Writers and their publishers can’t wait until their latest book is reviewed. A positive review, especially by the New York Times, practically ensures financial success for the book. Once the book is manufactured, the publisher matches the books sent out for review by a variety of newspapers and periodicals with a small slip of paper known as a review slip. The review slip generally states the name of the author, the title of the book, the name of the publisher, price of the book, and the date of publication. These books, known as review copies, are prized by book collectors.
Here’s an example of a review slip for Wallace Stegner’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain.
I am reminded of Stegner’s tenuous relationship with The New York Times. The paper once referred to him as William Stegner. It also did not review his Angle of Repose. How embarrassing for the newspaper when this book won the Pulitzer Prize. Can you say East Coast bias? Perhaps you’ve seen this book with a sticker affixed to the front panel of the dust jacket noting that it had won the Pulitzer. Well, it seems that the book didn’t sell very well at first, probably due in part to its not being reviewed by The Times. The book’s publisher, Doubleday, realized it had stacks of the unsold prize-winning book in its warehouses. In a brilliant piece of marketing strategy Doubleday printed up the sticker and put them on the books which it then re-shelved into bookstores. Sales of the book took off. Take that, New York Times!
Here’s an example of a more modern review slip for The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing by Marilyn Durham.
One of the earliest review copies I ever purchased is the only review copy of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, that I have ever seen. I also stuck it inside the Bro-dart dust jacket protector as you can see.
When I first looked at the book, I wasn’t sure this was a real review slip. It wasn’t quite as “slick” as other review slips I had seen, despite its having the usual in formation found on a review slip. But later I purchased Steinbeck’s Bombs Away which Viking also published three years after The Grapes of Wrath. The review slip looks remarkably similar. Review copies from this era are particularly difficult to find. They are prized and command a premium over the price of a non-review copy.