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%.
If the description “a comic thriller about mermaids, the natural world and ruthless capitalism” isn’t enough to pique your interest, you might be inspired to pick up Lydia Millet’s latest by the title of Laura Miller’s review, which describes Millet as “the P.G. Wodehouse of environmental writing.” At Salon, the book critic goes into the many reasons she enjoys Millet’s work, among them the author’s knack for deploying humor at appropriate times. FYI, Millet wrote an article for The Millions recently.
Between the 40 Towns project organized by Jeff Sharlet’s Dartmouth students and the newly unveiled Vanishing Point project from Duncan Murrell’s students at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, it seems abundantly clear that college students are better at putting together web publications than 99% of established publishing outfits. Begin your tour with Christine Delp’s look at a blind man who makes his own martinis, and then check out other stories such as Ge Jin’s photographic essay on Chinese university students.
Most of the time, when somebody insults a writer on Twitter, the insult disappears into the cyberspace ether. However, as with any rule, there are always exceptions, and one is when you trash Joyce Carol Oates and then thank her for inventing a breakfast food.