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 Book 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 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. 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 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 for the job, was hired, and moved with his family to Montclair, New Jersey. 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, and Anne Carroll Moore, a librarian at the New York Public Library, to create Children’s 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.
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.
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 purchased Bowker from 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, 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, known for her publishing columns in the New York Post and The New York Observer. A senior contributing editor for Glamour, in addition to editorial positions at Self, Inside.com, 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. 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 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. 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:
|“||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 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.
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.