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 TheSeattle 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.
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