the site (or the Literary Saloon) in general (of the blogroll sort, for example) or linking to specific reviews or blog-posts were:
  15. (Three Percent 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 2,915 followers (2011: 2,089).

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        iv. Review Copies

       In 2012 the complete review received significantly more review copies than ever before.

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

Review Copies
Year Total List value # under review
by 1/2013
2012 579 $ 9136.21 157
2011 484 $ 7653.52 139
2010 413 $ 6664.87 123
2009 483 $ 7092.94 109
2008 476 $ 7699.84 121
2007 387 $ 6133.38 110
2006 348 $ 5775.44 124
2005 299 $ 5321.78 106
2004 179 $ 3378.83 98
2003 131 $ 2673.16 74
2002 127 $ 2710.27 80
2001 134 $ 2559.14 78
2000 136 $ 3257.72 78
1999 53 $ 1131.68 49

       (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).)

       After several years in which the number of review-copies received held relatively steady (with a dip in 2010) there was a significant surge in 2012. In part this is attributable to the books I receive for the Best Translated Book Award, for which I again served as a judge.
       In 2011, 127 of the 484 titles submitted were reviewed by the end of January 2012 (and an additional twelve by the end of January 2013); 157 of the 579 titles submitted in 2012 had been reviewed by the end of January 2013 -- a significant jump.

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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-2011 Spanish 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).
       Unfortunately, the decline in overall traffic at the site also impacted Amazon click-throughs and sales, leading to dramatic across-the-board declines.

Amazon click-throughs and sales, 2012
Amazon Click-throughs
change 2012/2011
(change 2011/2010)
change 2012/2011
(change 2011/2010)
US -25.45% (-31.03%) -22.62% (-30.91%)
UK -40.01% (-36.38%) -41.26% (-23.86%)
Canada +46.21% (-53.64%) -25.32% (-57.08%)
France -35.84% (-53.44%) -9.46% (-38.07%)
Germany -53.34% (-40.69%) -54.37% (-17.79%)
Italy -49.76% (n.a.) -29.85 (n.a.)

       These steep (and apparently continuing) declines (except for the anomaly of a vast increase in Canadian click-throughs) are pretty devastating, and while the US-decline is about in line with the site-wide decline in visitors and page-views, most of the others (and especially the sizeable UK market) exceed it by a good margin. While the site can, of course, survive even on a shoestring, the fall in revenue is both troubling and unpleasant. Revenue is small as is, and these steep declines do hurt. (That said, I can't really encourage readers to buy from Amazon (I don't) -- though of course those that do are encouraged to do so via links from the site -- and remember you can always donate to the site.)

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III. Critical and Popular Response

       The site gets the odd mention fairly regularly, and especially around Nobel time in October, but there was no significant coverage in 2012.

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IV. General Observations

       The Literary Saloon yet again offered 365 days of posts in 2012.

       Despite a very active year -- the most reviews added in over a decade, a constant flow of posts at the Literary Saloon -- traffic declined significantly in 2012. The vast bulk of all traffic is generated by the reviews -- especially the 'backlist' -- and a vast increase in available online reviews (many more reviews posted for most titles, especially at personal weblogs) as well as poorer placement of results at Google has clearly cut into the number of visitors finding the site.

       Link-maintenance has continued to prove an annoying and time-consuming process, as many sites update their sites (including changing URLs to their pages), but fail to provide redirects for the 'old' links.

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V. Outlook

       As pretty much always: 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.

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© 2013 the complete review Quarterly
© 2013 the complete review