What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews

40 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2012 Last revised: 6 Aug 2013

See all articles by Loretti Dobrescu

Loretti Dobrescu

University of New South Wales, School of Economics

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School

Alberto Motta

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Date Written: August 6, 2013

Abstract

This paper investigates the determinants of expert reviews in the book industry. Reviews are determined not only by the quality of the product, but also by the incentives of the media outlet providing the review. For example, a media outlet may have the incentive to provide favorable coverage to certain authors or to slant reviews toward the horizontal preferences of certain readers. Empirically, we find that an author's connection to the media outlet is related to the outcome of the review decision. When a book’s author also writes for a media outlet, that outlet is 25% more likely to review the book relative to other media outlets, and the resulting ratings are roughly 5% higher. Prima facie, it is unclear whether media outlets are favoring their own authors because these are the authors that their readers prefer or simply because they are trying to collude. We provide a test to distinguish between these two potential mechanisms, and present evidence that this is because of tastes rather than collusion -- the effect of connections is present both for authors who began writing for a media outlet before and after the book release. We then investigate other determinants of expert reviews. Both consumers and expert reviewers seem to favor authors who have won book prizes. Yet relative to consumer reviews, professional critics are less favorable to first time authors and more favorable to authors who have garnered other attention in the press (as measured by number of media mentions outside of the review).

Suggested Citation

Dobrescu, Loretti Isabella and Luca, Michael and Motta, Alberto, What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews (August 6, 2013). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 12-080. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1980616 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1980616

Loretti Isabella Dobrescu

University of New South Wales, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=602417

Alberto Motta (Contact Author)

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/albertomottaeconomics/

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