the complete review Quarterly
Volume VII, Issue 1   --   February, 2006

State of the Site

Annual Report for
complete review - 2005

  1. Overview:
    1. The Site
    2. Traffic
    3. Search Engines
    4. Review Copies
  2. Popularity and Interest:
    1. Links to Amazon
      1. - US
      2. - UK
      3. - Canada
      4. - France
      5. - Germany
    2. Other pages at the Complete Review
  3. Critical and Popular Response
  4. Influence
  5. Other
  6. Outlook

I. Overview

       i. The site

       The complete review went online, at, on 31 March 1999. Growth of the site has increased fairly steadily over the course of the past years, and in 2005:

Books under Review
Month Total
December, 2000 529
December, 2001 750
December, 2002 934
December, 2003 1128
December, 2004 1331
January, 2005 1348
February 1362
March 1379
April 1396
May 1418
June 1438
July 1456
August 1476
September 1495
October 1512
November 1532
December 1548

       The target of adding 180 reviews (to make a total of 1511 reviews available by the end of 2005) was exceeded by over 20 percent (217 reviews were added, the most since 2001).

       Only one author page was added over the course of the year -- three short of the target we set ourselves --, bringing the total to 47 at the end of 2005.

       The overall development of the site continued much as previously, and while there are always many regrets about books missed and areas we should have done more in, we can't really complain too much (though occasionally visitors do).

       Review highlights (books we are especially pleased to have reviewed (especially those which were not widely reviewed elsewhere) -- though these were not necessarily our most useful reviews) include:        A fair number -- more than usual -- of the year's most discussed (and even best-selling) books were also covered at the complete review (and these certainly were among our most useful reviews), including:        The Literary Saloon continued to enjoy decent growth. It remains a popular literary weblog, though traffic to the Literary Saloon continues to account for only a small part of total traffic to the site.

- Return to index -

        ii. Traffic

       Traffic to the complete review continued to increase steadily in 2005. The increase in unique daily visitors was again roughly 50 per cent.        Among outside measures of total site-popularity:        Among outside measures of popularity for the Literary Saloon:

- Return to index -

        iii. Search Engines

       Once again -- or even more than ever -- Google was the most common means by which users found their way to the site. While a few of our review-pages are occasionally (and in some case bizarrely) buried in the search results, for the most part they enjoy prominent placement and bring an enormous amount of traffic.

       Search-engine coverage of what was available at the site at other search engines continues to be very good, too, but is, as far as driving traffic to the site goes, negligible in comparison to Google.

- Return to index -

        iv. Review Copies

       The flood of review copies continues, and in 2005 the number of review copies received for the first time exceeded the number of titles actually reviewed.
       A major problem remains the submission of entirely unsolicited review copies, which is threatening to get out of hand and which, short of changing our mailing address, we don't know what to do about.
       Submissions in recent years break down as follows:

Review Copies
Year Total Unsolicited List value
2005 299 107 $ 5321.78
2004 179 60 $ 3378.83
2003 131 28 $ 2673.16
2002 127 15 $ 2710.27
2001 134 34 $ 2559.14
2000 136 29 $ 3257.72

       Note that the 'List value' is probably considerably higher (probably by around $ 1000.00 in 2005) 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).

       The percentage of submitted titles reviewed was unimpressive in 2005: out of 299 titles we had reviewed only 95 by mid-January 2006 (books received 2004: 84 out of 179 reviewed by January 2005). Surprisingly, this means that close to half the 217 titles reviewed in 2005 were again not of titles submitted to us by publishers. (A handful of reviews -- probably around 20 -- were of titles submitted prior to 2005, i.e. which took us a while to get to.)

       Publishers have generally been forthcoming in meeting our requests, with a few significant exceptions. We have been unable to review a few titles that we are eager to cover because of our inability to obtain review copies, but for the most part we have been well-covered.

- Return to index -

II. Popularity and Interest

        i. Links to Amazon

       Our links to the pages for the books under review (and, where available, the British, Canadian, German, and French pages) continue to be popular, and sales via these were solid for 2005.
       Particularly impressive: combined sales of the five volumes of Cao Xueqin's The Story of the Stone totaled almost 100 at and !

- Return to index -

               1. - US

       Sales at were solid in 2005, with over 100 reviewed titles selling more than 4 copies each, and six titles selling at least 25 copies each.
       Among the surprises: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of my Melancholy Whores managed double-digit sales -- the surprise being that half of those were for the Spanish edition.
       And, like every year, some titles we gave very bad reviews to sold in decent numbers -- most notably George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, which also managed double-digit sales.

       The most purchased titles among reviewed books were (2004 rank in brackets):
  1. Kafka on the Shore, Murakami Haruki (-)
  2. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton (1)
  3. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (4)
  4. Proof, David Auburn (3)
  5. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (10)
  6. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (5)
  7. Snow, Orhan Pamuk (15)
  8. "A Problem from Hell", Samantha Power (2)
  9. 'Art', Yasmina Reza (9)
  10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami Haruki (-)
  11. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (11)
  12. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild (-)
  13. Saturday, Ian McEwan (new)
  14. Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi (8)
  15. How Democratic Is the American Constitution ? Robert A. Dahl (-)
       Only a single title first reviewed in 2005 -- Ian McEwan's Saturday -- made the top 15 (though the top-selling Murakami was added only in late-December 2004). Indeed, the staying-power of popular titles is impressive, with 8 of the top 9 (and 10 of the top 15) having figured among last year's fifteen bestselling titles. Past performance does, indeed, appear to be a strong indicator of future success.

       There were also seventeen titles which received mention only at the Literary Saloon (i.e. have not been separately reviewed) that sold four or more copies, suggesting ... well, that we're pointing readers to some books of interest to them.

- Return to index -

               2. - UK sales were up considerably over 2004.
       The Shadow of the Wind was -- presumably because of its Richard and Judy-choice-status --- , by far, the most-purchased title via, though the always-popular Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter and The Anatomy of Melancholy also managed impressive sales.
       In all, there were 54 titles which sold three or more copies. Among the surprises: more copies of Stephen King's The Colorado Kid (8) sold via than

- Return to index -

               3. - Canada (Canada) continues not to impress: users who clicked-through to pages wound up purchasing items at a rate of less than a quarter that of
       There were only nine titles of which more than a single copy was purchased -- though impressively the top seller was Peter Weiss' The Aesthetics of Resistance.

- Return to index -

               4. - France continued to be the dud of all the Amazons, the reluctance to purchase near the pathetic rate, but with even fewer people clicking through. averaged a mere two sales per week, with no title being bought more than once.

- Return to index -

               5. - Germany results were decent, with sales of more than one copy of five different titles.

- Return to index -

        ii. Other pages at the Complete Review

       The most popular reviews remain much the same. Yet again, the most popular review was Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, with Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita a strong second.

       Among the complete review's Author Pages the one for Murakami Haruki continued to be the runaway most popular one, with Amélie Nothomb remaining a solid and consistent runner-up.

       The most popular article at the cr Quarterly in 2005 was, once again, our Literary Weblogs - An Overview .

- Return to top of the page -

III. Critical and Popular Response

       Continuing print media interest in literary weblogging lead to numerous mentions of the complete review and/or our Literary Saloon weblog. The most high-profile mentions included:

       - Time named the complete review one of the 50 Coolest Websites 2005, which was, of course, a great honour -- and led to a decent surge of traffic. (Even by the end of the year, six months after the announcement, the piece was driving about 100 users a day to the site.)

       - Forbes included the Literary Saloon among their Best of the Web - literary weblogs

       - Edward Nawotka mentioned the Literary Saloon in Literary blogs fill a niche in USA Today

       - The complete review was the Kim Komando Cool Site of the day in October, which (briefly) led to a great deal of traffic

       In addition, there were numerous newspaper mentions of specific stories, particularly from the Literary Saloon. However, the most widely cited piece was the crQ-article, The Englishing of Ismail Kadare: Notes of a retranslator by David Bellos.

- Return to top of the page -

IV. Influence

       It's unclear what, if any, influence we have on our readers and their reading and book-buying decisions. Reviews are often popular (i.e. much accessed) because they happen to turn up near the top of a Google-search (or its the only information available), while sales via our links to are surely often merely an indicator of convenience rather than influence: we don't delude ourselves thinking that we played a major role in the success of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, for example.
       Nevertheless, occasionally our coverage, prodding, and/or enthusiasm does appear to have an effect. Putting a title on our Editors' Choice list, for example, does appear to spur some interest (and purchases).
       Among the books where our coverage appears to have had some influence on their (limited) success in 2005 were:        A book that we apparently couldn't help out, despite our best efforts, was Harry Mulisch's Criminal Case 40/61, which seems to have been almost universally ignored.
       And, of course, we also wonder whether we help keep readers from bad books. Apparently not in the case of George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, where all our warnings don't seem to have been enough. But we wonder whether our extensive coverage of Chris Cleave's Incendiary helped keep that terrible book down.
       (Presumably, our review-links and quotes from other reviews do help influence readers with their decisions, but beyond anecdotal evidence we don't have any proof one way or another.)

- Return to top of the page -

V. Other

       i. 'Blurbs'

       Once again, to our knowledge there were no titles published in 2005 that used a quote from the complete review as a blurb. We have been noticing a trend of university publishers using quotes from our reviews on their website publicity pages, however.

       ii. Links

       We try to keep our links up-to-date, but wholesale-URL changes at some sites make the task an arduous one. Among the great disappointments of 2005 were the changes instituted at The Independent, which rendered a huge archive of good review coverage inaccessible.

       A more pleasing continuing trend has been the continued proliferation of literary weblogs, which just keep sprouting up.

       iii. User Inquiries

       User-inquiries to the complete review in 2005 included the usual author-requests for reviews, as well as some reactions to review or weblog-commentary.

       iv. Finances

       As previously, the financial situation at the complete review remains precarious, but revenues continue to outpace expenditures (in large part due to the fact that we refuse to spend money on almost anything).
       Our primary source of revenue remained our links and the commissions we receive for purchases made by users there. Commissions were higher than ever before.
       Advertising, as part of the Google AdSense programme, also provided a limited amount of income. While there has been growth in this area, it is still relatively insignificant.
       In 2005 we received no cash contributions in response to our appeal for support for the site -- the first time in a while we've come up completely empty. We did, however, receive some titles from our Amazon wishlist -- much appreciated !

- Return to top of the page -

VI. Outlook

       There are no major changes planned at the site in 2006.

       The targets for 2005 are to add 200 reviews (to reach the total of 1748) and six author pages (for a total of 53) to the complete review.

- Return to index -

Current Issue | Archive | about the crQuarterly | the Literary Saloon | the complete review

to e-mail us:

© 2005 the complete review Quarterly
© 2005 the complete review