PW Select Book Listing: Another tremendous waste of money

Don't waste your money paying for a book listing on PW Select

Don’t waste your money paying for a book listing on PW Select. You might as well throw that cash in the trash.

One of my goals on this blog is to share my self-publishing mistakes so you don’t repeat them yourself.

I’ve already discussed the importance of spending your money wisely with my article on Kirkus Reviews. Another money-waster on the list is paying for a book listing with PW Select.

Here’s my reasons why…

On the surface, PW Select looks like a promotional gem for independent authors.

PW Select is a quarterly journal published by Publishers Weekly.

So for $150.00 you get name brand listing in a publication dedicated solely to indie & self-published authors. Not only that, but approximately 20 to 25 percent of the listed books also get a review! So basically you have a one-in-five chances of getting a book review by Publishers Weekly for a third of the price of Kirkus Reviews!

“Finally!” I thought, “This might be the break I needed! A book industry name that gets it and can give me the recognition and publicity my book needs to succeed!”

Except, once I received my “complimentary” copies of PW Select this year, this is what I saw:

PW-Select-Amidst-Traffic-Listing-007 copy

PW-Select-Amidst-Traffic-Listing-005 copy

Those two paragraphs is all I got for my money, and they didn’t even include a cover image of my book, which I’d provided.

This issue printed 215 book listings, and only a select few included a cover image with their title.

The worst part is that PW Select charges a fee to access their information online, including this book listing. So there’s only the tiniest of chances of anyone stumbling upon my book listing online.

Who in the world was actually going to discover my book in the magazine?

I’ll tell you who: other advertisers.

All sellers and no buyers.

In the weeks following my PW Select listing, I didn’t sell a single copy of “Amidst Traffic.” Not in paper and not digital. Nothing.

I did receive two emails from people who had seen my listing, but both of those emails were from advertising reps trying to sell me ads in other book-promotion magazines. Are you crazy? I just spent money to advertise my book only to get offered to spend more money?

How did PW Select make out, on the other hands?

Let’s look at it from a mathematical standpoint: $150 per listing x 215 listings = $32,250

They made out with THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS in listings alone (not including advertising space) on this single issue.

That’s before selling a single subscription to the magazine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge anyone who has a strong business model that can make a killer amount of money. That’s what the American Dream is all about. But my problem with those figures is that PW Select doesn’t have much of an incentive for drumming up readership, which means, not many people actually see the listings they’ve printed.

Follow me for a minute.

Usually magazines generate advertising sales by showing that lots of people will see their advertising. So the goal is to get as many readers as possible so they can charge more for their ad space. But in this case, the “advertisers” are independent authors who pay for their $150 listing based on Publishers Weekly’s reputation. Indie Authors don’t look at the readership numbers (though they should).

So this listing model is an absolute win for PW Select, but a complete waste of money for the majority of the listing authors (specifically those who didn’t get a cover image or a review).

Again, the book review was never a guarantee, but for $32,000 the least PW could do is include a cover image for each book listing.


How to better spend that money:

If I could do it all over again, I would have taken that $150.00 and invested in either in advertising space on (at least there, your ads reach readers directly), or on book giveaways.


What about you?

Have you ever listed your book with PW Select? What was the response your book received?

About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer


  1. Two years ago (said because I don’t know if PW’s policy has changed), one could send two copies of your self-published book along with your $150 check and take a chance that (a) it would be reviewed at all, and (b) if reviewed, the notice would positive.

    My novel, Getting Oriented, was reviewed positively as well as being in the listings. Most of the 35 reviews (of 128 listings) seemed generally positive, but I don’t know if that’s because the anonymous review(s) screened out all the crap before choosing the books to review or if she was pulling her punches. In any event, I’ve been quoting PW ever since and will do so on the jacket of the novel I’ll be publishing in a month or so.

    Your post about Kirkus, however, with the other citations is invaluable. Thank you.

    Wally Wood

  2. What kind of sales and figures did you receive after PW Select reviewed your book?

  3. Your comments re: Kirkus and PW are very helpful. Thank you and best of luck!


  4. Thank you, Michael, for this useful information. I’ll make note of it and not advertise in PW. It’s a challenging game trying to promote our indie books…but I love writing, and I’ll keep trying.
    Thanks again.
    Happy Writing, Happy Promoting!

  5. After my experience with PW Select, I just sent the following email to them:

    I received the PW Select supplement. I have some feedback that I’d like you to please pass on to the people in charge of PW Select.

    I first contacted you to ask if a book that had been published in paperback a number of years ago, before PW considered self-published books, could still be considered for a review if the Kindle version had just come out. You said yes. So, I thought my book had a good chance of being reviewed because it had won an award and received many positive reviews. Otherwise, I would not have taken the $149 gamble. It was all for the possible review, not the listing. Your site says your “mission is to find the undiscovered gems out there.” I read all the reviews in the December PW Select, and most of them were negative. It seems to me that if the editors were really trying to find the undiscovered gems, they would have reviewed a book that had indications of being an undiscovered gem—a book that had won an award and received many positive reviews from other review publications but was still undiscovered because the author/publisher had next to no marketing budget. Instead, it seems that the editors chose to review mostly books that they did not consider to be gems. I will not be recommending your service to fellow authors, as it appears that in most cases one pays $149 for either no review or a negative review. I have to agree with the following article that it’s a waste of money:


  6. And just as this article says, I have now received an email from an ad rep referring to my listing in PW Select and offering to sell me an ad in another magazine.

  7. I tried this for S&G’s and PW gave ANONYMOUS a starred review in its Fiction Section. With the name being ANONYMOUS it was the first review on PW’s syndication list (purely coincidental). It hasn’t been three weeks since it came out and I’ve seen the doors open. A movie rights company contacted me for securing the movie/TV rights the next day. Local bookstores are asking me to do book signings and wanting to carrying it. I admit you have to pimp it out after but leading with part of the review has definitely helped. Sorry others have not had the same experience.

    • Hey Jason, that’s really wonderful and you probably deserve the praise and attention. In your case, of course, it was worth the risk and the rewards will be great. It is really hard to gauge the success a book might have with a PW submission. My recommendation is to get a better field of reviews elsewhere first, and then invest in the big name reviewers once reviews have been positive elsewhere.

      Is your book self published? If so, I might pick it up and review it on my website.

  8. Hi;
    Thanks for this article. I was ready to pull the trigger on a PW Select campaign. With a shoestring promo budget I must spend wisely. I think I will look elsewhere.
    R. Steven Page

    • I think you made the right move to hold off. Get some reviews elsewhere first, and if they’re positive then you can use them to pitch your book to get highlighted for review by PW Select. They’re money fiends, which is kinda the business.

  9. Dear Michel!
    Thank you so much for your articles – very helpful!
    Unfortunately, I’ve already submitted my book for the PW Select listing (which is still supposed to appear this month). I had a feeling that it was going to be a waste of money… Looks like I was right.
    But at least I found your website in time to change my mind about the Kirkus review! :) I’ll follow your advise to go for 5 instead of 1 😉
    Best regards,

    • I’m so glad you found this article. It seems a popular one and hopefully one that has saved other authors a bunch of money. I feel grateful that at least my foolish spending has helped others make a wiser decision!

  10. Thank you for this information. I am SO glad I found this site before I started dropping hoards of hard earned cash on reviews that don’t offer much bang for the buck.

    The publisher I went with (Outskirts Press) pushes those Kirkus reviews to the tune of 599.00 for a guaranteed review. It seemed like a lot for a little and now I feel validated. My book is on health and wellness, and I am looking for reviews in this genre if anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

    Many thanks

  11. I recently purchased two ads in PW Select because I trusted Publishers Weekly’s reputation. That was a big mistake! When the ads were revealed in the online edition, the links in the ads led to a page saying they had no information at all about my books, which was dead wrong. I complained to PW Select about this. I checked the ads again two weeks later and saw they had “improved” the linked pages by providing the alleged name of the publisher (no cover image, of course). My publisher is Createspace, and they had listed one of the books as being published by “Shelf Pub.” and the other as self-published, which is incorrect. I waited weeks to receive my paper copies of PW Select, and when they failed to arrive, I called customer service and was told there is no record of my existence in the database. I did not get what I paid for. Stay away from PW Select!

  12. Thanks for your great posts on reviews and pursuing the self-publishing route. I’ve experienced many of the things you’ve talked about. I made a list once of all the marketing I’ve done, and I was surprised at how long the list was! I attended a marketing class where the teacher said number of books is the key, and who cares about quality? That did not resonate with me! So what if 50 Shades of Grey made a gazillion dollars? I would be embarrassed to have my name on a book like that. My plan is to keep learning, to become an increasingly better writer who writes quality books- the same path it looks like you’re following. I downloaded your short story collection and look forward to reading it.

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