16 12 / 2012
"In one of his poems, George Chapman, Shakespeare’s contemporary, compares time to a pollinating honeybee and the world to a flower garden, declaring strangely that “time’s golden thigh upholds the flowery body of the earth.” He explains that when we use time correctly it brings harmony and legitimacy to life. The verse ends with an aphorism : “The use of time is fate."
The Lost Carving by David Esterly
10 3 / 2012
A possible use for this nominal Tumblr site came up at a recent meeting of the National Book Critics Circle where the topic was e-galleys. I was chatting with a couple of long-time reviewers and publicists about how reviewers and book review editors use galleys and review copies. Pete Miller (formerly of Bloomsbury, now at Norton) mentioned his gratitude toward a review editor who begged him to make sure that all galleys have the pub date printed on the spine. He’d had no way of knowing how important this is in helping a reviewer or editor organize shelves of galleys and how it can keep his galleys from getting lost. “Someone should write this stuff down!” I said, and so I volunteered myself for the job.
Dear book publicists: Please, please print the pub date on the spine of your galleys. Why is this so, so important? Because that’s how all review editors and reviewers organize the hundreds and hundreds of books they receive. I have given over most of an entire closet in my apartment to review copies. Here’s what it looks like:
There’s a shelf devoted to each month, and my shelves are highly culled. Most review editors have three times as many books in their offices.
I’m not sure what the shelving areas in your offices look like, but it’s probably safe to say that while we all have lots and lots of books, your shelf for any given month is likely to be filled with many copies of a limited number of titles. The titles you are publishing each month are very clear in your mind.
Our shelves, however, are (mostly) filled with single copies of many, many individual titles that are difficult to keep track of and manage, let alone remember. (As you can see, space constraints force me to shelve books on their sides, and even then there’s not much room — also, those shelves are two books deep.) Your month may consist of five new titles, or thirty-five, but ours consists of something more like 200.
We’re always opening more packages, quickly sorting titles and moving them en masse from shelf to shelf. It’s easy for a book to get lost. If an April book gets accidentally filed on the July shelf, it’s quite possible that it won’t get reviewed at all because by the time someone checks that shelf to see what’s coming out in July, it’s too late. Timeliness is the essence of journalism.
By printing the pub date on the spine, you put the most important piece of information (after the title and author) where we can instantly see it. Printing the pub date in a tiny font buried somewhere on the back cover is a nuisance that makes organizing our galleys more time consuming. But printing the pub date inside the book or, worse yet, not on the galley at all but on the press release that most of us throw away as soon as we open the package (hello, Yale University Press!) is so aggravating that reviewers have been known to trash a galley rather than deal with the hassle of figuring out when the book publishes. I’m not saying that happens routinely, but it happens. That’s why putting the pub date where it’s easy to find — on the spine — is so important.