Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine
targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents.
Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, “The
International News Magazine of
Publishing and Bookselling". With
51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.
The magazine was founded by bibliographer
Frederick Leypoldt in the
late 1860s, and had various titles until Leypoldt settled on the name
The Publishers' Weekly (with an apostrophe) in 1872. The publication
was a compilation of information about newly published books,
collected from publishers and from other sources by Leypoldt, for an
audience of booksellers. By 1876,
Publishers Weekly was being read by
nine tenths of the booksellers in the country. In 1878, Leypoldt sold
The Publishers' Weekly to his friend Richard Rogers Bowker, in order
to free up time for his other bibliographic endeavors. Eventually
the publication expanded to include features and articles.
Harry Thurston Peck
Harry Thurston Peck was the first editor-in-chief of The Bookman,
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.
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 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 (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, 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 for the job, was
hired, and moved with his family to Montclair, New Jersey. He remained
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, and
Anne Carroll Moore, a librarian at the New York Public Library, to
Book Week. When
Bowker died in 1933, Melcher
succeeded him as president of the company; he resigned in 1959 to
become chairman of the board of directors.
Publishers Weekly created the Carey–Thomas Award for
creative publishing, naming it in honor of
Mathew Carey and Isaiah
1 Writers and readers
3 Magazines and mergers
Sara Nelson era
5 Advertising downturn and sale
7 See also
9 External links
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.
The book review section of
Publishers Weekly was added in the early
1940s and grew in importance during the 20th century and through the
present time. It currently offers prepublication reviews of 9,000 new
trade books each year, in a comprehensive range of genres and
including audiobooks and e-books, with a digitized archive of 200,000
reviews. Reviews appear two to four months prior to the publication
date of a book, and until 2014, when PW launched BookLife.com, a
website for self-published books, books already in print were seldom
These anonymous reviews are short, averaging 200–250 words, and it
is not unusual for the review section to run 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. Currently, there are nine reviews editors listed in the
Now titled "Reviews", the review section began life as "Forecasts."
For several years, that title was taken literally; reviews were
followed with italicized comments that attempted to predict a book's
sales success. Genevieve Stuttaford, who greatly expanded the number
of reviews during her tenure as the nonfiction "Forecasts" editor,
joined the PW staff in 1975. Previously, she was a Saturday Review
associate editor, reviewer for
Kirkus Reviews and for 12 years on the
staff of the San Francisco Chronicle. During the 23 years Stuttaford
was with Publishers Weekly, book reviewing was increased from an
average of 3,800 titles a year in the 1970s to well over 6,500 titles
in 1997. She retired in 1998. 
Several notable PW editors stand out for making their mark on the
magazine. Barbara Bannon was the head fiction reviewer during the
1970s and early 1980s, becoming the magazine’s executive editor
during that time and retiring in 1983. She was, notably, the first
reviewer to insist that her name be appended to any blurb of her
reviews, thus drawing attention to herself, to the review and to the
influence of the magazine in predicting a book’s popularity and
Sybil Steinberg came to
Publishers Weekly in the mid 1970s and served
as a reviews editor for 30 years, taking over after Barbara Bannon
retired. Under Steinberg, PW instituted the starred review, a first in
the industry, to indicate books of exceptional merit. She also called
out particular books of merit by starting the practice of boxed
reviews, a precursor to the PW "signature reviews,” boxed reviews
that are attributed to the reviewer. The "Best Books" lists were also
Steinberg’s brainchild, and these lists are still published
annually, usually in November ahead of "Best Books" lists from the New
York Times and other prominent review venues. Steinberg edited the
magazine's author interviews, and beginning in 1992 put together four
anthologies of them in book form, published by the Pushcart Press.
Formerly of InStyle magazine, novelist Louisa Ermelino took the reins
of the PW review section in 2005. Under her watch, the number of
reviews grew once again, to nearly 9,000 per year from 6,500.
In a sea change for the magazine, Ermelino oversaw the integration of
self-published book reviews into the main review section of the
magazine. Review editors vet and assign self-published books for
review, which reviews are then published alongside the reviews of
traditionally published books each week in the magazine.
Publishers Weekly does not charge for self-published book reviews,
bucking a trend within the industry led by
Kirkus Reviews and
Foreword’s Clarion fee-for-review service, both of which offer
independent book reviews in exchange for fees in the hundreds of
Publishers Weekly does syndicate its reviews to a variety of online
retail venues such as Amazon, iBooks, Powell’s Books,
Books-a-Million and others. The reviews are also carried by library
database services such as Baker and Taylor, ProQuest, Bowker, Cengage,
EBSCO and others.
Magazines and mergers
Cover of November 6, 2006
For most of its history, Publishers Weekly, along with the Library
Journal-related titles, were owned by founding publisher R. R. Bowker.
Xerox 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,
Library Journal for four years before stepping in as
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, known for her
publishing columns in the
New York Post
New York Post and The New York Observer.
A senior contributing editor for Glamour, in addition to editorial
positions at Self, Inside.com, and
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
Nelson began to modernize
Publishers Weekly with new features and a
makeover by illustrator and graphic designer Jean-Claude Suares. The
many alterations included added color (with drop shadows 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
The Nelson years were marked by turbulence within the industry as well
as a continuing trend away from serious writing and towards pop
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
The distinction between a trade publication and a general-interest or
consumer magazine is becoming ever more blurred... The magazine might
not be for everybody who buys books... But I do think there is a good
size civilian population that is fascinated by books and the book
business. Find a group of three people, and two of them want to be
writers or have a book idea. Everyone I know belongs to a book group.
There is a crossover population that we should be able to add to the
mix without sacrificing our appeal to people in the book business.
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
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.
On September 22, 2011, PW began a series of weekly podcasts: "Beyond
the Book: PW's Week Ahead".
PW maintains an online archive of past book reviews from January 1991
to the present. The earliest articles posted in PW's online
archive date back to November 1995. A redesigned website was unveiled
on May 10, 2010.
Editor & Publisher
San Francisco Review of Books
Books in the United States
^ "BPA Worldwide 404 Error". bpaww.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
^ "BPA Worldwide 404 Error". bpaww.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
^ a b c d e f g h "
Book Reviews, Bestselling Books & Publishing
Business News - Publishers Weekly". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 12
^ Beswick, Jay W. The Work of Frederick Leypoldt,
Publisher. R. R. Bowker, 1942.
^ a b c Baker, John. "Interview". Wired For Books. Archived from the
original on 2007-03-12.
^ Hackett, Alice P. (1945). 50 Years of Best Sellers and How They
Grew: 1895–1945. R. R. Bowker.
^ a b c Miller, Marilyn Lea (2003). Pioneers and Leaders in Library
Services to Youth: a Biographical Dictionary. Libraries
^ Hansen, Harry (1945). Mildred Smith, ed. "On the Best Definition of
an Editor's Usefulness"". Frederic G. Melcher: Friendly Reminiscences
of a Half Century Among Books and Bookmen. New York: The Book
Publishers’ Bureau. pp. 24–28.
^ "Frederic G. Melcher". Library Journal. April 1, 1963. Archived from
the original on August 21, 2009.
^ "Publishers' Oscar". Time. February 15, 1943. Retrieved December 2,
^ "PW: Stuttaford Retires From 'PW'".
^ "Barbara A. Bannon; Editor, 67". 5 April 1991 – via
^ "Reviews FAQs".
^ "Kirkus Indie Reviews".
^ "Foreword Reviews, "Get Your
^ Motoko Rich (January 26, 2009). "Top Editor at
Publishers Weekly Is
Laid Off". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010. Sara Nelson,
... who was previously a publishing columnist for The New York Post
and worked at The New York Observer
^ Nelson, Sara. So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate
^ Dwight Garner (July 31, 2007). "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". The New
York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2010. a longer, signed piece called a
^ "Quill Awards Are Ended". The New York Times. February 27,
^ a b c d e Edward Wyatt (January 5, 2005). "The Winds of Change Are
Felt at Publishers Weekly". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5,
^ Staci D. Kramer (January 27, 2009). "Reed Tightens The Belt Again:
Layoffs Hit Variety, Multichannel, PW; Wage Freeze; B&C
Shrinking". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 5, 2010. At
Publisher's Weekly, the layoffs include Sara Nelson,
Publishers Weekly – CCC's Beyond the
Book – Part 3".
beyondthebookcast.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
Book Reviews, Bestselling Books &
Publishing Business News –
Publishers Weekly". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 12 April
Hathi Trust. Publishers' Weekly. Digitized issues 1873 – .
Interview on magazine's history
20th Century American Bestsellers
Sybil Steinberg discusses Publishers Weekly
BookLife official site
History of books