Should an author ever pay for a review?
There’s been an ongoing discussion on my Facebook lately about this subject — tempers flared, sparks flew, and people seem to be adamantly on the NO side or the YES side. In my opinion, it depends on the type of review we’re talking about.
KIRKUS, INDIE READER, MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
How it works:
This is just a small sampling of companies who charge a review fee (ranging from $50 upwards of $200). What does the author receive in exchange for paying for the review? Each company has its own rules, but for the most part you will receive a review of your work plus feedback on the book, and the choice to see the review in print and to use it in promotional materials.
The money you pay insures a qualified reviewer will read your entire book, create feedback, and follow set guidelines for the review (this is a far cry from Amazon where anyone can leave any type of review).
There’s NO GUARANTEE the review will be positive. This makes ethical sense to me — it’s a crapshoot. They may love or hate your book, but either way, you will know. Most companies then give you the option of publishing the review or abstaining (depending on your choice), or as is the case with the San Francisco Book Review, you can instead choose to advertise on the site instead of printing the review if you’re unhappy with it.
These companies carry weight because of the reviewers they hire (and make no mistake, these people can be worth their weight in gold). You are paying for their professional expertise. You may not like or agree with the review, and you as the author have to accept that fact going in.
Most companies accept both indie and traditionally published books. Check each site for details.
BOOK BLOGGERS, BOOK REVIEWERS
There are many individuals who review books — many are avid readers who just love books and don’t charge a cent to review and even sometimes feature your book (or their review of it) on their blog. Most book bloggers and book reviewers don’t charge for this service, but if someone does, it’s generally a minor admin fee. If you’re comfortable with that, go for it. Generally, it’s better to NOT pay for a review if you don’t have to — but remember, many avid reviewers carry a lot of influence in the industry and with readers.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
There are plenty of free review options if you adamantly feel that an author should NEVER pay for a review. Check out the Book Blogger List for bloggers and reviewers broken out by genre by veteran reviewer Barb Drozdowich wrote a great book geared toward authors to teach us specifically how to focus on book bloggers — The Author’s Guide To Working With Book Bloggers (Building Blocks to Author Success Series) — worth the $2.99.
As Barb discusses in her book, too many folks make the mistake of blanketing their Twitter feed, Facebook, and even email with requests for reviews. This is pretty much a waste of time — it’s like the proverbial slush pile, except instead of sending your book to decision makers, you’re sending it to Joe, the ice-cream maker. Sure, he MAY be interested in reading and reviewing your book, but what are the odds if you’ve never engaged with him before? Pretty slim.
Some book tour companies offer reviews. You pay an admin fee to the tour company — not for the reviews. The admin fee covers things like graphics, post distribution, promotional efforts (many have paid staff), etc. Again, you aren’t paying for reviews — you are paying an admin fee for the other stuff. If you’ve not comfortable with that, don’t do it.
Do reviews matter? Yes, very much. At a basic level, we want to know that ‘the berry is safe’ (as my author friend Amber Scott explains it). The more reviews, the greater the odds others will feel more comfortable purchasing it. All this assumes that your book doesn’t suck.
But that’s a whole other post.