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The buck stops over there

griftersAfter seeing some alarming comments on Read Roger and Facebook I feel the need to point out something I thought everybody knew: the Horn Book, like our sisters at SLJ, Booklist,  BCCB and PW, does not charge authors or publishers for book reviews. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus does offer fee-based reviewing services but these are in addition to (and  labelled as such) their regular reviews, which are free. Personally, I think reviews you have to pay for are a waste of money and a source of the worst kind of mischief. [corrected per PW’s Carl Pritzkat; see comment below]

People have also questioned the relationship of advertising pages and review coverage, and this is totally fair game for examination: do advertising dollars buy reviews in a quid pro quo arrangement? Absent the presence of damning emails or something, I think it would be hard to prove either way, because advertisers tend to spend their money in places that are saying nice things about their products. This is not absolute, though: I once heard our wonderful ad director Al tell a marketing director at a Big Five publisher that they should be buying more ad space because we were giving them so many good reviews. Her response? “Sure, but how many of those are starred reviews?” It’s never enough. But, no, at the Horn Book we don’t review (or star) books on the basis of who is buying advertising pages. (We do offer products such as Talks With Roger that are paid for by publishers but are clearly labelled as “sponsored content” and are separate from our review coverage.)

Something I have intuited (or outright heard) from some publishers, large and small, is that they think of reviews as part of their promotion efforts. This makes sense from their point of view, in that they use reviews for marketing purposes. But we don’t work for the publishers, we work for our readers. Smart publishers know that this is in their best interest.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Victoria Stapleton says:

    Some actual real person believes buying ad pages also buys good reviews? Clearly I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.

  2. Another fascinating post about the impact of self-publishing.

    One important correction: Publishers Weekly does not charge to consider self-published titles for review. At the end of May of this year we launched, a program I oversee, which allows self-published authors to submit their books for PW review consideration for free. Reviews of self-published books run along with reviews of traditionally published books in the print and digital editions of PW. Books are chosen based on their merit with no financial consideration.

    Keep up the great conversation.

  3. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Thank you, Carl! I’m sorry for working from old information. I’ve corrected the original post.

  4. Thanks Roger and Carl.

    I had some bad info and posted it in Roger’s previous post. I thought an editor from a publishing house told me that publishers had to pay an annual fee to both Kirkus and PW to be eligible for reviews from them.

    Also, I once paid to get a new book listed in PW Select thinking this was the only way I’d have a chance for a review.

    Good to know I was wrong on both.

  5. I was happy to submit to BookLife and PW, and The Children’s Book Review. I avoided Kirkus because they want $. And the guidelines of so many exclude this Indy author’s work simply because, just like the “do not accept unsolicited submissions” of os many publishers, are exclusive. The only money this selfie pays is postage. 🙂

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