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The Seven Deadly Sins of Submitting a Self-Published Book to Pre-Pub Reviewers

From time to time, I hear people say there's no hope for a self-publisher to get reviewed in the pre-publication magazines (Publisher's Weekly (also called PW), Library Journal (LJ), School Library Journal (if your book is aimed at those under 16)(SLJ), Booklist and Kirkus). That's simply untrue. Not only have I gotten my own books reviewed in those publications, but I now work with clients who have been reviewed. In one case, a self-published book got reviewed by every single pre-publication reviewer (and went on to win major awards nationally, too).

So how do you avoid the "self-publishers curse"? Here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Submitting a Self-Published Book to the Pre-Pub Reviewers:

Sin the First: If you have no distribution (are not in Baker & Taylor and/or Ingram), then they will be completely uninterested in your book. Why? The title will have no national distribution, so why should they tell booksellers and librarians nationally about it? You can acquire Baker & Taylor as a wholesaler via membership in SPAN or PMA.

Sin the Second: If your self-published book is badly written, not/or badly edited or "typeset" in Word (with spaces between paragraphs and strange hyphenation) they won't bother, because it's not professional looking - and they are the arbiters of what is professional. With 200,000 books out a year, there have to be standards.

Sin the Third: A poor cover can sink you. Even if you send in a plain cover galley, you should send in a full-color print-out of your finished cover (front, spine and back) for them to see. If it looks like a four-year-old drew it, or you slapped it together with some clip art you found on the computer, they won't bother. Again, if it doesn't look as good or better than anything else in the market, why should they bother? See my article on this same website, "Customers Judge Books by Their Covers."

Sin the Fourth: If the book was put out by iUniverse, PublishAmerica or one of the other subsidy "Self-Publishing companies," don't bother. They won't review. The pre-publication reviewers know that these companies have no standards, rarely edit and have no controls on the quality of the material. In other words, there are no professional standards applied to the product. Although you might try ForeWord Magazine. They seem more open to subsidy products. They regularly give awards to subsidy-produced products.

Sin the Fifth: If you are not an expert in the field that your book is about - for instance, you are just Joe-Car-Owner but your book is about optimizing the engine in a 1968 Mustang - then they won't review your book. If you have expertise, make sure you highlight that in your cover letter and author bio.

Sin the Sixth: If your book is about a topic that the shelves already are bursting with, they won't bother unless you are a celebrity. Go to and type in the subject of your book. If there are 1200 entries - all published within the last 6 months - in that subject, PW etc will not want to see it. Now, if there's almost no one writing about your topic, you have a real edge.

BTW: Novels are just hard, but still worth sending off (sales to libraries from a School/Library or Booklist review can range from several hundred to a thousand or so).

Sin the Seventh: If you shout that the book is self-published, they won't bother with you. Stop drawing attention to it. Write your promotional copy as if you are someone else. Refer to yourself in the third person. If you refer to the publishing company, write its name (instead of saying "I decided to self-publish..."). You didn't name the company after yourself, did you? That's a big no-no (don't argue with me that Knopf and Simon & Schuster are - they are bigger, you are not). You must exude professionalism out of every pore - and that means you don't tell them it is self-published. If they guess, that's their problem. Make your book so professional that they're pleasantly surprised it's self-published.

A self-publisher should take the time and spend the money (wisely) to create the most professional-looking, well-edited, well-written product with the most attractive cover you can make, and the pre-pub reviewers will review it. They aren't arbitrarily being mean. You are trying to break into a $3 billion a year global industry. The great news is - if you do it right, you have just as much a shot at getting a review as Random House. Is this a great business or what?!

Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay, Inc (

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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