What is a "Bestseller"?
Look Both Ways, by Linda Criddle

The New York Times and Self-Published Books

Nyt_1Self-published books apparently don't exist in the world of The New York Times.  To be more precise, the NYT's Book Review Editor, Sam Tanenhaus says that they "don't review self-published or print-on-demand books."  It all comes down to a numbers game.  Tanenhaus goes on to note that there are approximately 200,000 new titles released annually and the Times can only cover about 1,500 of those.  Makes sense...sort of.

I'm like Steve Weber though: I'm skeptical.  I'm not so sure it's the result of focusing primarily on the big houses that happen to advertise with the Times as it is (in Tanenhaus' words) "old-fashioned thinking."  Also, although the large publishing houses are generally stocked with strong editorial talent, I think it's pretty naive of Tanenhaus to say that "every book of merit is almost certain to find a home at one or another of those (large) presses."

Maybe there just haven't been enough big hits from the self-publishing world to get the Times to see the flaw in their logic.  It also makes me wonder if the Times truly has an ear to the ground to pick up the blogosphere (and other) buzz that would signal a self-published hit. 



Excellent point!

Scott Berkun

There are many self-publishing success stories, and many cases where big publishers picked up self-pub'ed books after they found an audience.

But that aside, I can totally accept the fact that book reviewers, like editors, have natural reasons for looking to others (publishers or agents) to help filter through the numbers of possibilities.

But from the consumer perspective, if the book is available on amazon, and it's recommendable, who cares who the publisher is? I think the distinction is irrelevant to most people not in the business, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions. The web has changed that, with easy access to sample chapters and the like.

The NYT, as a paper, is fond of upholding traditions, so I'm not surprised there isn't a "best of selfpub 2006" in the Sunday NYT book review - they don't seem to feel their job is to help reshape publishing models, find diamonds in the rough, or discover unknown underdogs. Whereas a magazine like Utne Reader is almost focused on such things, going out of its way to share gems that wouldn't normally get noticed.

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