The HNS has revised the way we review Indies (self- or subsidy-published novels) to reflect the transformed nature of publishing.
In 1997, when the HNS began, self-publishing was strongly frowned upon – was seen as vanity publishing, and primarily a way for unscrupulous printers to take money from writers who had little or no route to market. Now, in 2016, even J. K. Rowling chooses self-publishing as one of her routes to market – so the world has changed.
The HNS has been ahead of this curve for a lot of this seismic 20 years. We reviewed Indies early, we have reviewed a lot of them, and we have never charged for reviews. Lately, though, we have fallen behind the curve, and we needed to institute changes.
The main issue was structural: Indies and traditionally published books were reviewed by separate teams on different criteria, with a different submission guide and process, different reviewer guidelines and supervision, and these teams were independent of each other. This led to the following complaints (brackets for the reasons we were doing what we were doing) –
Complaints from Indie authors –
- Indie reviews were separated on our website and labelled as Indies (because we wanted to indicate that they had undergone a different editorial process)
- Indie reviews were excluded from the print edition of the HNR irrespective of merit (initially for space reasons; latterly because of their different editorial process)
Complaints from traditionally published authors –
- Indies had their own HNS Indie Award that excluded traditionally published authors and there was no equivalent award for them (because we felt that there were other non HNS awards for traditionally published authors but there were none specifically for Indie historical fiction)
- Indies had an easier time getting to be Editors’ Choice because they were not competing against traditionally published authors (mea culpa, this one happened without us really noticing)
What we have decided to do going forward is to bring the processes together, so –
- Indie reviews will no longer be labelled as Indie, they’ll just be reviews
- Some Indie reviews will appear in the print edition of the HNR
- HNS Awards will no longer exclude any route to market
- Editors’ Choices will be not be differentiated by route to market
That said, another thing has changed in the publishing landscape. Because everyone has access to the market and because digital publishing can be cheap and quick, the number of books being published and reissued is now enormous. The HNS has more to review than we can possibly manage. We also have the gamut of quality to assess. Our editorial process has become increasingly more selective, because we cannot review everything, and it doesn’t benefit our readers to do so.
So if you submit a book hoping for a review from the HNS – Indie or trad – our editorial team will decide in the first instance whether we request your book for review. We will be choosing, like any knowledgeable reader, based on information provided to us by the publisher, author, and/or vendor. We will look carefully, we will read some of the text, and in some instances this will be a group decision – but we will only consider books that meet our high standards. And even if we do request the book to be sent for consideration, submission of a book to us does not guarantee a review.
From 2017 we will have a section in the print HNR for ‘Members’ New Books’ where we will list and outline members’ books that we know about. But membership of the HNS is not relevant to our reviewing process. We do not sell reviews, and membership of the society brings no entitlement to a review.
Sadly there is one more thing. Some people have been abusive to our editors. Others feel that it is fine to harass our editors and readers – usually with ‘when can I expect my review?’ or ‘why will you not review my novel?’ This is something we do not tolerate, and our reviewing staff will not respond to such enquiries.*
(*except in the case of books that were caught between our changing of systems – please contact Richard if you’re still in doubt about one of these)