Poetry Reviews. What’re they good for? Absolutely… well, what? There have been some cracking reviews for Calder Wood Press titles, Gromit, but do they translate into sales? Sadly they don’t, or not all that often. And yet I keep sending copies out, as do most other publishers. It’s what we do. I read reviews regularly, and I know the friends I publish value reviews as peer recognition, but do they sell books? I’d be interested to know, Gentle Reader, if you’ve ever been influenced to buy a collection by a review in a literary magazine.
Of course, reviews in broadsheet newspapers sell books, but it’s very hard to get a mention of a new collection in them, with the honourable exception of Lesley Duncan’s poetry blog in The Herald.
And what kind of reviews work best, for author and publisher? Speaking personally, I’m bored by highly analytical academic reviews; I prefer the ones where the reviewer’s enthusiasm (or dislike) is expressed directly, with concise and intelligible justification, plus examples. I suppose I’m saying that I like reviewers whose response to poetry is similar to my own – emotional recognition, delight in novelty of expression, unexpected glimpses into places and human experiences different from my own, the ways contemplation and action are both needed in life, the sound and musicality of the language.
My instincts are pulling me towards the digital world, where blogs, Facebook and Twitter are extremely useful (and freely available), but even here I believe I’m communicating within a like-minded community. What are the channels I can use to reach the occasional poetry buyer, or the non-buyer?