Publishers Weekly has created BookLife, a website with content and functionality devoted to, and I quote:
. . . indie authors. The site provides a free and easy way to submit self-published books to Publishers Weekly for review, and offers editorial content—success stories, interviews, author profiles, how-to pieces, news, and features—geared toward helping indie authors achieve their goals.
Free is good, especially a free review by a topnotch publishing entity—they review both fiction and nonfiction. So I signed up for a membership and have now submitted three of my novels for review. (If you search my name at the site, you’ll find the individual book pages.) Much of the material needed for review submission is included in the process for setting up a “project” in your account. That includes:
- Your role in the project and the name you want used
- What phase your project is in: creating, publishing, or marketing
- Project permission—make the project visible to others or keep it private
- Age range
- Category (genre)
- A synopsis
- Cover art (600 pixels wide)
- You have the option of uploading a PDF excerpt.
For a review, you can submit an e-book file or a physical book. I chose to send physical books. Additional things you will need for the review submission process:
- An EAS/ASIN (Amazon) or ISBN (comprehensive BookLife article on ISBNs here)
- Number of pages
- Author bio
- Cover image
- Publisher (the indie author, not a publishing house unless you have your own imprint)
- Publication month
- Publication year
- Email address
Here’s the drill:
- You submit your book for review.
- Their editors “take a look” at it. This is the pass/fail moment: your book is either declined for review or moves on to be considered for review.
- If you pass the consideration phase, your book is selected for review. No guarantees that a review will happen, but it seems likely at this point.
- Your book is reviewed. The review is posted on the BookLife website and you can use it wherever you wish.
It’s no shoo-in. BookLife says:
We receive over a thousand books a month from self- and trade publishers. Only a handful of the very best are selected for review.
As of this writing, I’ve submitted three books. One was declined for review, one was reviewed, and the third is now being considered for review. Update: the third novel has now been selected for review.
Here’s their statement of process:
PW’s reviews staff considers a number of factors when deciding whether or not to review a book. Quality of writing, production value, originality of ideas, platform and expertise of the author, and a book’s overall uniqueness are some of what an editor takes into account. Editors use the same criteria for evaluating BookLife entries that they have always used for considering books from major publishers.
They will consider any book published by an individual creator that is available for purchase in the U.S. E-books are included. FAQs about reviews (hey, that rhymes) are here.
It takes a while. Only one of my first two submissions cleared the hurdle for getting a review. Here is the five-month timeline for that book:
- Submitted/created project: September 7, 2016
- Notified being considered for review: November 11, 2016
- Sent out for review: January 10, 2017 (not all books sent out end up being reviewed)
- Review posted: February 6, 2017
There is a risk: what if a reviewer finds fault with your book? Know that PW/BookLife does not retract reviews. Well, that’s the chance you take with any reviewer, isn’t it? You just have to live with it, so it’s a good idea to make sure your book is as good as it can be before submitting for a review.
In skimming through posted reviews, I came across these (ouch) comments for different novels:
. . . struggles a bit under the weight of its complex story.
. . . a shaky plot and by-the-numbers romance . . .
. . . lackluster debut . . .
. . . the immense amount of backstory negates the suspense. Awkward prose doesn’t help . . .
. . . uneven debut features a tepid heroine . . .
Well, you get the point. In fairness, roughly an equal number of the reviews that I checked were quite positive. You can check out the nature of their reviews here.
There’s a possible bonus reward, too. Shortly after receiving a nicely positive BookLife review for my novel, “a solid paranormal story with an epic feel,” I was contacted by Rightscenter, a database of books and their available film/TV rights. For what it’s worth, there is now a possible exposure for my novel to a film or television producer. Not holding my breath, of course, but who knows . . .
BookLife offers more that can be of help to indie writers:
- A “Buy” button on your book’s page that can take a reader to a place to purchase it, you provide the link
- Resources for Indie writers/publishers, including listings for editors and book designers (I’m listed)
- Articles on creating: Writing, Editing, and Art & Design
- Business articles on Licensing & Legal, Finance & Funding, Agents & Industry
- Publishing articles on Print, E-books, Audio, and for Retail & Libraries—one of the articles is all about getting an ISBN
- Marketing articles on Advertising, PR & Reviews, Social & Online, and Events
- A newsletter called the BookLife Report that has useful articles for indie authors. You can see the content online
Well, now to wait to see what comes of my newest submission. Fingers crossed (and continuing to work on the WIP).
For what it’s worth,