books with Athena

books with Athena

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kirkus Dead: RIP Intellectual Habitat?

Kirkus Review, one the most prestigious book reviewers in the US, has been given the pink slip today. Kirkus, along with Editor and Publisher, has been axed by their owner Nielson, the New York Times reported this AM: Nielson has apparently decided to sell off or otherwise rid itself of its Jurassic print media.

One reader, identified as bluewombat, said, “this is horrifying -- further evidence of the disappearance of a free and independent press in the United States…More and more, important intellectual habitat is disappearing. This is positively creepy.”

Kirkus negative reviews could be devastating, but a positive one could make a career. Now it’s all going to be about how good a review you can buy.


  1. I've never read Kirkus, so can you speak to the comment by Colin from Boston about the reviewers being anonymous...or as Colin writes:

    "..Kirkus potshots came from someone hiding over there in the brush."

  2. Kirkus began (in the 1930s) as a review forum for librarians, and as I understand it, the reviewers were usually librarians, rather than publishing industry people, so the reviews tended to be written from a literary perspective rather than a sales-potential perspective. The reviewers remained anonymous to keep them from being wooed by the industry.

    Kirkus became important not only because of its influence on the huge library market, but also because of the sheer volume of reviews. In 24 issues a year, it published about 5,000 book reviews, so it became the major place for new books to make their debut (along with Publisher's Weekly)

    The problem was the reviews were very often negative, so as much as an author wanted to get into Kirkus, it was a crap shoot whether it would help or hinder sales.

    Agents could see all their hard work in getting a client published and marketed evaporate with a few snarky sentences from an anonymous Kirkus reviewer.

    When I asked agent Nathan Bransford what he thought of Kirkus, he declined to comment, saying: "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all..."


We LOVE comments, but we can't allow anonymous ones because of spam problems (like hundreds a day) and we moderate comments on posts older than one week, since older posts attract more spam. If you have a WordPress blog ID, try signing into Wordpress before you comment with that ID. If you have a gmail or other Google ID, make sure you're signed into Google. If you have trouble commenting, email your comment to Anne at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com and she'll post it for you.