Anyone know how guidebooks decide what hostels they list in each issue? I've never really thought about it before. Does the hostel approach the publisher or vice versa? Is it an independent review or a paid ad?
All the major travel guides (BUG, Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Moon, Rough Guides) publish completely independent reviews but there are also a few advertising-supported guides (TNT, Hostel Handbook, Independent Hostel Guide, Packed Magazine) that have paid ads. These two types of guides have very different editorial policies, which dictate how you should approach the guides.
The different travel guides have different criteria when choosing what hostels to include. Here's a quick run-down on the different guides:
BUG (www.bug.co.uk) are the guides that I publish. We include virtually every hostel in each destination that is open when the researcher comes around. Occassionally hostels get left out if they are closed off season or if they are closed for renovation when we come around. However we only include hostels (no motels or hotels) and we try our best to include every single hostel. As long as you email me information on your hostel when it opens, then we will add it to our online hostel directory and then we will visit every hostel on our list when it comes time to publish a book on your region.
Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Moon and Rough Guides are general guides that cover all types of accommodation so they are a lot more selective and generally they only list no more than 10 hostels in each destination. If you're the only hostel in town then it is usually no problem getting reviewed but if there are 50 or 60 hostels in town then it is much more difficult getting included in the guide. You should send information about your hostel to each guidebook publisher but being included is up to the author who may not think your hostel is good enough or may simply be pressed for time and just include the same hostels as last edition.
The above guides (BUG, Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Moon and Rough Guides) feature independent reviews. The researcher's job is to be critical and the only way to influence the review is by running a great hostel.
The advertising-supported guides are completely different. You pay to advertise and they print what you want. Of course travellers know that the information is biased and they are less likely to trust an advertisement compared with an independent review in a proper travel guide.