Do you REALLY want to be reviewed? REALLY?

The Knight News, the paper of Queens College, has a really good series of interviews with people at the New York Times Book Review. The Man Behind the Criticism: Sam Tanenhaus. An Interview with the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times Book Review. (sorry, you may have to register; it is free and doesn’t really hurt). It’s an opportunity to peak behind the curtain and see who is (are) pulling the levers.
One paragraph jumped out at me. Says Mr. Tanenhaus, “Novels and short stories are very hard to write about. There are few really strong fiction reviewers around and their standards are very high. Because what happens is, even though many of the reviews we run are mixed, and very few are raves, probably more pans than raves, almost every book we send out, we think is pretty good. We send a novel or a short story [collection] out to a critic because we think it’s good and yet the review will often be harsh.”
So, in a sense, you’re damned if you do, and your damned if you don’t. Get into the review, and you may be slammed in public. Don’t get in and show you didn’t even make the first cut, meaning you suck even more than the bad books which are reviewed. I never realized how much getting reviewed was like American Idol. What do you fear more: Acceptance (and an opportunity for Simon to poke you with his cattle-prod comments) or rejection (meaning you aren’t even worth the cattle prod)?

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