Should Indie Authors Pay for Book Reviews?

on January 21, 2013 in Book Marketing & PR
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I've been keeping an eye on a recent trend in the indie publishing community -- paid reviews (and family/friends reviews) and the controversy surrounding them. But I fail to see why it's such a hot topic.

On one hand, when I see people asking the question of whether or not it's okay for authors to do this, the answer's clear. I want to scream "of course not!" But what makes me want to scream even more is the fact that this conversation is happening at all. That's especially true when we're talking about online reviews, which we often are.

I get that indie publishing is still new for most authors. But if you're going to use the Web to publish or promote your books, have the basic sense to understand the arena you're entering first. Paid reviews are an ancient topic in the Internet age. So let's just boil it down to the basics in case you missed them:

  • Paying for reviews is stupid from a marketing perspective. As an author the only feedback you should care about is honest feedback. And you'll never know if you're getting honest feedback when you pay for that feedback. Even if you don't insist on a positive review, not all reviewers going to tell you what they really think. They're too afraid of how you'll react or they're afraid others won't pay them for the same. There are ethical paid reviewers out there. But you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. And you can't improve your product or your marketing strategy based on a bunch of bullshit.
  • If you pay for reviews and you do insist that all published reviews are positive, you're a pathetic unethical schmuckPeriod. If you aren't ready for honest feedback, you aren't ready to publish.
  • Not only are there strategic and ethical issues with paid reviews, but you can also have your ass handed to you by Google. They don't like paid reviews. You can be penalized if you're caught. (And you probably will be caught.) Again, this is old news. And if you're an e-book author, this can be especially problematic. Not only can you lose search traffic to your author or book website (and therefore direct sales), but if people find you somewhere else like Amazon and they want to learn more about you before buying, they might be SOL when they search for you and can't find your penalized website.

Seriously folks. It's this simple. Question: "Should indie authors pay for book reviews?" Answer: "Hell no!" There. All settled.

Just in case you can't tell: laziness and a lack of common sense are major pet peeves. There's really no excuse for this to be such a big topic of discussion. Maybe authors in favor of this really did miss all of the hoopla about paid reviews just a few years back. Or maybe it's just my hypersensitivity to, and no bullshit tolerance for, spin given my background. Either way, it's not enough to write. You need to make sure you understand the business side of publishing if you want to go it alone. If you don't get the problems with paid reviews, you haven't done your homework.

Thanks for sharing!
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

29 Comments

  1. Anne Wayman January 21, 2013 Reply

    Jenn, I (mostly) agree but I wonder about professional review sites like Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly? And aren’t the book reviewers at the New York Times etc. paid? How do you/we make the distinction?

    • Jennifer Mattern January 22, 2013 Reply

      A book reviewer being paid by a publication is an entirely different animal than you paying someone to review your book. They’re paid the same regardless of the kind of review they write, and because there’s no direct payment between them and the author or publisher, there’s no conflict of interest. They’re just writers for the paper doing their job like any other.

      Personally I would not pay for reviews in those “professional” review publications either. If you’re doing it online, you have the problems I mentioned, especially if it involves paid links going to your website. A paid review in a publication is technically nothing more than an advertisement. And it’s one designed to look otherwise (like a sleazy advertorial). When it comes to something like Kirkus, it’s a little bit different. It’s my understanding that you don’t have to let them publish your review (and please correct me if I’m wrong). So you’re basically paying for a private assessment, and you can then do whatever you want with it.

      Of course that poses ethical issues of its own. For example, if you get a negative review and simply hide it, I think that’s a dumb move at best, and arrogant at its worst. If you take that negative review and use it to improve your book before you publicly release it, then I can see it being worthwhile to pay for the feedback. On the other hand if you pay for a review and then plaster it all over the book cover, your website, and anywhere else you can because it happens to be a good one, the ethics are far more questionable. Again, I wouldn’t use it for anything more than private feedback unless you’re going to let them publish it and treat it as you would any other advertisement (as in don’t go around bragging about a review you paid for).

      I understand that reviewers want to be paid. At the same time, as someone who’s run countless Web publications over the years (including review-heavy ones) I know that if you want to get paid in Web publishing, you damn well better have a solid (and hopefully ethical) business model behind you. You can make money without directly taking payments for reviews. Anything else is frankly lazy. And the same goes for authors who think they should buy reviews instead of earning them.

      • Anne Wayman January 22, 2013 Reply

        The more I think about this the murkier it gets… I’m like Sharon, below. You can’t buy my opinion… but how the heck the people who don’t know me would know that I have no idea.

        I have a couple of negative reviews for Powerfully Recovered on Amazon… I wouldn’t take those down if I could.

        • Jennifer Mattern January 23, 2013 Reply

          People have been repeatedly exposed for buying reviews, so people are figuring it out in some way — likely the reviewers’ sites advertise the paid reviews or someone asked to do a paid review speaks up. I’m sure it varies.

          Good for you for standing by your reviews good or bad. That’s something I think more independent authors need to do. You won’t please everyone, no matter what you write. Some negative feedback you just have to brush off. And other times that negative feedback is the most valuable feedback you’ll ever get, because that’s what helps you to grow. :)

      • Leigh Podgorski March 7, 2013 Reply

        I was shocked when I came across major publications that requested a handout — that is payment– for a review with the express caveat that this did not guarantee that the review would be positive. Good greif, I thought! Talk about squeezing the vulnerable indie writer! Not only is the deck stacked against us, now these so-called prestgious journals like Kirkus Review are CHARGING us for a review — and that review may, after all that, well be something brutal. Don’t get me wrong– any review should be straightforward and honest. My problem is with the CHARGING of the article. Rather Oliver Twist-ish. Thank-you sir, may I please have another. I doubt Kirkus would dream of charging Stephen King. I believe it is unethical, not to mention bordering on cruel.

        • Jennifer Mattern March 10, 2013 Reply

          “Unethical” sums it up pretty well. That said, if someone’s going to buy a review (no matter how ill-advised), it’s far more unethical for them to expect that review to be positive. Forcing a positive review when undeserved would border on fraud in advertising their books.

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall January 22, 2013 Reply

    I always make it clear that my opinion is not for sale. I limit what I review on the writing blog to things I think my readers will find interesting and say up front that if the author wants a yes-woman, then I’m the wrong person. However, I also say they are free to come back and rebut my opinion in the comments – that’s fair for everyone, I think.

    • Jennifer Mattern January 22, 2013 Reply

      Are you charging a direct fee for the review though? That’s where the issue comes in. I know you’re ethical because I know you personally. But many reviewers are not. Even when they claim reviews will be unbiased, they lean positive. They know if they post too many negative reviews they’re likely to piss someone off and cause a lot of drama or they’ll stop getting paid review requests. So they sugarcoat or only publish the positive side. Even though not all paid reviewers do that, it taints the entire process and any author who pays for reviews can be lumped into the “paid for positive feedback” crowd whether it was intentional or not.

      That’s what makes it such a daft move for any author interested in building good author or book PR. There’s never a good reason to risk your reputation. And that’s why I still have to say I’d never recommend a paid review. Giving your book to the reviewer? Not a big deal as long the reviewer discloses it (especially for those in the US, as freebies are considered compensation under FCC guidelines).

      Obviously you’re on the other side, and I feel slightly bad telling people they shouldn’t pay you to review their book. But that’s something I stand firm on. And I’ve been on both sides of the issue, learning a lot the hard way the last time paid reviews became such a big deal. Maybe in the future I’ll do a post on monetization options for independent reviewers, so those looking to be compensated can do so without succumbing to the “paid reviewer” label. Whether their opinions are really for sale or not, that’s how it appears. So it’s not the best reputation move for them either.

      • Sharon Hurley Hall March 8, 2013 Reply

        Don’t feel bad, Jenn. :) It’s a grey area, for sure, and I make sure I stay on the ethical side of the line. I’d be interested in a post on monetization options, though.

  3. Cathy Miller January 22, 2013 Reply

    I try to keep my book reviews to unsolicited ones that I wanted to do. And those are few and far between. There was one fiasco I had where there was a book offered and an offer for an unpaid guest blogging gig (which I could care less about). That really soured me on the whole solicited book review.

    I can’t understand what the debate is about the problem of someone paying another person to review your book. But, then that’s just me.

    • Jennifer Mattern January 23, 2013 Reply

      The problem is that reviews are supposed to be trustworthy, especially those that come from other consumers (which is why buying something like an Amazon review is even worse, imo, than the obviously-bought review on a reviewer’s site). Once money changes hand between the person behind what’s being reviewed and the person doing that review, the trust for many consumers is lost. And it has the potential to seriously damage the author’s image in the process.

      This problem isn’t exclusive to book reviews. Before I was involved in publishing, I was very involved in the indie music world. I ran one of two local-ish publications featuring indie artists. Paid reviews were a big credibility issue in that industry at the time too (and still are, although fans have taken over more there embracing indie works than they have yet in publishing). Then I started to get more active in the Web publishing world and the issue really boomed just a few years back, with sites actually springing up just to facilitate paid reviews on blogs and websites. Many of those sites are now extinct or completely changed because paid reviews were slammed by search engines (especially Google). Everyone involved risked being penalized, losing a ton of organic traffic, and therefore losing readers and revenue.

      I’m certainly not one who follows Google’s every whim, but this was a big one. I know first-hand how much it hurt too because by own business site was slammed for offering review services (in which case I was paid to offer public feedback and suggestions about company website design, usability, etc.). Every review was unbiased. Every review included both positive elements and suggestions for improvement. Every review was relevant to my audience. And it was a service business owners new to the Web deemed valuable. They came to me specifically because they knew I’d be incredibly blunt with them rather than serving as a yes-man. Some of them actually became my clients, and I still work with several of them 6 years later. But none of that mattered. Paid reviews are a credibility issue because of the bad apples, whether our opinions can be bought or not. And that meant the penalties were widespread. After 6 years, that site still hasn’t fully recovered its rankings and traffic. It’s not worth the risk for site owners. It’s not worth the risk for authors.

  4. Steph January 24, 2013 Reply

    But surely you’re not paying for the reviewer’s opinion, just their time to read the book and write a review in decent English that you can quote from if it’s favourable, and learn from if it’s not. You can wait forever for reviews from readers and then only get a couple of grammar-free sentences that aren’t helpful to either the author or other readers.

    • Jennifer Mattern January 24, 2013 Reply

      You might think you’re paying for their time. That might even be your intention. But there’s a reason paid reviews have a bad reputation and get penalized in search results — your intention really doesn’t count for much. That’s because you have no control over the reviewer. If you’re directly compensating them for a public review, they have every reason to slant things in a positive way. If they posted blunt or harsh reviews, many people would stop paying them for the service. So even if you don’t insist on a positive review, in many cases you still don’t get a completely unbiased one.

      If you want someone’s feedback and you plan to pay for it, there’s no reason you can’t hire them as a consultant or in some form of editing capacity privately. But just as you shouldn’t plaster positive comments from your editor on your book cover or website, you probably shouldn’t do that with paid reviews. They carry very similar ethical issues. Sometimes waiting is part of the game, and you can certainly speed things along by encouraging readers to post reviews and let you know what they think. But in publishing (as in any business) you can’t rush things just because you’re impatient anymore than you should just sit around and wait.

  5. Orna Ross January 24, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jenn, thank you for your frank appraisal — a refreshing blast of cool air on what has become, as you say, a strangely heated topic. I agree with every word of your post, and believe this also applies to Kirkus et. al. Just because a brand is old and respected doesn’t mean everything they decide to do is kosher. Charging writers for reviews isn’t. Ever.

    • Jennifer Mattern January 24, 2013 Reply

      Hi Orna. :) The thing with Kirkus specifically is that (unless I’m mistaken) the charge is only for their indie book reviews. That should be a major red flag. If you have to be in a separate program of sorts to get reviewed, then the review simply doesn’t carry the same weight.

  6. Paul Krupin January 28, 2013 Reply

    I’ve written extensively about the paid review issue time and again. Expereinces may vary, but my overall belief is that paying people for media coverage is not a great or honorable way to maintain a sincere and authentic impression and reputation, when you seek objective enthusiasm and reviews, articles, and interviews. It has now evolved into sponsored posts, articles, interviews and more. In my experience as a book publicist, author, and a once-upon-a-time attorney, the payment or fee is real conflict of interest that triggers the FTC’s “truth in advertising” disclosure requirements. So it becomes a buyer beware problem whenever the fees are not disclosed. Even people who get paid to tweet are subject to these requirements. You can read more at my blog here: http://goo.gl/yvIyi or http://blog.directcontactpr.com/2012/08/paying-for-book-reviews-and-sponsored-blog-posts/

    • Jennifer Mattern January 29, 2013 Reply

      Good points Paul. I used to run a PR firm focused on indie and creative professionals, so I’m with you 100% on the conflict of interest issue. Payment for coverage is what we call payola, and it’s really not okay. I see some authors justify it because they publish the reviews themselves instead of paying to have them reviewed in a particular publication, but it’s all to the same end.

      The FTC issue is another good one, and I have to wonder if most indie authors are even aware that they technically have to disclose any payments made when paid reviews are published. That was the case for other types of publications in the past, but the newer guidelines put out recently do cover things like blogs and social media. Not worth the risk of a fine on top of everything else.

  7. Lauren Jagger March 27, 2013 Reply

    Hmm.. I actually have trouble finding fault with those who choose to pay for reviews…the thing is, when you go indie, paying for a review is a commodity as is any advertising service.

    That’s just my opinion, but as indie authors, I think we need to work together rather than judge each other’s marketing choices.

    That said, I’ve used www.pennbookreview.com for book reviews and they’ve been very professional. Also, from what I understand, rather than shelling out five star reviews, they manage the process–therefore creating free time for me to write–rather than market.

    Thanks.
    -LJ

    • Jennifer Mattern March 27, 2013 Reply

      You’re certainly welcome to your opinions. But here you’ll never see me support decisions that have the potential to seriously hurt fellow authors. And as someone with a long history in PR as well as writing, I know better than most how much one seemingly insignificant business decision can negatively impact a career. And I know how difficult it can be to repair the damage. I don’t consider it worth the risk. And I don’t consider it smart marketing. But like I said, you’re certainly welcome to disagree. To each his (or her) own. I hope paid reviews don’t have that negative effect on you personally.

      As for paid reviews being simply another form of advertising, I think there’s an important difference. And that difference is the fact that reviews are opinions — not clearly paid-for space on a billboard, website, magazine page, etc. Opinions only have value when readers can trust them. And paying for those opinions — whether the reviewer intentionally is influenced by the money or not — hurts that trust. Most people aren’t naive enough to believe a paid ad is unbiased. But they have a right to expect reviews to be, in my opinion at least.

  8. loridw March 28, 2013 Reply

    I’d never pay for a review. That seems, well, unsavory. I know a guy who wrote a pretty awful book, but the reviews were so glowing. Why? Because he’d loaded the comments section with friends, family, and people whom he’d paid to say nice things. It was a joke.

    The moment that gets out, watch out. You lose reader loyalty if they feel they’ve been duped.

  9. Anon March 31, 2013 Reply

    I find it difficult to swallow the integrity issue on the subject of paying for reviews.

    I have not used a review service, (nor do I work for such services) but it seems entirely possible that it has been a monumental mistake to not do so.

    Over the past six months, I have paid more than $1,000 to get a top notch professional edit of my book. I have paid, so far, $1,500 in direct advertising. And I have then paid almost $15,000 to a PR firm to promote my book.

    On top of that I have spend untold hours of my own time.

    For that I have received about a dozen, reviews from reputable, but ultimately small-potatoes blogs.

    All of my reviews have been *very* positive. On Amazon I have less than a dozen reviews — all very positive. And on Goodreads, about a dozen — and again all positive.

    So, it’s a good book. I have confirmation outside my friends and family. And I’ve buried my daughter’s college fund into promoting it.

    But I’m a nobody. I sell four books per month!

    Whereas people with connections – but pure trash in a book they have ghost-written anyway – get published, promoted, reviewed, and sold.

    Moreover, my publisher doesn’t appear to care if my book is good – they care if it sells.

    (Yes I have a publisher, and an agent, and they do exactly zero to promote the book – alright, “nearly” zero: they put it on their website, and they bought $200 in Facebook Advertising – and that’s about it)

    So, being more than a little burned by this process, I call high horse BS on claims of integrity.

    The deck is stacked in favor of the connected few. Admit it. That’s the scandal – not some nobody trying to find a reader by hook or by crook.

    If some gal happens to have 50 Facebook friends she can personally cajole into writing five star reviews on Amazon, is that in any way more authentic than paying some anonymous company?

    All the reviews are good. There are just too few to be noticed. I’m now almost $20K out of my own pocket.

    So, with genuine respect, a FAR more valuable post would have been to side up with authors against the super connected; endorse paid book reviews, and push for lower costs, and higher standards for those reviews.

    Instead of leaving authors hanging in the wind, we should notice that authors themselves are clamoring for this service, and we need to find ways to professionalize the service.

    I’ve read your admonitions that paying for reviews can come back to bite authors – but that is because they are frowned upon as shady, unethical dealings of sub-humans trying to scam the system.

    But they don’t have to be that. There are untold professionals who provide services for a fee, from plumbers to airline pilots, and we prevent corruption mostly by building the reputations of those professionals as their most important commodity.

    When someone reviews my book, I *always* look at what else they’ve reviewed. If they came out of nowhere, and have no other reviews of anything, I don’t put much stock into them.

    And why don’t we simply put a “compensated, independent reviews” section on Amazon and B&N? Because every blog I have gotten a review on through the PR company has received a free copy of my $20 book. But they’re independent, nevertheless.

    There are ALWAYS pressures that create conflicts of interest, but rather than shutting the door on the ethical author who wants to play by the rules, instead, open the door and turn on the damn light.

    Yours, Anon.

    • Jennifer Mattern April 1, 2013 Reply

      Look. I genuinely feel your pain. Things haven’t worked out well for you thus far. But being jaded by the process isn’t a good enough reason, in my opinion, to start paying for reviews.

      What I’m going to say here is of a somewhat general nature because you posted anonymously and I have no way to tell what book you’re talking about or what kind of exposure and platform you already have. But here it goes.

      While you’re putting the blame on others for your lack of sales, I think you’ve hit on some important things without realizing it. For example, you spent $15k on a PR firm and you’re not seeing the kind of success you hoped for. Having run a PR firm, I’m curious where that money went. When you hire a PR rep, you’re generally paying for their connections, and they can do much more for you than someone who simply focuses on the publicity side (commonly confused, but PR and publicity are not the same thing). I certainly don’t know what they did. But I can tell you if they mostly just sent out releases and blasts to try to get some pick-ups, they probably weren’t the best option for you. If nothing else, hopefully it will be a learning experience and you’ll find a better rep next time or you’ll take on more of the PR work yourself.

      You also talk about others succeeding because they have connections. So my question has to be “why didn’t you work to build a stronger professional network before your book came out?” It’s something a lot of authors don’t do unfortunately. But you can’t wait until your book is published to start marketing it. Building a platform and network comes before that point, at least if you want the book to sell well.

      That doesn’t mean you should give up hope though. It’s an ongoing process. Start focusing on that network building and other elements of your platform now, and you can turn your sales figures around. Keep publishing, and your newer work will help your earlier work sell. The only thing you shouldn’t do is feel so discouraged that you don’t try to make up that ground between you and the “connected” authors out there.

      As for disclosure, you’re absolutely right. If someone pays for a book review, it should be openly disclosed. In the U.S., there are even FCC guidelines around paid reviews. In fact, reviewers have to disclose if someone gave them a free copy of the book to review — not just if they were financially compensated. Those rules came about because of all of the unethical practices in paid reviews on the Web. And sadly many reviewers still don’t do that. (And if they don’t, the author risks being fined — not just the reviewer.)

      By all means, if you’re comfortable paying for reviews, and you think that’s honestly the biggest problem you face right now, then do it. No one can make that call but you. But that doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, has to jump on board and support a practice that violates our ethical standards. Those standards don’t have to be the same for everyone. Personally, I’d look into other reasons the book might not be selling well before assuming I need to pay for more exposure. Or I’d pay for that exposure in other ways that don’t involve buying opinions.

      If you’d like more direct feedback on your specific book or situation, I’m happy to offer it. Just email me the details at jenn@allindiepublishing.com and I’ll let you know if I have any suggestions. I’ll post them here on the blog so others can hopefully find some useful suggestions for their own situations, or I’ll respond privately. It’s your call. If I can help, I will. And if it doesn’t work out, well, at least it didn’t cost you $15k.

  10. Preston Bullard February 7, 2014 Reply

    *Shrug* I make a living doing honest reviews.

    I review products, books, movies, whatever.

    I deal mostly in book reviews – http://ramblingreviewer.wix.com/fivedollarreviews#!past-reviews/c1z5d

    I think ‘fake’ reviewers are bullshit, I’ll agree with that.

    However, I work on a different business model – mostly because I used to do free reviews and review trades – only to find many people would never return the reviews and just keep their handout – that and I’m a busy man who ran out of time to review for free, let alone friggin’ read.

    So now I advertise paid reviews for five dollars (concept came from Fiverr but I got sick of some of the interface and waiting two weeks for every five dollar order) – I’ll buy their book, honestly review it and butthurt authors be damned. I advertise and deliver 100% HONEST reviews. If your book sucks, your book sucks. That’s a harsh reality. I’ve told more than one author that, too.

    After reviewing (Reviews contain SEO Keywords and are always upwards of 500 words) the book, if I enjoyed it (scored over three stars), then that five dollars also buys advertising space on my website – a dedicated webpage encouraging anyone who comes to my site to check the books out and buy them (I provide direct links to Amazon and other links for people to share the book right there on Facebook themselves). I also backlink to the personal website of any author who contracts through me if they have one, boosting their traffic numbers further.

    I then share them with my 25,000+ Fans on Facebook.

    Also, I must say – none of my forty odd customers have been penalized, my reviews have never been taken down and my traffic is higher than ever.

    I realize I’m probably an oddity, but maybe if we had more articles encouraging people to be HONEST in their practices, and less blasting anyone who needs to put their skills to work to feed their kids, we would have more people operating on a premise like myself.

    I really would love to see more Indie Authors succeed.

    We’re not all evil, you know.

    If anyone is interested in my services, drop onto my page and shoot me a message through my contact page. :) Enjoy! And to all authors – best of luck and keep writing.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern February 8, 2014 Reply

      First of all, I never said all paid book reviewers are evil, so please don’t put words in my mouth. I’m well aware that not all paid reviewers have bad intentions.

      I think you have an interesting model in that what you’re paid actually goes toward paying for a book. If you don’t mind me asking, what happens if the book’s price is more than $5? Do you pay the difference, losing money on the deal? Or do you only review books that fall under that price point?

      While I’m glad to hear no one has been penalized yet, you can’t count on it staying that way. And if Google finds out that you’re charging and that it’s ending in backlinks on your site, that could change very quickly. Are you at least no-following the links as per Google’s quality guidelines? If so, you might be safe. But most authors won’t even know enough to check that before paying a reviewer. And that’s a big part of the problem. Even if the intention isn’t to pay for a link, if that’s an end result, you both can be penalized. All it takes is one report to Google for them to look into it. And you’re posting publicly that you do in fact take money and give links in return.

      I can’t say if you and your clients will personally be penalized for your payment model. But I can, and should, warn authors of the risks. Hopefully you’re no-following the links and they won’t have to worry about that particular issue. But for every honest book reviewer there are countless dishonest ones, and some of the dishonest ones don’t start out that way. They do what they have to do to keep revenue flowing in.

      I get it. I know how hard it can be to monetize a website and earn a living doing something that you love. I deal with those issues every day. But book reviewers aren’t my main focus here. Authors are. And for them to blindly believe that paying for book reviews won’t hurt them is naive. Will paying you personally for book reviews hurt them? I can’t say. But all it takes is one wrong move for an author to get called out for fake reviews, get penalized in search engines, and potentially hurt their reputation. It’s up to each of them individually to decide if any particular paid review offers enough benefit to be worth the risk. And hopefully the authors who do choose to take that risk will at least make sure all review-associated links are no-followed and that the required disclosures are included.

      I spent years running a review-heavy website for indie artists myself, and a decade in profitable Web publishing. So I get where you’re coming from. That’s why I followed this post up with another one that does speak to reviewers. It offers alternative revenue models (most of which I’ve personally had success with). Even if you opt to stick with paid reviews, perhaps you’ll find some ideas there that will help you branch out and explore other revenue streams in the future so you can spend even more time reading and reviewing the books you love. :)

      http://allindiewriters.com/dont-charge-for-book-reviews/

  11. Marc February 22, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jennifer,

    It appears you kicked a hornets nest with this topic. Reading the comments was far better than many published books out there today. I’m glad I got sidetracked and ended up here by accident.

    Personally I’m a bit sour on paid reviews, even those from big publications like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. I used to take those recommendations down to my local library and have then purchase the book for the community. It was one disaster after another. Still shame on me, if they were writing honest reviews on a regular basis the advertising dollars would dry up and no more job, it’s a conflict of interest. Reviews from these sources are nothing more than paid advertising disguised as opinion.

    I’m a huge Goodreads fan, I have yet to be steered wrong but a suggestion from someone whose reading interests mirror mine or a book mentioned in conversation about something else. Friends and most strangers without a vested interest don’t lie.

    As a result of both my experiences as a reader and author I have concluded that book review bloggers are your best friend. It’s word of mouth from people that are trusted. The problem is there are far more authors and books then there are book review bloggers, they are the new scare resource.

    So what do you think of crowd sourcing? I took all my experience and education to create a free service that crowd sources books. Authors submit their books and their anonymous peers whose reading interests are a match with their book decide if the book is exceptional or not. It’s basically a filter, if your book doesn’t excite your anonymous peers (have to avoid review trading or reprisals) then why is the general public going to think much differently? Books that receive a high enough cumulative review score are passed on to the book review blogger community for additional review. It’s not perfect but the goal is try and get authors back to spending more effort on creating great content versus marketing.

    I’d be honored if you’d take a look and provide me with some feedback, free of charge of course:). Thanks for some entertainment.

    Marc

    http://www.bookvetter.com/index.html

  12. David P Perlmutter August 18, 2014 Reply

    I never would pay for reviews. I like organic reviews where people buy my books and then that gives them the option to review or not, whether its a 18 or 4/5*! Wrong Place Wrong Time has over 200 x 5*/50 x 4* and is top 10 in catergories. Also MY WAY a book about book marketing for the indie author has received over 70 x 4/5* reviews from authors. None have ever been paid for….

    Thanks for reading!

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 18, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for chiming in David. :)

      If you have any tips on how authors can get those organic reviews coming in, I’m sure readers would love to hear them. I think much of the frustration that leads authors to buy reviews comes from not knowing where to start — getting their books into the hands of people who are likely to leave reviews. Do you do anything special to make that happen? Or do you take more of a wait-and-see approach and just let them flow in over time?

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