Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 weekly trade news magazine targeted at publisher
Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature or information—the activity of making information available to the general public...

s, librarian
A librarian is an information professional trained in library and information science, which is the organization and management of information services or materials for those with information needs...

s, bookseller
Bookselling is the commercial trading of books, the retail and distribution end of the publishing process. People who engage in bookselling are called booksellers or bookmen.-Bookstores today:...

s and literary agent
Literary agent
A literary agent is an agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers and film producers and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same. Literary agents most often represent novelists, screenwriters and major non-fiction writers...

s. Published continuously for the past 138 years, 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 review
Book review
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review could be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. It is often carried out in periodicals, as school work, or on the internet. Reviews are also often...


First published in 1872, the magazine began as The Publishers' Weekly (with an apostrophe), a collective catalog for publishers to pool their resources. That listing of books enabled booksellers to learn about forthcoming titles, and eventually the publication expanded to include features and articles.

Harry Thurston Peck
Harry Thurston Peck
Harry Thurston Peck was an American classical scholar, author, editor, and critic.-Biography:Peck was born in Stamford, Conn. He was educated in private schools and at Columbia College, graduating in 1881, where his literary gifts attracted wide attention...

 was the first editor-in-chief of The Bookman
The Bookman (New York)
The Bookman was a literary journal established in 1895 by Dodd, Mead and Company. It drew its name from the phrase, "I am a Bookman," by James Russell Lowell; the phrase regularly appeared on the cover and title page of the bound edition. It was purchased in 1918 by the George H. Doran Company. In...

, 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
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 brought an increased interest in non-fiction by the reading public.

Through much of the 20th century, Publishers Weekly was guided and developed by Frederic Gershom Melcher
Frederic G. Melcher
Frederic G. Melcher was an American publisher, bookseller, editor and major contributor to the library science field and book industry. He is particularly known for his contributions to the children’s book genre, including the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal...

 (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
Malden, Massachusetts
Malden is a suburban city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 59,450 at the 2010 census. In 2009 Malden was ranked as the "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in Massachusetts by Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine.-History:...

, Melcher began at age 16 in Boston's Estes & Lauriat Bookstore, where he developed an interest in children's books. 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
Richard Rogers Bowker
Richard Rogers Bowker was a journalist, editor of Publishers Weekly and Harper's Magazine, and founder of the R.R. Bowker Company.-Early life & Education:...

 for the job, was hired and moved with his family to Montclair, New Jersey
Montclair, New Jersey
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 38,977 people, 15,020 households, and 9,687 families residing in the township. The population density was 6,183.6 people per square mile . There were 15,531 housing units at an average density of 2,464.0 per square mile...

. He remained with R.R. Bowker for 45 years. While at Publishers Weekly, Melcher began creating space in the publication and a number of issues dedicated solely to books for children. In 1919, he teamed with Franklin K. Mathiews, librarian for the Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

, and Anne Carroll Moore, a librarian at the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the largest public library in North America and is one of the United States' most significant research libraries...

, to create Children’s Book Week. When Bowker died in 1933, Melcher succeeded him as president of the company, resigning in 1959 to become chairman of the board of directors.

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.

Book reviews

The book review section, not added until the early 1940s, grew in importance over the past half-century, and it currently offers opinions on 7,000 new books each year. Since reviews are scheduled to appear one month or two months prior to the publication date of a book, books already in print are seldom reviewed. These anonymous reviews are short, often no more than 220 words, and the review section can be 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.

Now titled "Reviews," the review section was once called "Forecasts." For several years, that title was taken literally when a review was followed with italicized sentences that attempted to predict a book's success. The "Forecasts" editor for many years was Genevieve Stuttaford, who greatly expanded the number of reviews. She joined the PW staff in 1975, after a period as a Saturday Review associate editor, reviewing for Kirkus Reviews and spending 12 years on the San Francisco Chronicle staff. During the 23 years Stuttaford was with Publishers Weekly, book reviewing was increased from an average of 3800 titles a year in the 1970s to well over 6500 titles in 1997. She retired in 1998. Former "Forecasts" editor Sybil Steinberg, who began reviewing for Publishers Weekly in 1976, later edited Writers and Their Craft: Interviews from Publishers Weekly (2003) and other books about writing.

Some PW critics are actually well-known writers. Katharine Weber
Katharine Weber
Katharine Weber is an American novelist.Weber was born in New York City. She grew up in the Forest Hills Gardens section of Queens, New York. She attended The Kew-Forest School and Forest Hills High School before attending the Freshman Year Program at The New School for Social Research in 1972...

 was an anonymous PW reviewer before she became an acclaimed novelist. Texas novelist Clay Reynolds, in The Texas Institute of Letters Newsletter (February, 2004), gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the policies of PW and other review publications:
You were right on the money with regard to the impact reviews in Publishers Weekly (PW), Library Journal (LJ), Kirkus Review (KR) and the New York Times Book Review (NYTBR) have on publishers and sales; what you may not know is that I also write or have written for all of them. I’m approaching 700 reviews, by the way. I no longer write for KR and LJ, as their policies forbid anyone from writing for PW or one of the others (except the NYTBR), and the work they offered was steadier and more reliable. I’ve now done 87 reviews for PW (given three stars in all that time). For years, Sybil Steinberg was the Forecasts Fiction Editor there, but she retired about two years ago, and the position was taken over by Deena Croog [wrong: Deena was an editorial assistant; Jeff Zaleski succeeded Sybil Steinberg]. Sybil ran a tight ship and taut operation. Deena, who sounds as if she’s about 13, is a little less well organized, but she’s a tougher nut to crack in some ways. What’s interesting about the PW reviews, though, is that copy is sometimes altered before printing. On a few occasions, I’ve had opinions utterly reversed from what I wrote. I’ve questioned this, but I’ve never received satisfactory answers. I keep doing it because it’s good work and satisfies the university administration. I’m thinking of “retiring,” though, when I hit number 100.

In 1967, F. G. Melcher's son, David Melcher, explained what happened to the thousands of review copies sent to PW:
Needless to say, our house was always full of books, some of which became mine, but some of which were birds of passage which I had to read rapidly before they were taken back to the office. People often ask what happens to all the review copies received at the office of the Publishers' Weekly. They are worked rather hard actually, as I early became aware. Until they have served their intended purpose of being listed, forecast, reviewed, and commented upon, they stay on the working shelves and are taken out, if at all, only overnight or over the weekend. Later they become available for staff borrowing. Finally, they are divided up among the staff.

Before the use of e-mail, reviewers were given paper lined for a character count. They then made two carbon copies, kept one copy and mailed in the other copy along with the original typed on the lined paper. For years, freelance reviewers were instructed to return bound galleys
Galley proof
In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic...

 after the review was written, but beginning in 2005, reviewers were allowed to keep those advance reading copies
Advance copy
As a marketing tool, publishers provide free copies of new titles to booksellers, journalists and even celebrities.Such books are variously referred to as readers editions, an advance copy, an advance reading copy, ARC or ARE...


Magazines and mergers

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
Reed Business Information
Reed Business Information is a large business publisher in the United States, United Kingdom, continental Europe, Australia and Asia, often referred to as RBI...

 purchased Bowker from Xerox
Xerox Corporation is an American multinational document management corporation that produced and sells a range of color and black-and-white printers, multifunction systems, photo copiers, digital production printing presses, and related consulting services and supplies...

 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
Sara Nelson
Sara Nelson is an American publishing industry figure who is an editor and book reviewer and consultant and columnist and who is currently the book editor at Oprah's O Magazine. Nelson is notable for having been editor in chief at the book industry's chief trade publication Publishers Weekly from...

, known for her publishing columns in the New York Post
New York Post
The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and is generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, although – as is the case with most other papers – its publication has been periodically interrupted by labor actions...

 and The New York Observer. A senior contributing editor for Glamour
Glamour (magazine)
Glamour is a women's magazine published by Condé Nast Publications. Founded in 1939 in the United States, it was originally called Glamour of Hollywood....

, 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.

Nelson began to modernize Publishers Weekly with new features and a makeover by illustrator and graphic designer Jean-Claude Suares
Jean-Claude Suarès
Jean-Claude Suares is a designer of books, magazines, and newspapers. Presently working with Inc., Fast Company, Variety, and Publishers Weekly.-Magazines:...

. The many alterations included added color (with drop shadow
Drop shadow
In computer graphics, a drop shadow is a visual effect consisting of drawing that looks like the shadow of an object, giving the impression that the object is raised above the objects behind it. The drop shadow is often used for elements of a graphical user interface such as windows or menus, and...

s behind color book covers), Nelson's own weekly editorial, illustrated bestseller lists and "Signature," 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.

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.

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.

The Nelson years were marked by turbulence within the industry as well as a continuing trend away from serious writing and towards pop culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

. 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. The industry was consolidating. Many independent booksellers, who had been bread–and–butter clients of Publishers Weekly, were going out of business. Paid circulation dropped by 3,000 to 25,000 in the mid 2000s, 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. problems she addressed in a 2005 interview:

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. The dismissals, which sent shockwaves through the industry, were widely covered in newspapers.

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.


PW maintains an online archive of past book reviews from February 2001 to the present. The earliest articles posted in PWs online archive date back to 1995. A redesigned website was unveiled on May 10, 2010, and some reviews now are published online only as "web exclusives".

See also

  • Booklist
    Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages. It is geared toward libraries and booksellers and is available in print or online...

  • Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher is a monthly magazine covering the North American newspaper industry. It is based in New York City. E&P calls itself "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" and describes itself on its website as "the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North...

  • ForeWord
    ForeWord (magazine)
    ForeWord is a trade journal published six times yearly with the tagline, “Reviews of Good Books Independently Published.” The magazine is distributed primarily to librarians and booksellers to familiarize them with upcoming books from small, independent, and university presses, as well as...

  • Kirkus Reviews
    Kirkus Reviews
    Kirkus Reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus . Kirkus serves the book and literary trade sector, including libraries, publishers, literary and film agents, film and TV producers and booksellers. Kirkus Reviews is published on the first and 15th of each month...

  • Library Journal
    Library Journal
    Library Journal is a trade publication for librarians. It was founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey . It reports news about the library world, emphasizing public libraries, and offers feature articles about aspects of professional practice...

  • San Francisco Review of Books
    San Francisco Review of Books
    San Francisco Review of Books was a book review periodical published from the mid-1970s to 1997 in the Bay Area. Founding editor-publisher Ronald Nowicki launched his publication April 1975, a time when the San Francisco Chronicle depended on the wire services for its reviews...

  • School Library Journal
    School Library Journal
    The School Library Journal is a monthly magazine with articles and reviews for school librarians, media specialists, and public librarians who work with young people. Articles cover a wide variety of topics, with a focus on technology and multimedia. Reviews are included for preschool to 4th grade,...

External links

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