>Think of the grownups.

>A discussion on child_lit about book reviews that give away a book’s plot twist or ending led NYPLer John Peters to post a link to Library Journal‘s announcement that it had begun editing its reviews with the reader–rather than the librarian selecting for that reader–in mind, as well as making them more Twitterific. Meaning: because the real money in book-review publishing now lies in their dissemination through databases rather than as print publications, it’s smart to make them as versatile and buzzable as possible. But it would also be smart–financially–to make book reviews as positive as possible, too, as the companies that purchase them–from Baker & Taylor to Amazon.com–use them in alliance with systems designed to sell people books. So we all need to watch our step.

I wonder what if anything this might mean for the children’s review media. While I don’t think anyone will be urging SLJ or the Horn Book to write reviews for children themselves, there is a larger and larger audience of adults who read children’s books not as gatekeepers but for their own pleasure. Should we be worrying more about “spoilers”? As it is, half the Horn Book office is closing its ears around the other half, all because of Catching Fire.

(And I won’t spill anything here. Catching Fire is great fun to read and will be especially appreciated by people who enjoyed The Hunger Games, he said ambiguously.)

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Perhaps this is a paranoid suggestion, but th first thing that occurred to me was that this switch was intended to boost book sales. Ergo, inspired by publishers' complaints to reviewers. (as I said: "paranoid" but think about it. publisher to reviewer: "You guys are killing us.")

  2. J. L. Bell says:

    >th first thing that occurred to me was that this switch was intended to boost book sales. Ergo, inspired by publishers' complaints to reviewers.

    But those complaints wouldn't mean anything unless publishers had leverage over the review journals.

    Which they do, through advertising in those journals. And print advertising is a buyer's market these days.

    However, if there were a way for review outlets to make money independent of publishers, then the pressure to shape reviews so that they boost overall sales would go away.

    Yet the only source for such money is us, the consumers, and we're not in the habit of paying for someone else's opinion about art.

  3. GraceAnne LadyHawk says:

    >I do get cranky when people post about spoilers: when did we start obsessing about that?
    I come to this as a person who loves to know How It All Turns Out ahead of time, so my opinion truly is biased, but often I feel that people who object to spoilers are trying to control the conversation, and I hate that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >of couse – but one doesn't have to be rational to whine and gripe about bad reviews. editors do feel hurt by bad reviews – and resentful. and their advertising budgets aren't all that great even in the sn-called buyers' market

  5. Anonymous says:

    >You know, there are spoilers and spoilers. Finding out that the nice guy gets the girl in the end is not exactly going to cause me to burst into tears of frustration, but for Christ's sake, if I am reading a murder mystery, I do not need you to walk up and say "Agnes killed him in the library with a poker."

    Some books are built around an element of surprise. Lots of books aren't. To refuse to distinguish between the two, is self-serving. To say that you are not taking something away from the book and the reader when you eliminate that surprise is wrong.

    Professionally, I like to have a synopsis that tells me everything– especially for books I am not going to read. Personally, I like reviews that don't give everything away about a book I will read for pleasure. I like to know ahead of time which kind of review I am reading. I am going to be equally unhappy if either kind disappears.

  6. Lyle Blake says:

    >Bravo/Brava to 10:38 Anonymous for an expression of good common sense. The use of spoiler warnings does a great service for many who want to follow a discussion of a work without having it diminished by the premature revelation of certain carefully planned elements.

    I have been know to leap savagely on anyone who cavalierly reveals, for example, the surprise ending of Hitchcock's PSYCHO and have no use for their feeble excuse, "Heavens, it came out in 1960. Everyone knows how it ends." Well, no, they don't. There are babies being born every day who have not yet seen PSYCHO. Show a little respect for a great work of art.

    Excuse my reductio ad absurdam example, but I hope to make a point, one which becomes even more important with new releases. Not everyone reads a new book immediately (how can we keep up?), just as not everyone sees a hit movie in its opening weekend.

    Again, it's largely a matter of respect.

    Lyle Blake Smythers

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >I think there are a few reasons why people have gotten so sensitive about spoilers. Children's fiction has become increasingly high-concept and plot-twist heavy; publishers have seized upon anti-spoilering as a marketing tool; and fanboys and -girls have taken over the critical discourse ;-) I mean, can you picture Henry James putting his hands over his ears and singing "la-la-la I can't HEAR you"?

  8. GraceAnne LadyHawk says:

    >Roger, Henry James himself is probably chuckling uncontrollably at that.

    The publishing remark is wise, and I had not thought of that.

    TheInfomancer reminds me that I should be kinder, and that there are ways, even in 175 words, that one could avoid spoilers and still be true to what you are trying to tell in a review.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >Roger,

    Plot-twist heavy, I understand. What do you mean by high concept? Is this a trend you approve of, or is it code for dumbification of books for children and young adults?

  10. Roger Sutton says:

    >I think of high-concept books as ones that have big juicy plot hooks capturable in quick buzzy sound bites, or anything that gets described as X meets Y, as in "The Babysitters Club meets Twilight." I don't approve or disapprove but would note that any concept, high or otherwise, needs following through–a fact sometimes lost on writers and publishers.

  11. Anonymous says:

    >So a high concept book is one where the one-line concept is the most important part of the book? A book that is high on concept as opposed to high on characterization or high on nuance?

    Do I have that right?

    Anon 10:38

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