Do Trade Reviews Still Matter?
Trade reviews tend to carry a lot of weight inside book publishing. Do they make a difference? The answer is complicated.
Welcome to this week’s paid edition of Publishing Confidential, where we will discuss whether or not trade reviews still matter. First, subscription stuff:
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I. The Publishing Trades: An Overview
The major book publishing trade publications are Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Library Journal (School Library Journal is for Kid’s books). Publishers Weekly is the only one that includes industry news and other reported pieces, along with advance reviews of forthcoming books. Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal mainly focus on advance reviews but often feature authors.
Publishers (usually the marketing or publicity department) submit ARCs/galleys to publishing trades 4-6 months before a book’s publication, hoping it will get a good review. If a good review runs early enough, editors will pull a quote from it and put it on the front or back of the book cover.
All of the trades publish their version of season announcements. For example, Publishers Weekly publishes Fall and Spring announcements, Booklist publishes “pre-pub alerts,” and Kirkus posts previews for each season. Publishers don’t submit every title on their list for these features. Instead, they consider a book’s place in their ecosystem and act accordingly. If someone publishes a big literary fiction book, you can bet it’ll appear in seasonal previews.
Sometimes, trade publications feature specific genres. Publishers Weekly includes titles in “Spotlight” features such as thrillers, romance, and self-help. Usually, the publicity department is responsible for responding to Publishers Weekly’s “Call for Information” for particular topics.
Each trade publication has a robust web presence, which allows them to review more books than they can in their print editions. You must pay for a subscription if you want full access to their websites.
II. How are Trade Reviews Used?