International Bon Vivant and Raconteur (nick_kaufmann) wrote,
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur

Publishers Weekly Gets In On The Scam

A number of years ago, Kirkus Reviews decided to start scamming writers, particularly self-published ones--or "independently published authors," as Kirkus calls them--with their Kirkus Discoveries program. What Kirkus Discoveries did was charge self-published authors for reviews, then print those book reviews not in the magazine, which enjoys an industry-wide readership, but on a separate webpage that nobody ever visits. Well, nobody except the writers checking to see if they got reviewed, that is.

Last fall, Harlequin decided it was high time they started scamming writers too, so they tried to monetize their slush pile with the Harlequin Horizons pay-to-have-your-rejected-manuscript-published program. They also tried to make writers believe that any HH titles that did well enough would be brought over to Harlequin proper and given a traditional deal. Meanwhile, HH titles would only be available via a special website, not in bookstores. So much for any HH book having a chance to do well, eh? There was an uproar in the publishing world, and Harlequin Horizons changed its name to DellArte Press. That didn't make it any less egregious, but apparently that was enough to make the Romance Writers of America bring Harlequin back into the fold with a kiss on the cheek and an "all is forgiven." Way to look out for your authors, RWA.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before Publishers Weekly, which has been experiencing financial difficulties over the past few years, decided to plug the hole in its budget the same way: on the backs on writers. In particular, self-published writers. According to yesterday's announcement, they're calling this new service "PW Select."

[PW Select is] a quarterly supplement announcing self-published titles and reviewing those we believe are most deserving of a critical assessment. The first supplement will appear in our year-end issue in December. Each quarterly will include a complete announcement issue of all self-published books submitted during that period. The listings will include author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description, and ordering information provided by the authors, who will be required to pay a processing fee for their listing.

A processing fee. To have your book mentioned--not even reviewed, just mentioned--by Publishers Weekly. Jesus.

At least 25 of the submitted titles will be selected for a published review.

Ah, good. At least a few of them might actually get reviewed. In the supplement, I imagine, not the regular magazine. I mean, you wouldn't print an entire Old Navy catalog in the pages of the Sunday New York Times would you? That would be gauche.

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.

More authors who self-publish = more authors who will pay PW its "processing fee" for the honor of a mention--or maybe, if they're lucky, an actual review--in a supplement that will be ignored by 99.9% of industry readers. (The other .1% will be mostly comprised of PR companies looking for new clients to bombard with "I CAN MAKE YOU A BESTSELLER!" junk mail.)

The entire PW editorial staff will participate in a review of the titles being considered for review, and we'll likely invite a few agent friends and distributors to have a look at what we've chosen. No promises there, just letting some publishing friends take advantage of the opportunity to see the collection.

Yeah, good luck making that happen. So anyway, how much is the processing fee?

[A] processing fee of $149 will be charged.

Awesome. $149 to have your self-published book mentioned or possibly reviewed in Publishers Weekly. No, wait, sorry, I got that wrong. Silly me, that's not what it's for at all!

We briefly considered charging for reviews, but in the end preferred to maintain our right to review what we deemed worthy. The processing fee that guarantees a listing and the chance to be reviewed accomplishes what we want: to inform the trade of what is happening in self-publishing and to present a PW selection of what has the most merit.

Phew! I was worried authors would be paying for reviews the way they do with Kirkus Discoveries. What a relief to find out that the money they're charging authors is actually just a revenue stream for a magazine whose advertising and subscriptions can't keep it afloat anymore. I find their honesty refreshing!

P.S. The $149 processing fee also includes a 6-month subscription to the digital edition of PW.

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Listen, by now you know how I feel about self-publishing your fiction. Unless you already have brand-name recognition and a sizable following, it's a sucker's game. Not just because there are a thousand pay-to-be-published companies out there just waiting to separate naive authors from their money, and not just because most bookstores don't stock self-published books, and not just because nobody buys self-published books, but because when once-trustworthy entities like Kirkus Reviews, Harlequin and now Publishers Weekly become all too happy to follow suit and scam as many authors as they can, you know it's a feeding frenzy and your hard-earned money is the chum.

So don't be a sucker. Remember, kids, money flows to the writer.
Tags: writing

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