Consider this an open thread.
When not working on The Beat, as longtime readers know, I edit the comics reviews for Publishers Weekly, among other duties there. And of late I’ve been trying to figure out what to to with digital review copies.
Up until recently, I had a pretty hard and fast rule about only sending out books to reviewers that were actual books or galleys (with a few planned exceptions.) It seemed to me that if you couldn’t afford to at least send out a handful of xeroxes or books to major review sources, you weren’t that serious about publishing. While that may seem a tad draconian to some, the other reason is just logistics: we get dozens of books a week, and have a couple dozen reviewers, and keeping track of everything is very important. It’s simply too easy to lose a pdf file or a link in an email unless you have a very careful, natural system in place.
Plus, I’ve polled my reviewers several times, and most of them prefer to review from printed copies.
The reason this is even an issue is that PW only reviews ADVANCE copies of books. Few comics publishers can afford galleys of any but the most important books, and getting the books in advance is always a race against the calendar.
But of late, what with tablets and the digital revolution, it seems like digital review copies are the norm.
But how to get them out to reviewers?
Just forward the emails? But some include FTP sites that perhaps not everyone should have access to.
Others include dozens of books that not every reviewer should have.
Lately I’ve been seeing links to Issuu galleys. (Issuu is the “YouTube” of magazines, which allows you to embed an entire magazine which you can awkwardly flip through using your mouse or arrows.)
Which is all so confusing. A book book just sits on the shelf until you do something with it. Unlike links and downloadable comics which disappear, expire or just get lost in the morass of a giant inbox.
The idea of sitting there and downloading a lot of digital files and then uploading and resending those same giant files just doesn’t appeal to me. Do I need to set up my OWN FTP site?
And what about piracy?
As we enter the digital age, the question of digital review copies is a pertinent one. I spoke with a few of my colleagues (just to make sure I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t gotten the memo about all this) and it sounds like everyone has some kind of somewhat complicated system. After listening to various suggestions, they all sound like MORE work for me, believe it or not. As one person put it, “It mirrors the whole digital comics world,” which is a jigsaw puzzle of competing formats and delivery methods.
What do you think, peanut gallery? Is there a standard procedure people have figured out?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.