This article is part of our series on how book reviews are changing. Introduction | The New Review | $$$ | Credibility and the Blog Blurb Question | Bloggers’ Frustrations | Meanwhile, in Consumer Book Reviews
Book reviews have never made much money. In his 2007 article “Goodbye to All That,” Steve Wasserman, Managing Director of the Kneerim & Williams New York office and a former editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, recalls asking Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. whether the NYTBR had ever made any money: “He looked at me evenly and said, ‘I think, Steve, someone in the family would have told me if it had.’” In her book Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, Gail Pool blames the publishers: “[I]n failing to support reviews with even a minimum of advertising, publishers sent an implicit message: book reviews are expendable.” In his article, however, Wasserman said such arguments were “bogus. Such coverage has rarely made a dime for newspapers.” In an interview, he told PT that “publishers care less and less about reviews. There’s no real evidence that advertising for a book alone helps create additional sales,” and he envisions nonprofit models “closer to NPR” for book review sites; he does not know how online critics will be able to make a living.
But online book ads may be more effective than print ads were. And through online advertising, publishers can simultaneously reach targeted audiences and support online critics. Liz Perl, SVP Marketing at Simon & Schuster, says bloggers in the romance and mystery communities are “really strong opinion-makers.” James Mustich, editor of the Barnes & Noble Book Review and former editor of A Common Reader, thinks publishers and booksellers need to “rethink what an effective book ad might be, and be unconventional about when, where, and how they bring books to people’s attention. They need to find ways to alert targeted types of readers to the fact of their books.”