The New York Times Book Review (NYTBR) is a weekly paper-magazine supplement to The New York Times in which current non-fiction and fiction books are reviewed. It is one of the most influential and widely read book review publications in the industry. The offices are located near Times Square in New York City.
|The New York Times Book Review|
Cover from June 13, 2004
|First issue||October 10, 1896|
|Company||The New York Times|
|Based in||New York, New York|
The New York Times has published a book review section since October 10, 1896, announcing:
We begin today the publication of a Supplement which contains reviews of new books ... and other interesting matter ... associated with news of the day.— October 10, 1896, The New York Times
The target audience is an intelligent, general-interest adult reader. The Times publishes two versions each week, one with a cover price sold via subscription, bookstores and newsstands; the other with no cover price included as an insert in each Sunday edition of the Times (the copies are otherwise identical).
Each week the NYTBR receives 750 to 1000 books from authors and publishers in the mail, of which 20 to 30 are chosen for review. Books are selected by the "preview editors" who read over 1,500 advance galleys a year. The selection process is based on finding books that are important and notable, as well as discovering new authors whose books stand above the crowd. Self-published books are generally not reviewed as a matter of policy. Books not selected for review are stored in a "discard room" and then sold. As of 2006, Barnes & Noble arrived about once a month to purchase the contents of the discard room, and the proceeds are then donated by NYTBR to charities. Books that are actually reviewed are usually donated to the reviewer.
As of 2015, all review critics are freelance; the NYTBR does not have staff critics. In prior years, the NYTBR did have in-house critics, or a mix of in-house and freelance. For freelance critics, they are assigned an in-house "preview editor" who works with them in creating the final review. Freelance critics might be employees of The New York Times whose main duties are in other departments. They also include professional literary critics, novelists, academics and artists who write reviews for the NYTBR on a regular basis.
Other duties on staff include a number of senior editors and a chief editor; a team of copy editors; a letter pages editor who reads letters to the editor; columnists who write weekly columns, such as the "Paperback Row" column; a production editor; a web and Internet publishing division; and other jobs. In addition to the magazine there is an Internet site that offers additional content, including audio interviews with authors, called the "Book Review Podcast".
Each year, around the beginning of December, a "100 Notable Books of the Year" list is published. It contains fiction and non-fiction titles of books previously reviewed, 50 of each. From the list of 100, 10 books are awarded the "Best Books of the Year" title, five each of fiction and non-fiction. Other year-end lists include the Best Illustrated Children's Books, in which 10 books are chosen by a panel of judges.
In 2010, Stanford professors Alan Sorenson and Jonah Berger published a study examining the effect on book sales from positive or negative reviews in The New York Times Book Review. They found all books benefited from positive reviews, while popular or well-known authors were negatively impacted by negative reviews. Lesser-known authors benefited from negative reviews; in other words, bad publicity actually boosted book sales.
A study published in 2012, by university professor and author Roxane Gay, found that 90 percent of the New York Times book reviews published in 2011 were of books by white authors. Gay said, "The numbers reflect the overall trend in publishing where the majority of books published are written by white writers." At the time of the report, the racial makeup of the United States was 72 percent white, according to the 2010 census (it includes Hispanic and Latino Americans who identify as white).
A behind-the-scenes tour of the offices of the New York Times Book Review showed how an issue is created. Editor Sam Tanenhaus guided the tour through the editorial and production process of review while staff members described their various responsibilities. Included were selecting and rejecting books; choosing reviewers for books; fact checking and editing the review; composing the layout design; creating headlines, blurbs, and artwork; and selecting and editing letters from readers.