You’ve probably already heard about the big expose about a guy charging for reviews. And you’ve probably already seen a lot of people in traditional publishing tutting at how those self-published people just don’t understand how tacky that is.
As someone pushing myself more towards traditional publishing (as opposed to a hybrid of self and traditional as I have been doing), I’d like to take a moment and call bullshit on the all the traditional publishers who are talking about how unprofessional it is to think you can charge for reviews.
For traditionally published books, Publisher’s Weekly doesn’t charge you anything and doesn’t promise anything. Just follow their submission guidelines for sending in review copies, and you have a chance of getting in. If you’re a self-published author, Publisher’s Weekly will consider your book for review as well! For the low-low cost of $149-$199. Again, they don’t guarantee that you’ll be reviewed, but you can pay them for the chance!
So, Publisher’s Weekly doesn’t charge for reviews from traditional publishers but does for self-publishers. So, basically, PW is hosing self-publishers the same as everyone else. But what about Kirkus? That bastion of reviews?
Well, for traditional publishers, Kirkus (much like PW) has submission guidelines. They don’t charge for reviews, and they note that they don’t review self-published works. But they do have the Kirkus Indie site, where for the low-low price of $425 ($575 for express service) they’ll review your book. But, for that price, they’ll actually write a review and not just consider writing it.
Here’s the thing: It’s not that PW and Kirkus are charging for these reviews (or a chance at them, in PW’s case). It’s your money. Blow it how you want. The problem here is that people in traditional publishing are acting like the act of paying for a review is some terrible, amateur-hour thing, but the two biggest names in the review business are both charging self-published authors for this service.
And it’s not just that. It’s the fact that there are many, many different ways to get a book noticed if it’s tradtionally published that require publishers to shell out cash. Ever looked at the big, middle tables at Barnes & Noble? Someone paid to get them showcased there. Books on endcaps at bookstores? Someone paid to put them there. Look at the copyright page the next time you’re browsing. I bet you’ll find a bunch of books from the same publisher or from a big six and a bunch of subsidiary publishers under its umbrella on those tables.
Traditional publishers wringing their hands at how shocking it is that people would pay money for a review or about how it’s unprofessional when self-publishers set up read-and-review deals with blogs or swap interviews for publicity are kidding themselves. They do exactly the same thing all the time, but if they were honest about it, people might actually stop romanticizing writing and treat it much more like a business than a divine need to create, and more writers treating their work with the cold calculation of negotiation and eye for bullshit and not as a magical experience would cause the traditional industry a major headache if not a full collapse.
They can’t have that. So they make a lot of noise to cover their whispered deals and pretend like they’re loftier or better when they’re merely just an option in a fast-widening industry. I’m choosing traditional because I prefer it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see the cracks in their cover story.