Is all publicity good publicity? Are all reviews—even bad ones—good for books? The answer, according to a new study [pdf] by the journal Marketing Science, depends on whether the writer is well known or unknown. The study examined the impact of a New York Times review on the sales of more than 200 hardcover titles. For books by established writers, a negative review led to a 15% decrease in sales. For unknown authors, a negative review increased sales by a healthy 45%.
Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy that aren’t the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.” Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven’t even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
A new YA series spun off from The X-Files explores Fox Mulder’s teen years, and you can read the first chapter here. You may also be forgiven for feeling like the entire premise is a bit fraught. Not only is the mental image of Spooky Mulder with acne a tad jarring, but on a more existential level, as Zan Romanoff has written for our site, “there is no such thing as the young adult novel.”
“The idea was that whatever I felt or did resonated in life, caused people pain or happiness. This gave me a feeling of huge responsibility even as a child – to the extent that sometimes I had to block my own feelings or wishes. When I started writing fiction, suddenly I was allowed to do what I wanted.” Talking with Etgar Keret.
Max Linsky interviewed Riddle of the Labyrinth author Margalit Fox about the other career she’s had for eight years: obituary writing. Fox remarks on how obituaries have grown from being “the bastard stepchild of American journalism” into “the best gig” in the entire industry. Here’s one of my favorite Fox obituaries, by the way.
Mary Ruefle, author of the forthcoming Madness, Rack, and Honey, wrote a poetic essay on the subject of fear. It’s chock full of lines like this one about why she likes the word dread more than the word fear: “because fear, like the unconscious emotion which is one of its forms, has only the word ear inside of it, telling an animal to listen, while dread has the word read inside of it, telling us to read carefully and find the dead, who are also there.”