Will Newspapers Review Self-Published Books?

Q: The book critic at my local newspaper mentioned in an article that she doesn’t review self-published books. Is this common procedure? Are there any major dailies that do?—Joyann Dwire

A: Some newspapers won’t review self-published books simply because they’re concerned about legal issues. Self-published books aren’t subjected to the rigorous editing process employed by publishing companies, particularly the legal and plagiarism issues that most concern newspapers. Publishing companies do all the legwork and guarantee the book is original, fact-checked and libel-free—after all, their reputation is at stake. And while you may have quadruple-checked your facts, newspapers can’t rest their reputation on your shoulders.

Of course, there may be some snobbery at play at some publications, as the odds of a newspaper being sued over a libelous book review are slimmer than Paris Hilton. But some newspapers insist it’s a legal issue and, like it or not, they have that right.

Not all major papers completely turn their backs on self-published books, though. John Marshall, book critic for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, says that while his paper is hesitant about it, the editors will review them from time to time. “It’s true that self-published books don’t have the editorial screening that commercial presses have,” he says. “But we’re willing to make exceptions. Often the ones we do mention have either sold well or won awards.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s book page content editor, Jim Knippenberg, takes a similar view. “We don’t have a blanket policy,” he says. “It’s on a case-by-case basis. If it’s a recognizable name, like a notable local person, we might review them. In that case, often we’ll do a piece focusing more on the author than the book.”

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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0 thoughts on “Will Newspapers Review Self-Published Books?

  1. Austin Haynes

    I’m in a quandry. When do we submit our works for reviews: when the work is a manuscript awaiting print – or after publication? With my first work, "Tariq-ol Qods – the Road to Jerusalem," I got nos from both ends – "We don’t review [self-published novels] that have already gone to print," and "We don’t review unpublished manuscripts." YERG! Funny, can’t get any bookstore authors to answer this conCISEly either. Can you help?

  2. Kirsten Tautfest

    I just read a review today in our local paper, Stillwater NewsPress (OK). The review was for local author M.E. Cooper’s new true crime book. However, this review was written by the public library columnist and not an on-staff writer. This may be a back door option for getting free press in the local press. Or have a local store host a book signing and write the press release yourself. Our local paper’s business, lifestyle, & local sections in Sunday’s edition are mostly straight press releases written by the business owners or community activists themselves. Good luck!

  3. Marie Pinschmidt

    I self-published my novel and found smaller newspapers receptive to my story. My previous hometown paper (in another state) gave me a story with my photograph (Former resident pens first novel). The Jupiter Courier(Fla)also carried a story with photo and it was picked up on an internet newspaper. It is possible to obtain coverage if you "pick and choose". Advise: follow up on media press releases and give them a reason to consider your work.
    Marie Pinschmidt