Since our inception in 1998, Foreword Reviews has never strayed from its mission to help booksellers and librarians discover great books from indie presses. At a time when the trade media devoted nearly all its attention on the larger corporate publishers like Random House and Simon & Schuster, the debut of Foreword Reviews introduced a new stream of quality reviews of independently published books to the wholesalers and distributors where booksellers and librarians order their books. The United States has always recognized the importance of a fiercely independent press—one that embraces freedom of thought, multiculturalism, religious diversity, and an understanding that profit motive shouldn’t be the only criteria used when deciding whether to publish a book. The fact that Foreword’s business model was built around indie presses caused many heads to turn in the book industry.
Foreword Reviews is dedicated to the “art” of book reviewing. With a review team of talented writers who are experts in their fields, our book-industry journal is designed for a discerning readership—in recognition of the fact that quality paper, generous use of white space, and creative design encourages a time investment by readers.
Foreword’s reviews are not annotated summaries of books. Instead, they are insightful critiques, robust in length and thoughtful. That is why our readership loves us so much. And why our reviews are licensed to wholesalers like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bowker, Cengage, Ebsco, and others. Librarians use databases of reviews provided by these wholesalers or distributors to choose books for their stacks. It is unusual for them to shop outside of these vendors, and having a review attached to a book is almost always a minimum requirement for a sale, especially at public libraries.
Thanks to the loyal support of scores of indie presses—from established publishers smaller than “the big five,” to university presses, and even some self-published authors—Foreword Reviews is primarily supported by advertising revenues, not expensive annual subscriptions or newsstand sales. The endorsement of these publishers has kept our message vital to a loyal and growing group of booksellers and librarians, distributors and wholesalers, who don’t just want to offer a media-driven list of bestsellers to their customers and patrons. Foreword’s foundation was built on reviewing literary fiction, poetry, children’s picture books, translations, and topics like climate change, diversity, and multiculturalism. Most importantly, we strive to promote voices that are unheard, overlooked, or even silenced.
Foreword has a quality blend of readers including ABA IndieBound affiliated bookstores (these are some of the best indie booksellers in the country) who receive the magazine in their monthly boxes; the small press buying department at Barnes & Noble; the small press buyers at Costco; librarian subscribers including public library districts in the country’s largest cities: LA, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, and Detroit. Subscribers are required to sign a request form stating they want the magazine.
Trade advertising and/or reviews are critical to indie presses. If a small publisher begins a publicity campaign to the consumer market, and succeeds in creating demand for the book, but the book is not available through industry pipelines (wholesalers and distributors), their efforts are for naught.
In the late 1990s, when Foreword launched, indie presses were rarely covered by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal. In fact, during publishing conferences like the Independent Book Publishing Association and PubWest, review personnel from these magazines often openly discouraged audience members from sending their books in for review! Soon after our debut, some of the most prestigious literary presses started to get coverage in PW and the other magazines. Some of these presses included Milkweed, Grove Atlantic, Algonquin for fiction and Sourcebooks, Workman, Amacom and some university presses for nonfiction. Not surprisingly, after budgets at the big-five publishers started drying up, and after years of seeing Foreword supported by the very presses they were ignoring, the industry review journals started to cover indies with more flourish.
In the past, “indie” mostly meant self-published authors. Now indie means anyone not published by HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Hachette. Larger indie presses include Bloomsbury, Sourcebooks, WW Norton, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oxford University, and a dozen or so others.
Indies are not for everyone. Foreword is not for everyone. There are many booksellers who are only able to stay alive because they dedicate themselves to trying to keep up with the chains and stocking bestsellers. Same holds true for smaller libraries. But Foreword is essential for the librarians and indie booksellers who are working to establish themselves as a special place in their communities. They value what indie presses are doing in literature: quality assured by editorial teams who are all about keeping the art of publishing alive.
Clarion, a fee for review service, was introduced to the publishing industry by Foreword in 2001. It got huge publicity, because people were appalled that we would let people pay for the right to be reviewed. They assumed everyone who paid would get a good review. Of course, this was not the case, and not only did this create a shift in the industry, but opened doors to many self-published or indie books that were overlooked for review. In fact, it created another industry. Now, BlueInk, Kirkus, even Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly provide some type of fee for review.
Foreword is a Purple Cow business. A Blue Ocean Business. We cause a ruckus and want to be known for change-making. We don’t do what everyone else is doing. We are customer-service driven. Our name stands for quality, integrity, commitment, with a bias for action.