Amazon.com and the Internet have opened up publishing, promotion, sales and distribution avenues for the small press, but one hurdle remains. That is the archaic and mostly inaccessible review system still in place today.
This system is so jurassic that prestigious review organs such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal still require perfect-bound galley proofs. Galley proofs! Nobody’s seen an actual galley for 50 years. And they require these bound proofs at least three months ahead of publication date. Even the Washington Independent Review of Books requires bound galleys at least two months ahead of pub date.
If you’re a small or self-published press, though, you don’t have to worry about this because they aren’t going to accept your book for review. That’s because you lack the credibility that comes from acceptance by an agent and then an establishment publisher. Never mind that these people pander to anyone who has a big name regardless of the quality of their product.
One way you could get this credibility is through good reviews from respected media. And you ain’t gonna get that. See above.
The two or three month requirement before pub date also belongs in the same extinction barrel as the galley proofs. Books can be printed and available for sale in two or three days with current print on demand technology. If it’s ready enough for bound galleys, it’s ready enough for sale.
I suggest an easy answer. Review media should accept finished books when they are available and publish the review when it’s completed regardless of pub date. The publisher can launch the book’s publicity and promotion efforts in line with the review’s publication, but the book could be available before that.
The Independent Book Publishers Association has done much to even the playing field for small, independent and self publishers. Their publishers’ University and other workshops have improved the quality of the books so that many of these publishers’ books can compete on the same level with the big guys.
Reviews are the last hurdle. How can we open up or expand access to credible review media?