Are Prepub Reviews Irrelevant?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


In today’s lead story about the demise of Kirkus Reviews, former Kirkus managing director Jerome Kramer asks “whether the industry still needs advance reviews the way it used to?” Kirkus was known among the major journals that published pre-pub reviews—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist—as the “mean” one. Kirkus didn’t sugarcoat its reviews, which may, in the end, have been part of the problem. (The New York Observer quotes a number of agents who are particularly pleased with the publication’s demise.)

What utility does a prepub review—particularly, a negative one—hold for the trade any longer? Often, by the time the reviews appear, the booksellers have most likely already ordered stock for the season. What’s more, books are returnable, so if the book is a disappointment, they can simply return it. And booksellers, these days, typically get the books just early as the pre-pub review outlets and are just as likely to have read a books by the time the prepub review comes out. A negative one? Heck, the bookseller might just disagree.

Librarians, on the other hand, don’t have the option to return a book that turns out to be a disappointment. With limited budgets, they need to be even more careful in their buying, and whatever knowledge they can glean about a book is valuable. But still…if librarians are the last remaining audience, that’s not a very viable one for a long-term business.

The question is, beyond their obvious utility to the marketing and publicity departments at publishers—who can at the very least use a prepub review for a blurb for the dust jacket on a new book—what’s the use of the prepub review?

Let us know what you think in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppbonus.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.