A new online venue for book reviews is attempting to fill the gap left by the newspaper book review sections that have folded in recent years. The New York Journal of Books posts long-form reviews, meant for consumers, of just-published books. On a big day it might post 15 reviews; other days, less. Its founder, Ted Sturtz, whose background is in investment banking, isn't paying his 130 reviewers (yet), but told PW, "A lot of the people are in it because they see the art of book review degrading and disappearing and see this as an enterprise that will keep it very much alive."
Sturtz's publishing credentials include studying fiction writing at Brown as an undergrad and ghostwriting a business book. He launched the site in beta earlier this year; it went live in October. "There are a lot of reviews online, an endless number," Sturtz observed. "But we found that while we had the trade publications like PW that provide summary reviews for a specific audience, in terms of a mainstream review there was nothing that had the breadth of some of the best print reviews in their heyday and the same quality. A lot of what you see [online] are people who appoint themselves as reviewers. There are some who are excellent, but they don't have the breadth we have." NYJB mostly posts reviews of new fiction, nonfiction, and children's books, though there are occasional new reviews of backlist titles, and some author q&as. It aims to release reviews of new titles at midnight the day the book is published.
Many of NYJB's 130-plus reviewers are published authors. "We were amazed at the quality of people who were coming to review for us," Sturtz said. No one associated with the site is being paid, including publisher Lisa Rojany Buccieri, a former editorial/publishing director for Golden Books; v-p Rhonda Sturtz, who worked in ad sales at Time (she is also Sturtz's wife); and chief technology officer Peter Neufeld, who founded a software development company.
Sturtz would not discuss NYJB's Web traffic, but said it "has been going up substantially and continuously." The company will soon be pitching advertisers (right now there are Google ads on the site). Another revenue stream could come from syndication: some newspapers and special-interest publications have expressed interest. Sturtz has no plans to charge for access to the site.
NYJB has gotten publishers to send galleys, and has also been signing nondisclosure agreements so that it can release early reviews of embargoed books. The company is also working on a technology that Sturtz said will streamline much of the administrative aspects of getting books reviewed.