My Cousin the Saint received about 15 reviews in print and online, including a so-so Publishers Weekly review pre-publication. My biggest review (aside from a nice mention in The Washington Post) was The Philadelphia Inquirer on a Sunday in August 2008. That never would’ve happened if not for the graciousness of Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow, who met with me one morning in his office and introduced me to the paper’s book editor. I was able to make my case in person; he went for it. I remain grateful.
That said, the Times Book Review remains the Holy Grail for writers, and it’s absolutely unattainable for 99 percent of us. That’s because of both the avalanche of books published annually and the Times’ peculiar methods for selecting books to review (many of which simply cannot have potential sales of more than 200). Making the Times Best Seller list is easier than getting reviewed — and that’s really hard!
In any event, this blog post is worth reading, if you care about such things. An excerpt:
“When I worked as an editor at Doubleday and later as an agent doing business with most major publishers, there was a constant lament about the Times’s cultural blindspots. This lament was rarely given voice beyond whispered conversations because hope sprung eternal that the newspaper would come around in time to review an author’s next work, rather than consign it, too, to oblivion. Well, good luck with that. Many authors have waited their whole lives for a nod from the gray lady.”