Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

There’s sharks in these indie waters …

Maybe you’ve heard of BookLife, the division of Publishers Weekly that focuses on the indie market. I wish I hadn’t heard of it.

The idea behind it is to promote indie writers with PW’s imprimatur, providing a searchable catalogue of titles and authors with links to the various sales markets. There’s also an annual fiction contest and opportunities to spend money marketing your books – $149 a pop, I do believe. Oh, and they take submissions for free reviews.

That’s right, you might get your book reviewed by Publishers Weekly!

I signed up and submitted all of my books for reviews. They tell you that they don’t accept very many, so don’t expect miracles, and because they expose the books to an actual evaluation process it could take “up to 12 weeks” to hear back. Wishful thinking. For my first two rejections from them, it took about a year. Then after about two years I heard that they would review Occasional Soulmates! Or not. The email said something like, “Some books selected for review do not receive a review.”

Now, you’d think that having your book selected for a review would result in a review. Further, you might be inclined to think that having your book selected for a review would result in a relatively positive review, since they expose these books to an evaluation process in the first place. To make sure it was good enough.

Well, think again. About a year after they said they’d review Soulmates, and I had completely forgotten about it, they finally coughed up a review. And guess what? It was shitty!

So I finally got my wish of having a free review in Publishers Weekly, but in the classic sense of “be careful what you wish for,” it was crap. Boy, was I pissed.

Just last week I got another email from them – this long after I canceled my goddamn account because of what they did to me. It said that they would not be reviewing Fascination.

I was overjoyed.

All of this is a way of saying that if I were you, I wouldn’t spend one second or one dollar on Publishers Weekly’s BookLife. It won’t help you, and it might just hurt you.

(Also, why BookLife and not Book Life? I’m sick of the corporate smearing of words together!)

20 comments on “There’s sharks in these indie waters …

  1. Priscilla
    November 15, 2017

    Aw gee, that sucks. Eh, you don’t need ‘em anyway!

  2. kingmidget
    November 15, 2017

    Would love to know what their criteria is for providing a review. You’re right, it certainly seems that after all that they would only be selecting books they thought were worthy. On the other hand, they probably think they need to publish some negative reviews to maintain credibility. Not saying, of course, that your book deserves such a review. It doesn’t. And meanwhile, two years later, most authors wouldn’t be interested in the review anyway.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      Frankly, I don’t think they really have criteria. It’s probably a frickin’ lottery. A lottery you don’t necessarily want to win.

  3. Priscilla
    November 15, 2017

    Hmm, maybe corporate smearing of words together is because that’s how you type in their website.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      That could be. I’m seeing it more and more these days. BookLife. QueryTracker. TacoBell. (OK, maybe not that last one …)

  4. pinklightsabre
    November 15, 2017

    Aw crap, sorry to hear about that. “BookLife.” Who has time for spaces? Mash it up and create something new!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      Gives new meaning to the term “space saver.” Maybe if you save up enough spaces you can buy a vowel.

  5. Woebegone but Hopeful
    November 15, 2017

    Sorry about your bad experience. Seems the easiest part is writing the book.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      I think you’re right about that! It is what it is, I suppose …

      • Woebegone but Hopeful
        November 15, 2017

        Yeh. I in a lucky position that being retired and just writing for the hell of it, I can take a garage-band approach and go Amazon Kindle.
        Though from harsh lessons years ago, everyone else has my sympathy.

  6. John W. Howell
    November 15, 2017

    Where is the review? I want to comment on it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      I’m not sure where you can view it, but I know it doesn’t support comments. Best left in obscurity, I’d say. 😬

      • John W. Howell
        November 15, 2017

        Okay then. I’m telling you anyone who didn’t rave about Occasional Soulmates is an idiot.

      • Kevin Brennan
        November 15, 2017

        You’re my man, man. Thanks. 😉

  7. Audrey Driscoll
    November 15, 2017

    Search results on “publishers weekly booklife reviews” suggest that others have had similar bad experiences. Looks like another parasite on the indie authors market. We’re a market!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 15, 2017

      Right. And that means we can be exploited. Oh joy. 😐

  8. 1WriteWay
    November 19, 2017

    Well, that royally sucks and sounds more like an exploitation market (as Audrey notes) than a legitimate book review outlet. Maybe they do include “shitty” reviews in order to appear credible but, as a reader, I wouldn’t find such reviews helpful.
    Publishing negative reviews of a hyped book like The Goldfinch makes sense because everyone is hearing about it and critical reviews are necessary. In the case of indie books, all they really need to do is publish critical reviews about books they like because indie books rarely enter the realm of hype. I want to know what might be a good read, not a bad read from the bottomless sea of indies.
    Like you said, it almost sounds like they wouldn’t bother reviewing a novel that didn’t pass their evaluation screening test … and I wonder what that evaluation screen is all about. What made them pick your novel and then give it a negative review????? It doesn’t make sense. Ah … fuck ’em.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 19, 2017

      It sure threw me for a loop. At worst I was expecting a nonspecific summary-type review. Instead, I got thrown under the bus. They said my dialogue sounded unnatural! 😭

      • 1WriteWay
        November 20, 2017

        Oh, that’s just too weird. Makes you wonder about those reviewers. Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey?

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