An Interview with Mark Medley, Books Section Editor at The National Post

How do you assign reviews? Do you have a running list of reviewers to whom you give assignments? Can writers pitch to you? How does it work?

I meet with most publishers in Canada a few times a year to discuss their upcoming lists. Books that interest me are compiled into a document, which I send to all the writers who have ever written for me, or who have expressed interest in writing for me. I usually give the reviewers two or three weeks to research the list and to let me know which books interest them most. I write down the names of the reviewers interested in each book and then play matchmaker. I’d say about 75% of the books we review come from this list. The other 25% are pitches, or books I just simply missed when compiling the original list. So, yes, writers can pitch to me and frequently do.

Tell me about the Books Section at the National Post. How did it come to be and when did you join? 

I joined the paper over five years ago. I began covering the publishing industry about four-and-a-half years ago. I became Books editor in October, 2010. The section appears in print every Saturday, though the heart of the Books coverage is our blog, The Afterword, which publishes content daily. The Saturday print section is anywhere from three to eight pages—I think the average is 4.5—and features profiles, reviews, etc.

The ways in which we talk about books in the national literary press is changing because so much content and readership is moving on-line and onto blogs, for example. Where do you see the print review in ten years in terms of its importance in the national discussion of books?

Well, if newspapers still exist a decade from now—which they will, no doubt, just in a slightly different form—the print review (though really, it’s silly to call it a “print review,” as what appears online is what gets passed/emailed around) will still be the most important review a book earns.

Our organization, CWILA, counted reviews at the National Post Books Section by gender and found that only 32% of books reviewed were written by women, and that only a quarter of your reviewers are female. Do you think about such parameters as gender and/or race when picking which books will be reviewed and by whom?

I’m not happy about the first number, though I’m not surprised by the second number—I’d estimate that only about 10% of the pitches I receive come from women. I don’t think about race when assigning, but I do think about gender—but not in the sense, “this book is written by a woman, so I need a woman to review it.”

Do you think that an editor should pay attention to the gender of authors when choosing books?  Do you think the gender of the reviewer matters?

Yes. No.

Finally, what does the National Post pay its reviewers per review?


Published on June 3, 2012

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