Author of 'The Cain File' – a Kindle Scout Selection

Publishers Weekly Select for Indie Authors? Save your money.


My advice to Indie authors considering Publishers Weekly Select to promote their books:

Don’t bother.

Like most Indies, I am always on the lookout for effective, budget-conscious ways to reach readers. And bookstore owners. And agents.

So I took the bait and sent $149 to Publishers Weekly Select, the PW program exclusively for Indie publishers. According to their website, they are “just the kind of people who can take a book and make it a bestseller.”

Well, alright!

The way the program “works”:

“When you register, your book receives an announcement listing in PW Select–which is bound into issues of Publishers Weekly and appears online at Every announcement listing includes bibliographic, marketing, and editorial information about your book–so you can promote it to booksellers, publishers, agents, and industry insiders. Additionally, every book listed in PW Select is automatically eligible for a review from Publishers Weekly. From the hundreds of books listed in each PW Select, approximately 25 percent are selected by our editors for a review. And, all authors registering with PW Select receive a six-month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly.”

That sounds great!

But, despite sending two copies of my latest book – Who Sings to the Dead – to their ‘reader’, I did not receive a review. OK, only 25% of submitters receive a review. I can live with that, although what I did get was pretty feeble. By the way, the review ratio, from eyeballing the magazine, is a lot less than 25%.

I didn’t even get my cover listed in the mag or on their web site. Most Indie submitters don’t get their covers listed. Not one little ragged jpeg. Just a sentence or two of listing information.

Not much for your money.

So what did I get?

An “announcement” that eerily resembled my own book blurb, but that had been run through PW’s Limited English Skills Translator and converted into some clunky language. They even added a typo. Free of charge. Here it is:

“Police fficer (sic) Nina Flores is hunting for a kidnapped Indian beggar girl in modern-day Peru. The suspected kidnapper resembles what locals call a ghost who hunts children. Or is this case connected to one 20 years earlier, during the country’s dirty war?”

That’s kind of awful.

I requested that PW fix the typo, at least. No response.

So I asked for a refund.

You can probably imagine what kind of response that got.

The same.

It’s pretty obvious no one at PW Select read the book. Or opened it. Or even copyedited their own blurb.

I’m supposed to forward this ‘listing’ to agents and bookstores. And industry insiders.

So I can be the next bestseller.

I would be ashamed to send this ‘announcement’ to anyone remotely interested in my book.

Which is OK as it’s near impossible to find the listing anyway.

As mentioned, this meager snippet is posted on PW’s website but good luck unearthing it, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. None of their new release info is indexed to facilitate search. Searching on my book title returns nothing. Searching my name returns all of the ‘listings’. From there on you have to dig. Makes it a little hard to forward to those industry insiders.

The ‘bound’ issue of Publisher’s Weekly that included my announcement (along with 202 other hopefuls) was published in the April 2013 issue, in a skimpy magazine that resembles the kind of thing you toss out with the ads in your Sunday newspaper. And good luck finding your listing there too. Kind of like the classified ads but wedged together into one article. Or whatever it is. With typos.

So far, no calls from New York agents.

Or industry insiders.

Why am I not surprised?

I fell for it. Buyer beware.

Publishers Weekly used to have a good rep.

What I have received, however, are unsolicited phone calls and emails from various book promotional web sites and services (that no one has ever heard of) offering me even more services. For a fee.

OK,  what else can you, the Indie author, get out of my PW Select experience?

If you have $149 to promote your book here are two suggestions:

1. Sign up for Goodreads (if you are not already a member) and use the $149 to purchase copies of your book and send them to winners after you enroll your book in a Goodreads giveaway. You’ll probably get a few reviews out of it. I did. And some nice connections with readers.

2. Buy gift copies of your ebook and send to readers/friends/potential reviewers. This will also provide you a small ‘sales’ bump if done in a short period of time.

¡viva los escritores!


5 responses

  1. So sorry you had to be the test case for this, but THANK YOU for sharing your experience. I hope it will save many other indie authors from traveling down the same distressing path.

    May 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

    • I struggled with this post. I don’t like negative reviews in general but this was such an obvious rip.

      May 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

  2. Tom Garrison

    Max, thanks for the information. One more item for which indie authors should be aware.

    May 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

  3. Deanna

    I agree 100% with this article. The majority of authors who submit to PW Select pay $149 for either no review or a negative review. For the December issue I submitted a book that won a legitimate award, was nominated for another award, was field nominated by reviewers for four ALA awards, and received many positive reviews from other review publications. PW Select did not review it, but most of the books they did review received negative reviews. They are not following their mission statement of finding “the undiscovered gems out there.” It seems like they are instead finding the books they don’t like and having a good time tearing them apart. Please spread the word and warn other self-published authors.

    December 20, 2013 at 10:03 pm

  4. Pingback: Publisher’s Weekly Indie Reviews Inside The Tall, Thick Book of Tales | A.C. Birdsong

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