Publishers Weekly has introduced an intriguing new program called PW Select that will review self-published books. They couch it in very positive terms:
We are returning to our earliest roots. PW dates to 1872, when it was first known as Trade Circular Weekly and listed all titles published that week in what was then a nascent industry. We have decided to embrace the self-publishing phenomenon in a similar spirit. Call it what you will—self-publishing, DIY, POD, author-financed, relationship publishing, or vanity fare. They are books and that is what PW cares about. And we aim to inform the trade.
To that end, we are announcing PW Select, a quarterly supplement announcing self-published titles and reviewing those we believe are most deserving of a critical assessment.
Great news! Unfortunately, the way they’re “embracing” self-publishing is by charging a fee. The way that self-publishing could truly be embraced is by recognizing that self-published titles can be as good as any other and reviewing them alongside other books. But it still places self-published titles in a separate ghetto. An argument could be made that pay to play is built into the self-publishing model, so this isn’t a terrible development, but this has the feeling of milking self-published authors like so many other promotional schemes.
Here are the details:
If you are a self-published author, with a finished book that carries an ISBN, you can register (see below) to have your book listed in a seasonal supplement that will be bound into issues of Publishers Weekly. Overprints will be available for purchase and bonus distribution. Additionally, a digital edition and online database will be made available. All titles published during 2010 are eligible for inclusion.
The registration fee of $149 entitles you to a listing of your book–title, author, illustrator (where applicable), pagination, price, ISBN, format, and a description of the book’s contents–all of which will appear in the supplement and online database. Authors can also include the online location or phone number at which to place orders….
Each period, a minimum of 25 of the books listed 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 extra charge for reviews, and all reviews, positive or negative, will be published. Reviews will be written by our stable of professional reviewers and will be edited by our Reviews staff.
So the likelihood that your book gets reviewed is not high – this isn’t direct pay to play like Kirkus Discoveries, where you’re guaranteed a review (for a much higher price). So this is mainly a place to list your book. A major question is: is the book listing going to have a live link to a book or site, or just have a static listing like the Midwest Book Review? It says it will include an “online location” but this doesn’t necessarily imply an active link. If there’s a link, the $149 would at least have some SEO value.
This is Publisher’s Weekly, so it’s a bigger place to list a book than some other listing services, so the jury’s still out on whether or not this kind of listing will lead to book sales. A review may be very effective as well, even if it’s difficult to become one of the select titles. But on the surface it looks like a lot of money for not that much return. As mentioned, the way to embrace self-publishers is to make them part of the mix with other published work, not trying to take their money.
Update: Emily Veinglory at Pod Peep shows her annoyance at this proposal as well -
So they are “accepting” self-published books for review to the extent that they are charging more ($149 versus nothing) to provide less (a listing you write for them in a “quarterly supplement” rather than their best selling magazine).
Michael Marcus adds: “This means that PW is officially a vanity publisher.”