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Publisher’s Weekly’s Review Double Standard

For those who don’t know, Publisher’s Weekly is the trade publication of the book world, a periodical that publishes book news and reviews. To be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly is something of a big deal.

So how does one get reviewed? Assuming you were published by somebody else:

Submissions must be sent (3) months–preferably (4)–prior to the 1st day of the month of publication.

You must send (2) copies of every title submitted. Submissions of a single copy will not be considered.

All galleys should have the following information on the cover:

– Title
– Author
– Price
– Publisher and imprint
– Format
– Number of pages in the finished book
– 13-digit ISBN
– Month and day of publication
– Distribution arrangements
– Publicity contact information

An accompanying letter should contain a description or synopsis of the book, and any pertinent publicity information, including the author’s previous titles, blurbs, or previous reviews. Book club, paperback, audio or movie rights sales, author tours of 5 cities or more, a print run of more than 10,000 or an ad/promo budget of more than $30,000 should be noted.

Now if you’re self-published you have to submit to their PW Select Program:

PW Select is a quarterly supplement that presents self-published books to PW’s trade audience. Like our announcement issues, these features will include author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description, and ordering information. Authors are required to pay a processing fee for their listing; for PWsubscribers, the listings are including with the price of your subscription.

Publishers Weekly aims to provide a valuable service to the growing community of self-published authors. From amongst the titles submitted, approximately 25% are selected for a published review in each supplement… The entire PW editorial staff will participate in the selection of the titles being considered for review

Great, so how do I get in? Publisher’s Weekly says:

If your book is already published and for sale, you can choose:

1) Print Book | $149
-you’ve published your book in print and already have your ISBN and it’s already available for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and/or other retailers.

2) E-book | $149
-you’ve published your book as an e-book and already have your ISBN and it’s already available for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and/or other retailers.

And there we have it: Publisher’s Weekly’s double standard, plain as day. If you’re traditionally published, go ahead and send in your book in for review consideration free of charge…but if you’re self-published, please send us $150.  Before I blast them on that, though, I’m not done.

What do you get for that $150?

With All Three Packages:

The registration fee of $149… entitles you to a listing of your book–title, author, illustrator (where applicable), pagination, price, format, ISBN, and a description of the book’s contents–all of which will appear in the supplement and seasonal online database. You should also include the address of the Web site where the book can be ordered.

….

As part of your registration you receive a 6 month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly. Current subscribers, whose subscription and authorship are in the same name, receive one free listing as a subscriber benefit… During registration please include your subscription number, from your print label instead of the credit card info.

Book Review

Each period, from amongst the books listed, approximately 25% will be selected by PW’s review staff, based on merit, and assigned for a full review. These reviews will also appear in the supplement. There is no charge for reviews, and all reviews, positive or negative, will be published.

I’m guessing the $150 goes to pay for the PW Select supplement. I have no problem with that. I have to pay a lot of money to list my pet sitting business in pet sitting listings. In fact, I just signed a contract to pay a guy $444 for a quarter-page ad in one publication. So again, the idea of paying for a listing in PW Select does not bother me.

The shady part is that for self-published authors to even be considered for review and potentially earning the prestige a PW review can bring, they have to pay, while traditional authors don’t. To Publisher’s Weekly, we’re not real authors – worthy of consideration for free – because we’re not part of the club. We decided to go outside the system and therefore we should be punished for that by extorting us. We have to pay to even be considered worthy of a review. This is the major way traditional publishing can keep us down because otherwise they’re quaking in their boots.

Why should I spend years trying to get published? Even if it worked, I would have my book’s shelf life measured in weeks, I would have to do most of the marking and I would probably have a print run so low the book would most likely fail regardless. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. The secret is out.

Take this quote from a blog post I found about a romance author who quit being a Harlequin author and went completely self-published after she only earned 2.4% royalties on her bestsellers:

Everyone fears Amazon, because they someday may give authors less than 70% royalties.
Less? Like the 2.4% Ann earned on a book that sold almost 200,000 copies?
It would take Amazon becoming the devil incarnate to give authors a worse deal than the traditional publishing industry does now. And since traditional publishers aren’t about to give authors a fair deal, what do they do to those who abandoned them…or in my case, never even tried to approach them at all? They close off the one thing they have left: the mark of legitimacy. Publisher’s Weekly is fully involved with this racket.  And the irony is that this whole legitimacy thing was created by the publishing industry in order to keep anyone with a printing press from infringing on their turf.  After all, Wikipedia states in their article on vanity presses:
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common for legitimate authors to, if they could afford it, pay the costs of publishing their books. Such writers could expect more control of their work, greater profits, or both.
The publishing industry, to maintain its status, labeled self-published authors vanity authors and told everyone that they aren’t real authors. Too bad that attitude is now coming back to bite them. The way Publisher’s Weekly treats reviews of self-published authors is just one more way the traditional publishing establishment can pretend their entire business model isn’t slowly going down the tubes.
Ultimately, Publisher’s Weekly will have to let us self-published authors into their legitimacy club free of charge like traditional authors can. Self-publishing is back and we’re not a passing fad. We’re the future, whether traditional publishing likes it or not. And if Publisher’s Weekly doesn’t start taking us seriously, then they can die the same slow death that the rest of the industry currently is.

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Qwantu (@onebloodbook)
    June 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Very good write-up on this topic. We as Indie authors have to fight for our right to be considered up there with the Big Boys. We do this by focusing on producing quality products (as a group) and driving our sales up until they can’t ignore us!

  • Reply
    kiersi
    September 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Think about this, though. For every traditionally published book, there are probably 10x or even 100x as many self-published books. Everyone and anyone can submit something as “self-published”. So if PW takes every single self-published book and reads the whole thing FOR FREE, they are going to need to hire dozens of people. More than dozens. A whole herd of people just to read these submissions. And if they aren’t charging for it, how are they going to pay those people? How do they make a profit and make it worthwhile for them to do? Especially if their PW Select is not selling as well as their regular publication, which I’d bet is the case.

    I understand the indie perspective, but consider it from the perspective of a for-profit company like PW. They are not intentionally spitting on you, I don’t think. The cost for submission keeps out anyone who isn’t serious, and pays for employees to read those submissions.

    They probably get enough ad revenue from the regular publication to pay those reviewers without having to charge the publishing houses for it. Otherwise, I’d bet they would.

  • Reply
    kiersi
    September 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    As for Ann, she shouldn’t have signed a contract for 2.4% royalties. If I were her, I’d fire my agent and get a new one who can get me a decent deal.

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