No one is entitled to be reviewed in the New York Times, or the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times, all of which have endured terrible shrinking of their space for books coverage. First time authors have a particularly hard time breaking through; without some recognition factor, why should an editor bother to assign the book? Having spent years at newspapers, I know exactly how large those piles of unsolicited advance copies of books are that come through the mail. At my old paper, one woman was in charge of sorting through that mess, and she was smart and cared about books, but the bulk of them still just went straight to the local library. So how does one get reviewed in a national newspaper?
In theory, it helps if you’re in their club already. Maybe you even worked there. I was a stringer for the New York Times back in grad school, but that didn’t help. I was a reporter for the Los Angeles TImes for three years, albeit in a far flung bureau, and I know someone who knows someone who reviews for them. I have friends at the Washington Post, including one dear friend who tried to subtly sweet talk the books editor there into covering AonP. But still, no go on being reviewed there.
It also helps if you’ve written something scandalous (Apparently a one-night stand followed by a baby doesn’t cut it. I’ve got to get cracking on “Dreams of Screwing My President”) or been noticed elsewhere first. Editors stumps tend to stir when there is a media cluster brewing. I got a lovely review in Entertainment Weekly, for example, unexpectedly, and I hoped that there would be a corresponding reaction from some of the other big guns. Again, disappointment.