February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, November 15, 2014 Issue

“I was determined to [self-publish] a book that rivaled… traditionally published books because I agree that the quality from the trade has dropped way down”


I spent ten years working on my first novel and then, when it was done, suffered through another 18 months of agonized indecision before deciding to begin my own publishing business to put it out myself (James LaRue, “The Next Wave of Tech Change,” Self-Publishing & Libraries, LJ 10/1/14, p. 47).

Instead of an advance, I got a big debt. I was determined to put out a book that rivaled (or even bettered) traditionally published books because I agree that the quality from the trade has dropped way down and I wasn’t willing to sell the rights to my book. My historical novel, The Clever Mill Horse, has been out for several months now and just won the 2014 James River Writers Self-Published Novel Award….

We need more independent groups assessing the quality of self-published books (I’ll look into sending mine to Indie­BRAG!), but I’d also like to mention the situation with the top five review journals, four of which either (largely) refuse to review self-published books or else make self-pub authors pay a hefty fee for a ­review.

Library Journal is one of the ones that pretty much refuses to review self-pub books but happily does free reviews for trade-­published books. I understand this is about lack of resources for managing massive stacks of books, however, this isn’t a reason to continue with this inequitable system that favors one set of publishers over another and prevents review of the better self-pubbed books.

We need to speak up to the review journals to come up with a better system!

—Jodi Lew-Smith, Hardwick, VT

ED. NOTE: LJ doesn’t charge for reviews and never has. Yes, more reviews of the better self-published books are needed, though we recently ran a starred review of a self-published book, which then found a contract. Massive stacks of books are an issue, but they’re not the only one. It is difficult for us to assess these materials ahead of publication, which is what librarians need. It’s often difficult for libraries to buy these titles as the authors are not set up to accept the payment methods that libraries must offer. There’s no point in reviewing something that can’t be bought. The physical durability of self-published volumes is an issue; libraries need materials that will last. Self-published ­ebooks stand a better chance; in fact, LJ has reviewed self-published e-romances for over three years. In addition, we have recently come up with a related solution: a new platform called SELF-e™, which allows independent authors to submit ebooks to LJ. We plan to surface the best of the materials, providing librarians with evaluations they need and self-published authors with a wider audience. —Henrietta Verma, LJ Reviews Editor

Ridiculous rules

Go, Aaron! I, too, still hear about librarians being restricted by their town/city/county web rules (Aaron Schmidt, “Taking Control of Your Website,” The User Experience, LJ 10/1/14, p. 25). Sometimes they’re really ridiculous. A year ago, someone told me they weren’t allowed to gather addresses and send mass emails from the library. I was shocked.

For those dealing with local government officials who just don’t understand, I often recommend this free report. “ICMA (International City/County Management Association) advances professional local government worldwide…by developing and fostering professional management to build better communities.” The ICMA is a library-friendly org that has lots of useful resources. It can help librarians speak the language of their stakeholders in order to connect and to build relationships.

—Kathy Dempsey, Libraries Are Essential, Medford, NJ

Impending freedom

Someone asked me how I feel about my impending freedom as I look forward to retiring from the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL). At ICPL, I have been…surrounded by books, strong women, and people needing my help. The loss of this job, culture, world won’t hit me until I’m gone.

I think about the proud moments…. The time on the phone and a woman yelled at me and at her kid, and they yelled at each other, but I kept my cool. The time I was the one who figured out why the computer kept freezing whenever we scanned a book that hadn’t been checked in. The time I brought my daughter to the fifth grade “campout” sleepover and the rain leaked through the roof, and I ran around in the dark in my pajamas, to put trash cans under the drips….

Then there are the times I try not to think about, such as the time…I tried to help a blind patron and he told me I didn’t know how to talk to blind people. The time I did everything right in a fire drill, only to be chewed out because I didn’t give the other staff a chance to learn how….

How can I describe how I feel about the library? I grew up at ICPL. I was hired when I was in college. When I was a page, I met my husband of 30 years. The staff threw me a baby shower for my first child…. My director told me I was her “Secret Weapon” because I’d turn scribbled numbers into a beautiful graph.

My impending freedom? It’s the end of an era, the start of a new chapter, an adventure! I will dearly miss working at the Iowa City Public Library.

—Beth Daly, formerly Office Asst., Iowa City P.L.


Todd Fabian’s new position as Library Director of the Concord Public Library (CPL) erroneously put CPL in Concord, MA, not Concord, NH, where it is (People, LJ 10/1/14, p. 24). LJ regrets the error.

This article was published in Library Journal's November 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Dear Ms. Verma,

    Thank you so much for posting Ms. Lew-Smith’s letter about the need for reviews of independently published books by recognized journals. This is SUCH an important issue, and one of the major hurdles small presses face.

    I also want to thank you, Ms. Verma, for your concise and considerate explanation of the problem from the review journals’ point of view. The steps being taken by LJ to address this issue are laudatory. As an independent author I am greatly heartened to hear about the new SELF-e platform and will do my best to spread the word to other independent authors. I was unaware of the existing policy regarding self-published e-romances, and am thrilled to see have it extended toward the rest of the independent publishing world as well. This is a greatly needed service, especially in the case of children’s books since libraries are one of the primary ways young readers find new books. It will also help encourage sales to parents, educators and school librarian as well, since without these kinds of reviews (LJ, Kirkus, NYT), independently published children’s, middle grade and YA novels remain largely invisible.

    Regarding the four issues you mention (massive numbers of books, advance reading copies, library-quality bindings and payment methods), I urge you to come up with creative solutions to what are really to minor problems to libraries and reviewers in comparison with the immense loss of readership suffered by independent authors.

    Thank you for taking solid steps toward resolving these issues. I look forward to reading more of LJ’s independent e-book reviews in the future, and want to especially congratulate you for helping to end the stigma of self-publication and make it possible for new voices to be heard.


    Julie Krantz