Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Publishers Weekly will allow self-pubbed authors to ride in the back of the bus, if they'll pay $149 for the ticket

I recently gave up a linguistic crusade/tirade and stopped using the term "vanity publisher." I became convinced that "self-publishing company" is an acceptable term for a business that publishes books when an author pays for its services.

But now a magazine--a formerly respectable magazine about the book  business--has announced that it will accept money from self-publishing authors to publish information about their books. That sure sounds like vanity publishing all over again.

Publishers Weekly is the dominant periodical of the book publishing industry, formed way back in 1872 to announce the availability of new books and to circulate news about the book business. An online version is also published, plus various email newsletters.

Like much of America, and the book business in particular, PW has been going through hard times recently, and also changed ownership. In April, Reed Business Information sold PW to a former PW publisher, George W. Slowik, Jr.

George has been looking for ways to increase revenue as advertising sales have fallen off. He decided to follow the example of book publishers Harlequin, Thomas Nelson and others who set up vanity publishing...OOPS...self-publishing businesses to extract money from authors who lack contracts from traditional "trade" publishers.

In the past, PW's influential book review section was off-limits to self-published books. PW just announced a "second class" book review section that will cover books from self-publishing authors. However, unlike the "first class" review section that gives a free ride to Simon & Schuster and the like, second-class seats in the back of the PW bus will sell for $149.

Here's some of what PW said on Monday:

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. 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. 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 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.

The first reading period for self-published books will be from September 1 until the end of October. All submitted titles will be registered online by the publisher at www.publishersweekly.com/diy; a processing fee of $149 will be charged. Once the registration process is completed, shipping instructions and a confirmation code will be issued. Additional copies of the supplement will be available for distribution.

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.

Titles submitted for our first supplement must have been published in 2010 and have a valid ISBN. We will not accept manuscripts or e-books (this time). Only final bound galleys or finished books will be accepted. Books cannot be returned; once finished the copies are donated to Housing Works Thrift Shop, a worthy local charity.

We look forward to finding the gems worthy of attention, the sleeping indie giants—after all, books are our business.

PW says, "We are returning to our earliest roots." Apparently those roots were whores.

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