Or will they pan a book by a well-known author if the book actually sucks? I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad Publishers Weekly review.
Almost every one. A book has to be really, truly terrible in order to earn even a mildly negative review from Publisher’s Weekly, but it does happen. Publisher’s Weekly does not exist to provide honest criticism for the reading public. It’s a trade journal for the publishing industry, so nobody reads it in order to learn which books are worth reading and which aren’t.
Publisher’s Weekly (and to an even greater extent, Library Journal) review almost everything positively as a matter of course. Their goal is to point out things that are worth reading, not separating the books that are worth reading from the ones that aren’t.
So if a book by a really well-known author really sucked, would they just not review it at all, rather than blast it?
It depends how well known. Most likely, it would be the one bad review that slips through. But if the author is “well-known for a [insert genre here] writer” then they’d probably just skip it.
Yeah, the point is for bookstores to know which books are worth ordering. It was a lot more important in the days before nationwide chains.