Oh, how we love to gloat over the good ones, and fume over the imbeciles who misunderestimated our work in the bad ones. And oh, how those days are disappearing fast. All over the country, newspapers are closing their book review, shortening the sections, folding the reviews into a few short lines on entertainment pages, or using canned reviews of 100 words or so from a barrel of syndicated words.
The Chicago Tribune is talking about moving its book reviews from Sunday to Saturday--they'd print 400,000 fewer copies because the Saturday paper has their smallest distribution. This is the most important newspaper in the upper Midwest in terms of its circulation reach. When I was trying to sell my first novel, New York publishers didn't want to buy it because, they said, a book set in Chicago had regional interest only and not enough people read in the Midwest to merit publishing a book set here. Perhaps the Tribune agrees that there aren't enough Midwest readers these days, so why tell us about books? Let's hope not; you can always let them know before the old review section is put in cement booties.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just folded its book review section completely, claiming it was unnecessary. You can read about books in the blogosphere, they say, which is true, if you have the time and the savvy to thread your way through that needle and get to informed reviews from sites that have access to enough new titles to let us readers know what's out there. Newspapers get review copies of books. Bloggers don't. And we don't have the paid staff to winnow through them and make sure the interesting voices in the crowd get heard.
Readers and writers are signing a petition beseeching the Journal-Constitution to rethink this policy. If you want to join Mike Connolly, me and others on that, it would be a mitzvah.