Pay for Book Reviews

By • Aug 3rd, 2008 • Category: Thinking Out LoudEmail This Post Email This PostPrint This Post Print This Post

Book reviews have been a topic of interest late.  And pay for reviews is coming under scrutiny and attack.  Some book clubs, book review teams currently charge for reviews to help offset cost of doing business.  I know first hand that to create and maintain a Web site (of any type that has quality as a primary objective) is not an easy task on a low budget.  Some money is required to keep the site fresh, current and top-of-mind.  So, I understand why entities must find means to help offset those cost.  Also, I know that magazines and newspapers receive advertising dollars from the same publishing companies/authors that they review books for.  But, in my dealings, these media outlets keep advertising and publicity (which is what a review is because it’s FREE) very separate; most times the advertising folks do not know what the reporters/writers are doing and vice-a-verse.  There’s a reason for this madness.  These entities don’t want to be accused of not being objective and accepting pay for book reviews.  I’m there; I don’t believe authors should pay for reviews.  But, I do believe that authors should pay for advertising and promotional support.

First, APOOO does not charge for reviews; but we do charge for advertising and promotions (and this is NEW; for years we promoted (and we still continue to do so) authors (established and self-published/small press) for FREE).  The latter two  (advertising and promotions) are handled separately and independent of reviews.  As a matter of fact, so that there is no conflict, a reviewer never knows which authors purchase book placement/advertising (and given that APOOO reviewed over 500 books last year–authors who paid for advertising represented less than 10%–so let’s not get it twisted and believe for one minute that authors and paid advertising are keeping the site or review team afloat) .  APOOO does not want a reviewer to feel that they must review a book favorably because advertising dollars are involved.  APOOO believes that  pay for reviews is unethical as each review should stand on its own merit and not based on how much money is involved.

APOOO doesn’t impose our way of thinking on any other organization…but I will say that some entities might want to rethink their current procedures…as no one wants to be alleged to have or associated with charging folks for reviews.  In the long run, it does affect an organization’s credibility and it makes some wonder just how objective that entity’s reviews are.

Recently, I read a  Dear Author’s blog that slammed two well-known literary organizations for allegedly charging for book reviews.  An established African-American organization has also come under the radar and ‘us’ (black authors) being who we are have exclaimed, “I ain’t paying nobody to write a book review for me”! (Now what I found interesting is that many authors don’t have a problem with their publishing house paying for reviews…hmmm).  Once again I understand why organizations charge fees for their services, but there seems to be concern regarding whether or not an organization should charge for reviews or even give the appearance of charging for reviews. Now, I need to digress for a minute.

However, in all fairness, many authors need to stop thinking that receiving a ‘free’ book is justification for a review team bending over backwards for you.  Because it isn’t; most reviewers time spent reading a book is worth more than $10-$25.  But, most of us do it because we’re avid readers and enjoy spreading the word about books we’ve read–especially a GOOD BOOK.   And, for authors who disparagingly say, ‘that the only promotions their publisher does on their behalf is to send their books out to a few small, unknown book clubs’–wake up and spell the coffee and stop speaking ill of book clubs.  If not for book clubs, and our grassroots efforts as foot soldiers, many of you would not have deals with publishers today. (We remember when many of you were self-published and selling books out of the trunk of your car, at hair salons and church bazaars.)  Individually book clubs might not be worth hill or bean, but collectively book clubs are a force to be reckoned with.  Also, some  book clubs that have been around awhile, actually have strong followings and mailing lists with thousands of subscribers.  How many authors–new or otherwise–have mailing lists with significant mass?  And, while a few readers/book clubs might receive free books, under the guise of reviewing them (and never doing so), there’s a solution to that also–DON’T SEND THEM ANYMORE BOOKS.  Shame on me the first time; shame on you the second time.  LOL. But, I digress.

In closing, advertising does make the world go run and without it many entities cannot stay in business, including your favorite literary Web sites (unless the founder has a second job or second income to cover the monthly expenses…lol).  Charging for advertising and promotions is an acceptable way of doing business and can and should be done without any conflict of interest.  As any company or group that has been around for awhile knows, providing Web content which gives visitors a reason to visit your site regularly and often is key to generating traffic (bolstering stats) so that authors will feel compelled to pay to  be featured on your site.   On the other hand, pay for reviews (or any semblance of this activity) is not…at least it seems this is what many authors have an issue with.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What do you think of literary organizations charging for reviews?

Readers, does it matter whether or not an author pays for a review?  Why or Why Not?

Readers, would you be upset if you found out that one of your favorite authors paid for a review?

If you are an author, have you ever paid for a review?  Would you ever consider paying for a review?  Under what circumstances?

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11 Responses »

  1. What do you think of literary organizations charging for reviews?

    I believe that organizations have to try to do what they must to offset their expenses. If charging is what they must do then so be it. Now with that said, the author or publisher has the same right to say I am not paying… I have never begrudged someones right to make a dollar, that is motivation for many. I simply am not going to pay you on top of sending you a book. To me its double dipping because you can sell the book on top of getting payment for the review ( that may be negative so there was nothing gained on my part). The book may only be 10-20 dollars but add that up knowing you’ll have that steady flow of income coming in no matter what you charge or write and you doing pretty good.

    Readers, does it matter whether or not an author pays for a review? Why or Why Not?

    I don’t feel it should matter. If your have a author you like and are familiar with their work that should be enough. If its a new author then you look the book over glean through and take a chance.. Reviewers are like movie critics in my eyes, many are impartial, fair, and some have their favorites. However, in the end I still need to see the film or read the book for myself and if I take a loss then so be it. That actor/author may not get my money on their next film/book.

    Readers, would you be upset if you found out that one of your favorite authors paid for a review?

    I wouldn’t be upset with a author paying for a review. Unfortunately we live in a capitalistic society and cost are going to be added to any means of making money. If a author feels that is what must be done then God Bless them.

    If you are an author, have you ever paid for a review? Would you ever consider paying for a review? Under what circumstances?

    I am a author and I haven’t paid for a review yet, simply because I don’t feel the need too. Also I can’t afford to lay out that expense. I am a self published author, who has created his own publishing company to be able to market my own work and hopefully in the future other author’s work. With having a poet book at the moment most reviewers don’t take the genere for review and there are so many that are for free, I am not paying to have your name on the review because that is what everyone says you need to have. I send out the free books and hope for the best and enjoy what’s written good bad or indifferent. I understand the game, I am just not sure how much of if I want to play. I think its funny that many will say just because you paid us, your not guaranteed a postive review why would you pay knowing you still might catch the punch in the face. That sounds more like gambling than business. “Push your chips forward and hope you have the best hand.” Not me!

    I pray I haven’t offended anyone these are just my thoughts and opinions. I may be naive to much of this writing game but my thoughts come from my heart. Continued Blessings to everyone..

  2. What do you think of literary organizations charging for reviews?
    As a self published author and aspiring small press, I don’t relish the thought of paying for reviews, because I have a very hard time keeping my new business in the black. I have to be as frugal as possible with my marketing budget in order to maintain some sort of profit. Now I will however pay to advertise on sites with proven track records. My budget comes directly from my household and I have to justify my expenses.

    If you are an author, have you ever paid for a review? Would you ever consider paying for a review? Under what circumstances?
    It just rubs me the wrong way, plain and simple. One sites want’s $300 for a review and then says that the review isn’t promissed to be favorable. WTF? If I’m going to give you my car note you damn well better say something nice!… see that’s why I can’t do it. I can see myself going ape over a 300 dollar bad review…

  3. What do you think of literary organizations charging for reviews? – No. I think it is a conflict of interest to pay for a review. How can someone give an unfavorable review when that person was paid $20+ dollars? I feel that it is a discredit to the other reviews that were given.

    Readers, does it matter whether or not an author pays for a review? Why or Why Not? – As a reader, I look for special reviews by certain book clubs, (such as APOOO and RawSitaz, etc.) to help me form my opinion about the book.

    Readers, would you be upset if you found out that one of your favorite authors paid for a review? – I would not be upset, but it would sway me to look for other reviews before purchasing a book.

    If you are an author, have you ever paid for a review? – I never personally paid for a review BUT my publisher did. (I won’t get into detail about that.)

    Would you ever consider paying for a review? – NO! The investment of giving a free book is enough. However, like it was mention in the blog, I would and have paid for advertising and promotional services.

    Under what circumstances? – I won’t. What I realized about reviews are they are opinions. In most cases they are very important because it may be components or questions in a story/book/novel that needs to be fixed or answered. I have also learned that you have to know your genre and send your book to reviewers in your genre. (I will get into details about this one.) I sent my book to a Christian Fiction Review and got a zero and a invitation to get on a phone prayer list. LOL! Reviews are not just for kuddos, they are sometimes lessons that need to be learned. Some of the best lessons are free.

    -TL James
    Author of The MPire Trilogy and Chronicle Series
    http://www.mpireonline.com

  4. No paying for reviews or HELL TO THE NAH…soon very soon we are launching a black book review website where anyone will be able to review books like amazon you will just have to register for the widget that we use. i dont think reviews are essential to a book doing well. so paying for a non-essential or something that is offered a lot of places for free is not good business sense.

    However i think if you partnered with a prominent organization like a frat or sorority and you paid for their endorsement of your book then…. HEHEHE sorry Yas i know i just opened up another can of worms LOL

  5. Julia–rotflmao…but I feel you regarding the car note payment or pay for review.

    KL–good points and I hear you about paying for a review sounding like gambling esp. since a postive review isn’t guaranteed and why I don’t believe that writing a review should be associated with a price…unless you’re paying someone to distribute your review to more than one outlet. Why–if you like the review and wanted it promoted in more than one venue…then that becomes advertising/promotion.

    TL James–Yes authors definitely need to know the target audience/group before sending books to them for review, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. Many authors (and readers) tell me that I should read their book. Hmmm…if folks take the time to go to amazon.com and check out the types of books I read then they would know that my book choices/genre are very limited…my time is valuable so I don’t waste it reading stuff that I know doesn’t interest me…and I try not to put my reviewers through that exercise either. Not every book is for every reader…but there is a book out there for each of us.

    Martin–Congrats and much success with your new venture! Let me know if you need help.

  6. I’m doing research today on online book reviewing and came across your site. I’m not African-American, but I’ve thought about this topic of paid reviews lately and thought I might comment.

    I published my first book last October and mailed out 150 review copies. The books on self-publishing suggested no fewer than 50, no more than 500, so I thought I was making an impressive commitment to publicity. I thought for sure I’d get a few reviews for that investment. I was particularly expecting reviews from two sources: the Midwest Book Review, which reviews most quality titles from small presses like mine (and my book was professionally designed and looks and feels good in the hand); and a newspaper in North Carolina where a friend is the book editor. I didn’t get a review from either (though the MBR did eventually review the audio book version), and it really threw me. It’s possible that my press release wasn’t interesting enough. My review kit was certainly minimal. But what I’ve been hearing from fellow authors and publishers is that it’s really more about the state of book reviewing in general right now. Roughly 175,000 books are published each year.

    I wrote to the editor at the MBR to ask why I hadn’t received a review. His reply: “This is no reflection on the quality of your work because it made a quite favorable impression on me. Simply the unfortunate consequence of having only 76 reviewers to cope with the more than 2000 titles a month arriving here for review consideration.”

    My friend the book editor told me that her budget had been slashed and she could review books only if they related to current events. (Mine is self-help/psychology.)

    All of which is to say, on this topic, that if I had the funds to pay for a paid review, I think I might do it, at least from one of the more prestigious places like Kirkus. Because it would at least give me some idea of how my book comes across to someone in the general public, and it’s so difficult to get reviewed. It would even be okay with me if the review weren’t 100% positive because many readers enjoy controversy and get bored if all the reviews are positive.

    If I were going to pay for a review, I would certainly read as many reviews on the site as possible first to make sure they’re thoughtful and well-written.

    My two cents. Thanks.

  7. Alyce thanks so much for stopping by and adding your two cents. Your post was very informative and enlightening. Wow, 2000 titles a month for reviews…I thought APOOO was doing well to receive about 50 each month! And there are times when we can’t even service that many in a timely fashion.
    Just a thought…before you go the paid review route…have you thought about scanning amazon.com to see if there are any readers for your competitors that you might be able to contact to see if they would be interested in reviewing your book? Just a thought.

  8. What do you think of literary organizations charging for reviews? I think literary organization probably have to charge ad space to stay in business and let’s face it, there’s a simple way to keep those two aspects of the business seperate. I know I subscribe to Romantic Times Magazine and your publisher has to have a business relationship with them in order to get a review. Do they give 2′s and 3′s out? Every month, lots of them. You can see a full page ad on one page and a lousy 2 for the book on the next. It’s not rocket science to keep it straight.

    Readers, does it matter whether or not an author pays for a review? I could care less as a reader. Why or Why Not? I already know who gives a real review and who doesn’t, so there are only a handful of reviewers I actually read.

    Readers, would you be upset if you found out that one of your favorite authors paid for a review? Still a no. As the previous poster said, 2000 books a month, I think the larger regional and national review organizations like Midwest are headed that way anyway.

    If you are an author, have you ever paid for a review? Would you ever consider paying for a review? Under what circumstances?
    My book isn’t out yet, but I might consider paying for a review with Publisher’s Weekly or Booklist, just because they have a great impact on library aquisitions and some libraries really buy alot of books. Of course I’d be praying day and night it was favorable. :o)

    As for the comment about the newspaper not doing a review, most fiction authors need to be aware that the majority of newspapers don’t do fiction reviews for unestablished authors. Sending your book to them is probably a waste of resources.

    This was a good discussion.

  9. Hey Rhonda…so if one wants to TRY and get their books into libraries they might want to consider paying for a review with Publisher’s Weekly or Booklist? Librarians read these publication’s reviews when they scouring for books to purchase?

  10. Hmmm, all I can think of is, if an author has to PAY for a review that may say a lot about the quality of his/her’s work. I see it as a desperate attempt to gain readers. Many novels, especially AA novels are purchased due to the buzz they get via word of mouth, anyway. It will get around very quickly that your book sucked and that the only reason that you were given good reviews was because you paid for them. After that you can pretty much hang it up. It weakens the public’s trust in the so called reviewers as well. If I KNOW that you are getting paid for your “opinion” then I am certainly taking EVERYTHING that is reviewed by you with a grain of salt. ESPECIALLY, if so many books that deserved ratings of 1s, and 2s are given 4s and 5s by the reviewer.

  11. I do agree, to a certain point, that organizations have the right to be paid for reviews. That point is where I have a reputable organization providing an objective review. Then before I even pull out my credit card, I consider cost, any referrals and some other items.

    As a reader, I don’t care if an author pays for a review or not. When I research a book or skim its pages at a bookstore, I look for an array of reviews. Reviews from readers, book clubs, journals, etc. I’m an educated reader. For the most part, I recognize the names of pay for review sites. The review is just a small part of my selection process.

    I’ve never paid for a review but I never say never. It would have to be worth it and as I mentioned above, objective. I will admit that I tend to be attracted more to reviews where readers volunteered services. I know that they are like me. Someone who saw something that looked interesting, read it and wrote a review. But even with volunteer reviewers, you have to do your research to make sure it is objective.

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