Back in April, at the conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), I fell into conversation with Bryan Kinney, a representative of BookLife, which is a still-newish enterprise of Publishers Weekly. The intent, as he explained it, was to make it easier, seamless, and more open for "indie authors" to submit books for possible review. Since then, I asked a bunch of nosy questions of Adam Boretz, who closely oversees BookLife, and provided me with the following answers.
Q: For BookLife, how do you define "indie authors"? Different from self-published? Inclusive of self-pub but also comprised of traditionally published by small presses? Hybrid presses?
A: Indie authors are self-published authors. But as the industry changes, I think definitions begin to change and there is a blurry line between a very small press and an indie author. And then there are hybrid authors and hybrid presses. Rather than get tied to a single definition, we try to embrace the self-publishing/indie community in all its stripes and colors.
Q: What makes BookLife different from other venues where self-published authors can pay for reviews and/or submit books at no charge for possible review?
A: BookLife is about a lot more than reviews. And while users can submit their self-published books for free Publishers Weekly review consideration, they can also find a lot of great content at BookLife that will guide them through the self-publishing process – from editing and book design to distribution and marketing. Plus, writers can get in touch with industry professionals on our Services Directory, sign up for PW Select, our marketing program for indie authors, post excerpts from your book, and a whole lot more.
Q: It looks like you have a deep well of resources to point authors to if they are looking for additional ways to develop their platform and/or market their books. Are any of those services owned and/or run by Publishers Weekly and/or its parent company, PWxyzLLC? Does PW earn income from those links, or from any business conducted through them?
A: BookLife is PW’s – and therefore PWxyz’s – website dedicated to indie authors. So the entire is site is run by PW and much of the editorial content you mention can also be found on publishersweekly.com. None of the how-to stories or features or editorial content is an income generator for PW or BookLife. And, of course, neither are reviews – which PW has never sold.
The only thing PW offers for a fee is its marketing program for self-published books, PW Select, which provides authors with an announcement listing for their titles online and in the print edition of PW. Additionally, there are some partnerships that offer authors paid services – such as showcasing self-published books at trade shows. However anything that constitutes a paid service is clearly marked as such – and the vast majority of services and content on BookLife are free.
Q: How long (word length) are BookLife reviews? Or does it vary by category?
A: All reviews on BoookLife are PW reviews. BookLife is just the conduit by which authors can submit self-published titles for PW review consideration. After submission, the review process at PW is the same for any book – as is the length of the review, which is about 150 to 200 words.
Q: Who is doing the reviewing? Regular PW reviewers? New staff / freelancers? For readers of this blog who are also book reviewers, is there a process by which to apply? Are reviewers paid?
A: The same people reviewing the newest traditionally published books for PW are reviewing self-published books for PW. PW reviews are never bylined and are written by professional book reviewers, many of whom have been writing for the magazine for years.
Q: Do authors have a say in whether or not the reviews are put up on the site? (As pay-for-reviews sites often offer.) If not, how exactly does it work? Once the book is submitted, it's all up to BookLife editors?
A: Once a book is submitted, it is treated just like any traditionally published book. So, if a book is selected for review it will published on PW and BookLife regardless of how an author feels about his or her review. We really wanted to the process to be the same for all books – traditionally published or self-published – and the only real difference is the entry point for submitting titles.
Q: I tried some of the "Buy" buttons, and they went to Amazon. Does PW earn an affiliate commission from those sales?
A: We do not earn affiliate commission on the buy buttons on BookLife. BookLife users determine what URL their buy buttons point to; they do not default to Amazon.
Q: Clicking on a book cover brings you not only to the BookLife review, but to a page with links to other reviews/coverage for that book, the author's website, etc. It seems like a hub authors can use as a gateway to a fuller interaction for the reader. Do authors pay for that page? Or is that offered at no charge to authors whose books are chosen for review?
A: That is free – any and all authors can create a profile on BookLife for free and create what we call “project pages” for all their books. The idea being that an author’s BookLife page can be used as a tool for self-publishers to showcase their work, connect with other indie authors, interface with social medial, and grow their readership.
Q: If an author submits a book, and BookLife chooses not to review it, are they notified? How long does it take to hear back?
A: Throughout the review process – from submission to the final outcome – authors are emailed with status updates. So you are notified when we receive your book, you are notified if it is still being considered, if it is accepted, and so on. We wanted this process to be as clear as possible and make an effort to keep authors updated on the status of their submissions.
Q: Is there a particular kind of book or author that you think is best suited for BookLife?
A: We really feel that any and all indie authors writing all types of books can get a lot out of BookLife. The site’s editorial content is useful for authors writing, publishing, and marketing novels, memoirs, kids’ books, comics, and everything in between. And, any type of book can be submitted for free review consideration.
Q: Can you point to any particular book/author now on BookLife, that is a good example of how a BookLife review/experience can benefit the author's book?
A: Sure. We here from authors all the time about how BookLife has helped their careers. One particular author that comes to mind is Keith Wayne McCoy, the authorof The Travelers. He emailed us shortly after his review ran to let us know that an agent called him asking for information about film rights for the book after reading the review. This is why we do BookLife.