Emerging Writers Network has an interesting post on Review Dates vs. Publish Dates, discussing whether or not reviews should be published before the book is actually available.
One of the examples he offers is that:
The most recent issue of Bookforum has a fine review of Charles D'Ambrosio's short story collection, Dead Fish Museum, due out April 16th.
I picked this issue up on March 30th (though it is the April issue).
One of the publicist-comments is from Random House director of publicity Jynne Martin, who suggests:
Lastly BookForum is an unfair example because they are a monthly magazine -- of course any monthly magazine in their April issue wants to cover any and all books coming out in April, whether that is April 1 or 16, like with Charlie's new collection.
But of course the April issue of BookForum will be on stands for several weeks, including the time period when Charlie's book does come out, so, well, there it is.
It's unfortunate that EWN did not take the more obvious example from the same issue of BookForum, Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors (reviewed by Albert Mobilio) -- which Amazon.com lists as having a publication date of 23 May, while the Simon & Schuster publicity page puts it at June 2006 (!).
MacAdam/Cage's director of publicity Julie Burton takes a more expansive view -- but still has some reservations:
For us, it doesn't matter when a review runs.
If we have it early we can use it as leverage to intrigue and entice other potential reviewers/writers.
If we have it after/around the pub date it only helps get us more attention.
Just as long as it's not several months ahead of the pub date (and therefore forgettable, having fallen off the radar) we're happy to have a review anytime.
Ah, yes -- forgettable and fallen off the radar !
But do the rules apply to Internet reviews -- or should they ?
We can't help but giggle at the concept of holding off on reviews.
Admittedly our situation is a different one than your daily newspaper's, but still .....
EWN mentions that:
I have had three different publicists recently all but make me promise I would not review the book I was requesting before the publication date, before they would agree to send a copy to me.
We're quite surprised by that; for all the books we've requested (and received) and reviews we've run, we've actually just been asked to hold a review once (and that only after specifically telling the publisher after we received the galley that we were prepared to run with it immediately).
On that occasion we thought the publishers were wrong -- the book was available in the UK already, its US publication only scheduled some six months after it received widespread (and Internet-accessible) review coverage in the British press -- though as it turned out the American edition was updated between the galley and published-book stage (with some 'newsworthy' material), so we would, at the very least, have had to update our review had we not waited.
(We have just now encountered the situation for a second time: we'd be ready to go in a week or two with a review of a title that's coming out at the end of August, and the publicist doesn't sound thrilled about the idea; again, however, it was us that brought up the issue, the galley not coming with any instructions (though perhaps these are assumed ...).)
We publish quite a few reviews of titles that are not yet available in the US when our reviews appear.
They fall into two main categories:
Reviews of titles published outside the US (mainly the UK, but also some Canadian, Indian, and Australian titles, which show up months or, sometimes, years later in the US -- if at all)
In the case of foreign language titles, we really can't be bothered worrying about when they will be available in English.
(In the case of Peter Weiss' The Aesthetics of Resistance our review was available six years before the English translation (of part of it) was published.)
Similarly, in this Internet age, it serves little purpose holding back information about a title available in the UK (and widely discussed in the UK media), just to wait for US publication (or vice versa).
And what of titles set to be published in the US, where we make our review available a few months before you can get it at your local bookshop ?
Will they fall off the radar ?
Surely not: our reviews always remain equally accessible (as do those at many other website archives).
Almost all the titles we publish far in advance can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com and the like (links conveniently provided) -- and readers do take advantage of that.
Most importantly, it seems to us that having as much information available, as soon as possible, is the most desirable state of affairs.
The title we currently have under review the most in advance is Yasmina Khadra's The Attack; due out in May, our review went up in early February.
(Our review was also not based on any material received from the American publisher of the book.)
The book has received considerable attention over the past few months because of media-mentions of a movie deal surrounding it; without our coverage readers would have had to rely on the pathetic summary media descriptions of the title (unless they searched out the French press coverage of the book, of course ...).
Since our review has been available, readers were able to find considerable additional information about the title.
Is that beneficial for the publisher ?
Maybe not -- it's not a great book, and we say so -- but we know we're always pleased to find information about titles that will only eventually become available.
The Internet works differently than the daily newspaper you throw away each evening.
Old reviews, new reviews: page-view totals at the complete review are all over the place, and definitely not correlated to whether or not a book is available.
Indeed, many of our much-accessed reviews are of titles that are out of print (but generally still available, second-hand).
Obviously most publishers are interested in pushing the big print-run of their latest offering -- but we don't see why reviewers should be aiming to please publishers (it's the readers that count !).
And even publishers surely would agree that 'premature' coverage is better than late coverage (or none at all ...).
(We are actually pretty shocked by EWN's embargo-experiences -- and a bit surprised that we've never really faced that situation.
But we'd like to think that any book that arrived with a demand to hold the review until a specific date would elicit a big laugh here and then be shoved far, far down on one of our piles of books-to-be-covered.
(And we note with some amusement that we have 'broken' at least one very notorious embargo, and were the first on any block with the review of a very prominent title -- though in that case nobody bothered to tell or ask us to hold the review when they sent the galley.
And the world did not collapse (and the book did very well).))
In The Age Jane Sullivan offers a Tim Krabbé-profile -- which reminds us that his Delay (prematurely reviewed by us last year ...) really made only the tiniest of splashes when it came out in the UK.
What happened ?
It's all the more surprising because Sullivan seems to consider him some sort of Dutch literary trailblazer:
Before Krabbe's breakthrough, virtually no Dutch writers had their work translated.
Now more and more works are becoming available through a foundation, The Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, which brought Krabbe and fellow Dutch writer Tessa de Loo to Australia for Adelaide Writers' Week.
Come on -- there were a few Dutch writers .....
Still: the NLPVF does a really good job, and deserves a lot of credit.
Not that it helped Delay much .....
Jahangir Hedayat, nephew of renowned Iranian writer, Sadeq Hedayat, expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that his uncle's books should undergo full content evaluation for republication.
He told that three books titled Three Drops of Blood, Man and Animal and The Honest Khayyam are awaiting republication permits despite the fact that their third and fourth editions were recently printed by the Nashr'e Cheshmeh Publishing House.
(Hedayat, for those of you that have forgotten, is probably the leading 20th century Iranian author, and it's ridiculous that his work not be readily accessible there (or, come to think of it, in the US in English translation ...).)
We've long been fans of Upamanyu Chatterjee's work, and were pleased to hear that NYRB is bringing out his English, August (yet another book we 'prematurely' reviewed (in 2001)); see also their publicity page.
It's nice to see some early (oh dear, also premature ?) review coverage -- Katherine A. Powers reviews it in the Boston Globe -- and Chatterjee will also be appearing at the PEN World Voices Festival.
His American tour has attracted some attention -- in India: Outlook India's Bibliofile notes (second story) that:
Upamanyu Chatterjee dug his heels in refusing all invites to read in bookstores here (.....)
But the rule, it seems, does not apply for the West: his US publisher, the New York Review of Books, has planned a punishing schedule for him when he goes there to launch the American edition of English, August on April 26.
(We'd love to ... prematurely review his new Weight Loss, but haven't been able to obtain a copy from Penguin (India) yet.)
There's Random House US and RH Deutschland (Germany) (and RH UK), and much as American and British imprints with the same name often are very different in character (and what they publish), Random House now adds to the confusion by launching a German Pantheon imprint -- "ein moderner Paperback Verlag" ('a modern paperback publisher').
In the NZZ Michael Schmitt laments (link only short-lived) that it bears little resemblance to the original (and, for that matter, current) American Pantheon.
(See also André Schiffrin's discussion of what was so great about the imprint way back when in his The Business of Books.)
We really don't get what purpose it serves to (ab)use a venerable imprint name in this way.
But then we rarely understand publishers' thinking (or whatever it is they do).
The much-discussed, no agent, no advance Macmillan New Writing undertaking -- "The best of first fiction" -- has managed, if nothing else, to garner lots of press attention.
So again now, as the first six books from the imprint are ready to hit the bookstores.
In The Times Tim Teeman considers the Shockers of the new -- and finds:
Brickbats notwithstanding, the first six novels are about to be published.
The truth ?
They ainít great.
But the truth is they are dull, riddled with cliché and clunky plotting.
All are perfectly competent and neatly written while running at a speed several yards off the current commercial pace, and lacking the particular dynamism that encourages publishers to start throwing money about.
Meanwhile, in Publish and be damned in the New Statesman Simon Baker is still unimpressed by the whole approach:
But if these novels were worth publishing at all (and I'm not convinced that they were), they needed better support at the final draft stage.
More seriously, by making publication in effect non-paying,
MNW demotes fiction-writing to the status of a hobby.
Talent needs to be nurtured; those who possess it require remuneration.
MNW offers neither satisfactorily, and a lower standard of novel seems a likely outcome.
Ultimately, the biggest loss is to the reader.
The six titles are also discussed by Nicholas Clee in the 31 March TLS.
Macmillan will need some extraordinary luck for this list to become profitable, and for that reason New Writing is not a model other publishers will want to copy.
It is, however, an interesting symptom of the growing divide between the winners and the also-rans in fiction publishing.
Far and away the most intriguing title associated with the list is, in fact, not one of the novels but publisher Michael Barnard's defense of the undertaking, Transparent Imprint (see their publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
Cleverly (and appropriately) enough:
Transparent Imprint is published under the same terms and conditions as Macmillan New Writing titles and all royalties will be paid to BTBS, the book trade charity
The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist has been announced, cutting back the number of contenders from 132 to ten.
The winner of the 100,000 prize will be announced 14 June.
We have only two of the shortlisted titles under review, Havoc in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett and The Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe.
The Center for Book Culture announces the very appealing-sounding Reading the World Festival, to be held 18 through 20 April at the Illini Union Bookstore at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
Among the highpoints: William H. Gass, Philip Graham, Chad Post, and Anne-Sophie Simenel discuss: "International Literature in the 21st Century" (18 April, 18:30-20:00), and: "Translating from the French: Why Translators and Publishers Donít Agree" (19 April, 16:00-17:30).
Most admirably, the Financial Times appears to have freed up its book coverage, old and new, making it permanently freely accessible (though it's not exactly the easiest archive in the world to work one's way through).
Previously, book content there has generally just been freely accessible for a week.
We'd love to see this become a trend .....
Every spring the Czech Franz Kafka Society announces the winner of their Cena Franze Kafky -- the Franz Kafka Prize --, though they only hand it out on 28 October.
As we've mentioned, they have an uncanny record of predicting the Nobel laureate (well, they managed the trick the past two years, getting Jelinek and Pinter) -- so we figure it's worth paying attention when they announce who gets this year's prize ... and it's Murakami Haruki.
(See also Haruki Murakami to receive Franz Kafka award in the Prague Daily Monitor.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green.
It's sure to be a much-reviewed and discussed title; Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant will apparently be keeping track of the goings-on -- see already All Mitchell, All the Time.
The Public Theater production of David Hare's Stuff Happens is now in previews -- and The New York Timesreports (scroll down to bottom) that it: "sold out its run last week while in previews and has extended by four weeks"; it will now close on 28 May.
What's with all the literary exhibits in the German-speaking countries ?
At the Schiller-Nationalmuseum they're offering the impressive-looking Arno Schmidt ? -- Allerdings !-exhibit through 27 August (devoted, obviously, to the great Arno Schmidt).
Books are so popular in home decor that even people who don't read acquire them.
They buy volumes by the yard at Half Price Books.
They send orders to a California book-decor specialist, who ships Danish books by the foot.
I reached the end of Midnightís Children in mid-1979 and sent it to my friend and editor Liz Calder at Jonathan Cape.
I afterwards learned that the first readerís report had been brief and forbiddingly negative.
"The author should concentrate on short stories until he has mastered the novel form."
Peter Carey's Theft is due out in Australia on Monday, and so the newspapers are filled with profiles and coverage.
(See also the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Susan Wyndham writes about A love-hate story in the Sydney Morning Herald -- noting that he got an obscene $350,000 advance in the US for My Life as a Fake -- but:
After September 11, he says, "People weirdly stopped reading fiction.
There was a lot of terrific non-fiction written and then there's this huge, naive appetite for crudely written memoirs."
He blames that effect for the expensive US flop of My Life as a Fake, which sold no more than 7500 hardcovers in its first year.