Publishers Weekly

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Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly logo.svg
Editorial DirectorJim Milliot
CategoriesTrade magazines
Total circulation
(April 2015)
15,778 [1]
First issue1872;150 years ago (1872)
CompanyPWxyz, LLC
CountryUnited States
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
ISSN 0000-0019

Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, "The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling". With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews. [2]


The magazine was founded by bibliographer Frederick Leypoldt in the late 1860s, and had various titles until Leypoldt settled on the name The Publishers' Weekly (with an apostrophe) in 1872. The publication was a compilation of information about newly published books, collected from publishers and from other sources by Leypoldt, for an audience of booksellers. By 1876, The Publishers' Weekly was being read by nine tenths of the booksellers in the country. In 1878, Leypoldt sold The Publishers' Weekly to his friend Richard Rogers Bowker, in order to free up time for his other bibliographic endeavors. [3] Eventually the publication expanded to include features and articles. [4]

Harry Thurston Peck was the first editor-in-chief of The Bookman , which began in 1895. Peck worked on its staff from 1895 to 1906, and in 1895, he created the world's first bestseller list for its pages. In 1912, Publishers Weekly began to publish its own bestseller lists, patterned after the lists in The Bookman. These were not separated into fiction and non-fiction until 1917, when World War I brought an increased interest in non-fiction by the reading public. [4] [5]

Through much of the 20th century, Publishers Weekly was guided and developed by Frederic Gershom Melcher (1879–1963), who was editor and co-editor of Publishers' Weekly and chairman of the magazine's publisher, R. R. Bowker, over four decades. Born April 12, 1879, in Malden, Massachusetts, Melcher began at age 16 in Boston's Estes & Lauriat Bookstore, where he developed an interest in children's books. [6] He moved to Indianapolis in 1913 for another bookstore job. In 1918, he read in Publishers' Weekly that the magazine's editorship was vacant. He applied to Richard Rogers Bowker for the job, was hired, and moved with his family to Montclair, New Jersey. He remained with R. R. Bowker for 45 years. [6] While at Publishers Weekly, Melcher began creating space in the publication and a number of issues dedicated solely to books for children. [7] In 1919, he teamed with Franklin K. Mathiews, librarian for the Boy Scouts of America, and Anne Carroll Moore, a librarian at the New York Public Library, to create Children’s Book Week. [6] When Bowker died in 1933, Melcher succeeded him as president of the company; he resigned in 1959 to become chairman of the board of directors. [4] [8]

In 1943, Publishers Weekly created the Carey–Thomas Award for creative publishing, naming it in honor of Mathew Carey and Isaiah Thomas. [9]

Writers and readers

In 2008, the magazine's circulation was 25,000. In 2004, the breakdown of those 25,000 readers was given as 6000 publishers; 5500 public libraries and public library systems; 3800 booksellers; 1600 authors and writers; 1500 college and university libraries; 950 print, film and broad media; and 750 literary and rights agents, among others.

Subject areas covered by Publishers Weekly include publishing, bookselling, marketing, merchandising and trade news, along with author interviews and regular columns on rights, people in publishing, and bestsellers. It attempts to serve all involved in the creation, production, marketing and sale of the written word in book, audio, video and electronic formats. The magazine increases the page count considerably for four annual special issues: Spring Adult Announcements, Fall Adult Announcements, Spring Children's Announcements, and Fall Children's Announcements. [2]

Book reviews

The book review section of Publishers Weekly was added in the early 1940s and grew in importance during the 20th century and through the present day.[ when? ] It currently offers prepublication reviews of 9,000 new trade books each year, in a comprehensive range of genres and including audiobooks and e-books, with a digitized archive of 200,000 reviews. Reviews appear two to four months prior to the publication date of a book, and until 2014, when PW launched, a website for self-published books, books already in print were seldom reviewed. [10]

These anonymous reviews are short, averaging 200–250 words, and it is not unusual for the review section to run as long as 40 pages, filling the second half of the magazine. In the past, a book review editorial staff of eight editors assigned books to more than 100 freelance reviewers. Some are published authors, and others are experts in specific genres or subjects. Although it might take a week or more to read and analyze some books, reviewers were paid $45 per review until June 2008, when the magazine introduced a reduction in payment to $25 a review. In a further policy change that month, reviewers received credit as contributors in issues carrying their reviews. Currently, there are nine reviews editors listed in the masthead.

Now titled "Reviews", the review section began life as "Forecasts." For several years, that title was taken literally; reviews were followed with italicized comments that attempted to predict a book's sales success. Genevieve Stuttaford, who greatly expanded the number of reviews during her tenure as the nonfiction "Forecasts" editor, joined the PW staff in 1975. Previously, she was a Saturday Review associate editor, reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and for 12 years on the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle . During the 23 years Stuttaford was with Publishers Weekly, book reviewing was increased from an average of 3,800 titles a year in the 1970s to well over 6,500 titles in 1997. She retired in 1998. [2] [11]

Several notable PW editors stand out for making their mark on the magazine. Barbara Bannon was the head fiction reviewer during the 1970s and early 1980s, becoming the magazine’s executive editor during that time and retiring in 1983. She was, notably, the first reviewer to insist that her name be appended to any blurb of her reviews, thus drawing attention to herself, to the review and to the influence of the magazine in predicting a book's popularity and salability. [12]

Sybil Steinberg came to Publishers Weekly in the mid-1970s and served as a reviews editor for 30 years, taking over after Barbara Bannon retired. Under Steinberg, PW instituted the starred review, a first in the industry, to indicate books of exceptional merit. She also called out particular books of merit by starting the practice of boxed reviews, a precursor to the PW "signature reviews," boxed reviews that are attributed to the reviewer. The "Best Books" lists were also Steinberg’s brainchild, and these lists are still published annually, usually in November ahead of "Best Books" lists from The New York Times and other prominent review venues. Steinberg edited the magazine's author interviews, and beginning in 1992 put together four anthologies of them in book form, published by the Pushcart Press.

Formerly of InStyle magazine, novelist Louisa Ermelino took the reins of the PW review section in 2005. Under her watch, the number of reviews grew once again, to nearly 9,000 per year from 6,500.[ citation needed ]

In a sea change for the magazine, Ermelino oversaw the integration of self-published book reviews into the main review section of the magazine. Review editors vet and assign self-published books for review, which reviews are then published alongside the reviews of traditionally published books each week in the magazine. [13]

Publishers Weekly does not charge for self-published book reviews, bucking a trend within the industry led by Kirkus Reviews and Foreword's Clarion fee-for-review service, both of which offer independent book reviews in exchange for fees in the hundreds of dollars. [14] [15]

Publishers Weekly does syndicate its reviews to a variety of online retail venues such as Amazon, Apple Books, Powell’s Books, Books-a-Million, and others. The reviews are also carried by library database services such as Baker and Taylor, ProQuest, Bowker, Cengage, EBSCO and others.

Magazines and mergers

Cover of November 6, 2006 during Reed Business Information ownership Pw06.jpg
Cover of November 6, 2006 during Reed Business Information ownership

For most of its history, Publishers Weekly, along with the Library Journal -related titles, were owned by founding publisher R. R. Bowker. When Reed Publishing purchased Bowker from Xerox in 1985, it placed Publishers Weekly under the management of its Boston-based Cahners Publishing Company, the trade publishing empire founded by Norman Cahners, which Reed Publishing had purchased in 1977. The merger of Reed with the Netherlands-based Elsevier in 1993 led to many Cahners cutbacks amid takeover turmoil. Nora Rawlinson, who once headed a $4 million book selection budget at the Baltimore County Library System, edited Library Journal for four years before stepping in as editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly from 1992 to 2005.

Sara Nelson era

Beginning January 24, 2005, the magazine came under the direction of a new editor-in-chief, veteran book reviewer Sara Nelson, known for her publishing columns in the New York Post and The New York Observer . [16] A senior contributing editor for Glamour , in addition to editorial positions at Self,, and Book Publishing Report, she had gained attention and favorable reviews as the author of So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading (Putnam, 2003), in which she stirred a year's worth of reading into a memoir mix of her personal experiences after a New Year's resolution to read a book each week. [17]

Nelson began to modernize Publishers Weekly with new features and a makeover by illustrator and graphic designer Jean-Claude Suares. The many alterations included added color (with drop shadows behind color book covers), Nelson's own weekly editorial, illustrated bestseller lists, and "Signature", [18] longer boxed reviews written by well-known novelists. The switch to a simple abbreviated logo of initials effectively changed the name of the magazine to PW, the name long used for the magazine within the book industry. [2]

She also introduced the magazine's Quill Awards, with nominees in 19 categories selected by a nominating board of 6,000 booksellers and librarians. Winners were determined by the reading public, who could vote at kiosks in Borders stores or online at the Quills site. Reed Business dropped the Quill Awards in 2008. [19]

In the past, the front covers of Publishers Weekly were used to display advertisements by book publishers, and this policy was changed to some degree in 2005. Although new PW covers now feature illustrations and photographs tied to interior articles, these covers are often hidden behind a front cover foldout advertisement. The visual motif of each cover is sometimes repeated on the contents page. [2]

The Nelson years were marked by turbulence within the industry as well as a continuing trend away from serious writing and towards pop culture. Publishers Weekly had enjoyed a near monopoly over the past decades, but it was getting vigorous competition from Internet sites, e-mail newsletters, and daily newspapers. [20] The industry was consolidating. Many independent booksellers, who had been breadandbutter clients of Publishers Weekly, were going out of business. [20] Paid circulation dropped by 3,000 to 25,000 in the mid-2000s, [20] Nelson pushed for significant changes towards modernization, greater use of the Web, and more focus on analytical reporting, but she was contending with economic forces working against the book buying market, [20] problems she addressed in a 2005 interview:

The distinction between a trade publication and a general-interest or consumer magazine is becoming ever more blurred... The magazine might not be for everybody who buys books... But I do think there is a good size civilian population that is fascinated by books and the book business. Find a group of three people, and two of them want to be writers or have a book idea. Everyone I know belongs to a book group. There is a crossover population that we should be able to add to the mix without sacrificing our appeal to people in the book business. [20]

Advertising downturn and sale

In 2008, faced with a decline in advertising support, Reed's management sought a new direction. In January 2009, Sara Nelson was dismissed along with executive editor Daisy Maryles, who had been with PW for more than four decades. Stepping in as editorial director was Brian Kenney, editorial director of School Library Journal and Library Journal. [2] The dismissals, which sent shockwaves through the industry, were widely covered in newspapers. [21]

In April 2010, George W. Slowik Jr., a former publisher of the magazine, purchased Publishers Weekly from Reed Business Information, under the company PWxyz, LLC. Cevin Bryerman remained as publisher along with co-editors Jim Milliot and Michael Coffey. [2]

On September 22, 2011, PW began a series of weekly podcasts: "Beyond the Book: PW's Week Ahead". [22]


PW maintains an online archive of past book reviews from January 1991 to the present. [23] The earliest articles posted in PW's online archive date back to November 1995. A redesigned website was unveiled on May 10, 2010. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing Business News - Publishers Weekly". Archived from the original on April 11, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  3. Beswick, Jay W. The Work of Frederick Leypoldt, Bibliographer and Publisher. R. R. Bowker, 1942.
  4. 1 2 3 Baker, John. "Interview". Wired For Books. Archived from the original on March 12, 2007.
  5. Hackett, Alice P. (1945). 50 Years of Best Sellers and How They Grew: 1895–1945. R. R. Bowker.
  6. 1 2 3 Miller, Marilyn Lea (2003). Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth: a Biographical Dictionary. Libraries Unlimited.
  7. Hansen, Harry (1945). Smith, Mildred (ed.). "On the Best Definition of an Editor's Usefulness"". Frederic G. Melcher: Friendly Reminiscences of a Half Century Among Books and Bookmen. New York: The Book Publishers’ Bureau. pp. 24–28.
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  9. "Publishers' Oscar". Time . February 15, 1943. Archived from the original on December 7, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  10. "BookLife - Resources and tools for book publishers and writers". Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  11. "PW: Stuttaford Retires From 'PW'". Publishers Weekly. Vol. 244, no. 28. July 13, 1998. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016.
  12. "Barbara A. Bannon; Editor, 67". The New York Times. April 5, 1991. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017.
  13. "Reviews FAQs". Archived from the original on June 19, 2016.
  14. "Kirkus Indie Reviews". Archived from the original on September 19, 2016.
  15. "Foreword Reviews, 'Get Your Book Reviewed'". Archived from the original on April 12, 2016.
  16. Rich, Motoko (January 26, 2009). "Top Editor at Publishers Weekly Is Laid Off". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 7, 2010. Retrieved October 5, 2010. Sara Nelson, ... who was previously a publishing columnist for The New York Post and worked at The New York Observer
  17. Nelson, Sara (2004). So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. ISBN   9780425198193.
  18. Garner, Dwight (July 31, 2007). "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010. a longer, signed piece called a 'signature' review
  19. "Quill Awards Are Ended". The New York Times. February 27, 2008. Archived from the original on April 28, 2018.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 Wyatt, Edward (January 5, 2005). "The Winds of Change Are Felt at Publishers Weekly". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  21. Kramer, Staci D. (January 27, 2009). "Reed Tightens The Belt Again: Layoffs Hit Variety, Multichannel, PW; Wage Freeze; B&C Shrinking". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2010. At Publisher's Weekly[ sic ], the layoffs include Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief...
  22. "Publishers Weekly – CCC's Beyond the Book – Part 3". Archived from the original on April 12, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  23. "Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing Business News – Publishers Weekly". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2015.

Further reading

  1. "Publishers Weekly 1903". 1903.