PW Select: Who Really Benefits?

Publishers Weekly received tons of flack this week when they announced the launch of PW Select. In short, they’re adding a quarterly supplement that will list self-published titles from the preceding period. They’ll also review at least 25 of these titles and apparently include other tidbits. In their words:

At least 25 of the submitted titles will be selected for a published review. There will also be an overview of the publishing trends that can be identified from among the titles from that reading period. We will also focus on the opportunities that the self-pub world offers. A resource directory will accompany the section offering names of companies providing services in the DIY space.

The catch? To be included on the list, self-publishers must submit a processing fee of $149. Reading through the comments, it seems PW has since revised this to allow all current subscribers one free listing. If this is the case, the flack can be somewhat mitigated, but overall there still seems to be a fundamental problem with this business model–at least from the self-publisher point of view.

First off, I applaud PW for not for not going the Kirkus Discoveries route of flat out charging for reviews. I know from my own reviewing experience that often a whole lot more work went into selecting which books to review, from the hundreds I received each month, than actually writing the reviews. (And these were books from traditional publishers.) The real service PW offers the publishing world isn’t the few reviews they write, but the winnowing process in which they select those titles. The problem is that they’re charging the wrong people it.

Most self-publishers won’t actually see their book reviewed. They pay for nothing. Who does benefit? People who read the magazine and need this information, i.e. book store buyers, other publishers, and these agents with whom PW hints they’ll share their findings. They’re the ones who would otherwise be faced with the daunting task of making heads or tails out of the hundreds of thousands of self-published books. Yet it seems clear that all of the above beneficiaries aren’t willing to pay anything extra for this winnowing service. And if they’re not willing to pay for it, we can pretty much sum up what the overall value to self-publishers is likely to be.

This might change over time. If PW invests in this space, doesn’t just see it as a means to bilk unsuspecting writers from their cash, it could become a valuable tool for the industry. But this all very much remains to be seen.


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