Behind every book review there are two key figures: a book review editor and a reviewer. Editors decide whether a book is reviewed in their publication, when the review appears, how long it is, and who writes the review.
When many periodicals feature the same books, this does not prove that the editors of different periodicals have not made individual decisions. Before publication, editors receive news releases and printer’s proofs of certain books, signifying that the publishers will make special efforts to promote these books. They will be heavily advertised and probably be among the books that most bookstores order in quantity. Not having such books reviewed might give the impression that the editor was caught napping, whereas too many reviews of books that readers will have trouble finding in stores would be inappropriate. Editors can risk having a few of the less popular titles reviewed, but they must consider what will be newsworthy, advertised, and written about elsewhere.
If these were the only factors influencing editors, few books that stand little chance of selling well would ever be reviewed. But editors feel some concern about what might endure, and therefore listen to literary experts. A generation ago, a newspaper used a brilliant system of choosing which books to feature. The book review editor sent out a greater number of books than reviews he actually intended to publish. If a review was unenthusiastic, he reasoned that the book was not important enough to be discussed immediately, and if good reviews of enough other books came in, the unenthusiastic review might never be printed. The unenthusiastic reviewers were paid promptly anyway, but they learned that if they wanted their material to be printed, it was advisable to be kind.
Most editors print favorable and unfavorable reviews; however, the content of the review may be influenced by the editor. Some editors would actually feel that they had failed in their responsibility if they gave books by authors they admired to hostile critics or books by authors they disapproved of to critics who might favor them. Editors usually can predict who would review a book enthusiastically and who would tear it to shreds.
The passage provides information to answer which of the following questions?
Would most book review editors prefer to have books reviewed without regard to the probable commercial success of the books?
Are publishers’ efforts to persuade bookstores to order certain books generally effective?
On what basis do literary experts decide that a book is or is not important?
What criteria are used to determine the length of a particular book review?
Have book review practices in general changed significantly since a generation ago?