Kirkus Reviews History
Since 1933, Kirkus has been one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery. When Kirkus was started by Virginia Kirkus (1893-1980), it was an innovation in the publishing field. Virginia arranged to receive advance galley proofs of books from publishers — only 20 or so at first, but eventually nearly every firm of any size in the industry. She read the galleys and wrote brief, critical evaluations of their literary merit and probable popular appeal. Initially, the reviews were sent only to subscribing bookshops in the form of a bimonthly bulletin. Bookstore managers were thus given an informed and unbiased opinion on which to base their orders and promotions. Two years later, the service was also made available to libraries. Now, 80 years later, Kirkus Reviews is distributed to more than 5,000 industry influencers, including bookstore buyers, librarians, publishers, agents, film executives and foreign publishers.
Kirkus’ Indie program was started in 2005 when the editors wanted to expand their coverage to include the fastest growing segment in the book industry — self-publishing. To meet scale, selection and financing challenges, Kirkus created a review service for self-publishers called Kirkus Discoveries, now Kirkus Indie. Like the original bulletin published by Virginia Kirkus, Kirkus’ program for self-publishers was an innovation in the industry. Authors could finance the review themselves and guarantee selection for review, but the books would be held to the same high standard as books published by the major houses. The program gave self-publishers the chance to earn honest critical acclaim from one of the most prestigious brands in publishing.
In 2011, after the company was acquired by its current owners, Herb Simon and Marc Winkelman, Kirkus began expanding its audience in other ways. First, Kirkus launched a consumer-facing website, growing its audience beyond the industry insiders who subscribe to Kirkus Reviews magazine. Meanwhile, Kirkus grew its coverage of traditionally published books and enhanced Kirkus Reviews magazine.
Today, Kirkus reviews more than 7,000 books published by traditional houses and more than 3,000 self-published books every year. The magazine is published on the 1st and 15th of every month, and because of the scope of our coverage, our authoritative voice and the timeliness of our reviews, Kirkus Reviews is revered by many as the first indicator of a book’s potential.