When you get that perishable feeling

Classics. Hah!

How will today’s books ever become classics? And when?

It appears books have become perishable goods. And whatever your opinion about that may be, it feels to me as if it means books are no longer intended to last; to be here for your children, or grandchildren to read. When you die, out go your books, because they are old, and new ones will be published tomorrow, which makes them so much better.

It’s happened to me twice. No, three times, that I’ve been refused a review copy because it’s been too long since it was published, and why would anyone want attention in the shape of a review after several weeks?

I’ve obviously gone without requested books more times than that, but it’s the ‘no we won’t because the books is old’ response that sticks in my mind. The first one, to be fair, was years after. With the second book I’d missed that it was out and by the time I had un-missed it, a year had passed. The most recent time was a couple of weeks ago, when I was informed that the publishing company has a policy of not sending review copies out after one month.

As this was a publisher who has until very recently provided me with many fantastic books and got a high ratio of reviews in return, I was a bit hurt. I had known the book was coming, but not which publishers. Hence my inability to request a copy in time.

I think if it was me at the other end of the email, I’d have sent a copy out anyway. Unless there were hundreds of late requests. And if there were, maybe sending out lots of late books would repay itself. What I’m saying is, that an exception smooths future paths, whereas now I suspect we feel quite prickly on both sides of the mail server.

Having just finished reading a book from the same umbrella of imprints, and noticed that it was actually much older than I’d imagined (I thought I was a few months late, while it turns out I was a few months plus a whole year late…) and I was granted a copy with no moans about lateness at all, I don’t know what’s going on.

Another recent review for the one-month-is-too-late publisher, was only made possible when the author asked and discovered I’d not received a copy and ended up sending me one him/herself. It cost him/her £1.74 in postage which – while not breaking the bank – should not be necessary.

So when – and why – did books become so fragile and time-dependent? And what good will it do them? I recognise that a flurry of reviews in one week is quite nice, and possibly effective. But just as I enjoy a bunch of flowers better on its own, rather than ten bunches all at once, stringing the experience out ought not to harm a book’s future at all.

Reviewing isn’t an exact science. Occasionally publishers send books out months in advance, wanting early feedback and tweeting, to build up to the day. At other times they simply want to make sure a book gets time to be read and reviewed, and they want the review for publication day. Or, if it’s a few weeks later, they appear not to be angry.

Some time last year, I think, I reviewed a book I’d had waiting for about ten years. Yes, that was rather late. But the alternative would have been for me not to read it at all, or if I did, not to mention it here on Bookwitch.

As for the true classics, written decades or longer ago, there is no reason not to write about them, whether or not they have been re-issued by a publisher. A book is a book, not cottage cheese.

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8 responses to “When you get that perishable feeling

  1. It’s definitely worth writing about older books whether a couple months old or years and years old. That’s why I love reading blogs like The Past Due Book Review because you get to find out about books from ages ago that you might not have tried otherwise.

  2. I get the perishable feeling (what a perfect description) all the time! The month thing seems daft to me, especially if a pb publication is following a year or more after a hardback. And new reviews coming keep books alive (and their writers).
    It seems to be a newish thing, or else I’ve only just noticed it, that books come and then are over, which is ridiculous when you think about it, since readers don’t do the same.
    Hopefully.
    Amazon seems to see the value in a long list of reviews over a time span.
    (But I wish they wouldn’t let people put their review copies up for sale right beside the original.)

    Personally speaking, a kind review at any time, ten years later or a week after publication, is as cheering and motivating as a sunny day at the sea. So thank you for them, whenever they come.

    • Yes, the relevant too-late-book will be out in paperback in May. I’ll see what happens in the meantime. I could go to the library. Main problem with that is I need to read within the window of borrowing and returning, which puts pressure on me.

      The other thing is, I had put a book looked after by this publicist (who I don’t know at all) in my definitely to be read pile. I’m now wobbling a bit on that, which in effect means the author suffers because I am narrow-minded over a publicist.

  3. Speaking for myself, in the past I have rarely been aware of a named publicist, so that is tough on the author.

  4. What a welcome post! On at least three occasions, after requesting a title to read for a long established review blog, no copy arrived and therefore no review appeared – and I felt cross, being made to feel anxiety as the time window for doing the (unpaid) reading and writing up work disappeared. That copies for only a month seems very short-sighted to me, and horrid for writers and illustrators and all who’ve worked on a particular book. .

    Besides, when a title is out and all over the place, getting a blanket of extra attention, I am cussed enough to NOT want to read it then. I’d prefer to read the title in a quiet space of its own, not according to media calendar time, Grrr!

    • Yes, I’m with you on that. I can feel very contrary on occasion. In fact, it’s one reason why I’ve still not read Boy in the striped pyjamas.

      As for publishers posting books, that is a very hit and miss affair. If one person delegates to another, it rarely happens.

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