Updated: 3/3/2021

Finding book reviews can be a bit of a problem for indie authors especially, since there are so many options now. Today, authors can secure free book reviews or they can pay for them. In this post I explain the pros and cons of both and offer possible resources for authors looking for book reviews.

Paying For Editorial Reviews

Before I go on, I want to explain what an editorial review is and why some authors pay for them. An editorial review is an objective review usually, written by an editorial staff member or critic of a particular genre. Since these people are professionals it’s considered normal to pay them for their services.

What surprised me when researching this article was the belief that paid reviewers were somehow more qualified to judge a book. However, I never saw any resumes or qualifications listed on the reviewers. That’s because most of these reviewers are forced by the company to remain anonymous. So honestly, you have no idea who’s reviewing your book.

Another strong belief I encountered was the idea that all big publishers pay for reviews so why can’t indie authors? This comes from the rumor that media outlets such as the New York Times won’t review books by publishing companies that haven’t purchased advertising in their paper. I can’t say if that’s true or not but what I do know is that publishers do send out free ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to reviewers and various media outlets which costs money, so yes, they do pay for reviews in that sense. 

Kirkus Confessions

Kirkus is an established periodical that’s been publishing book reviews since 1933 and their subscription base consists mainly of libraries and publishing professionals. Sounds cool, right? But in 2009, the confession of a Kirkus reviewer caught my attention when he talked about how difficult it was to fulfill his assignments. This got me thinking, if they’re having issues with meeting assignments how on earth are these books getting reviewed?

According to a few dissatisfied authors, they’re not! One author I found in a chat room, claimed that Kirkus simply skimmed her submission and gave an incorrect review of her book. In her complaint, the author alleged that the reviewer didn’t get the arc of the story right and didn’t seem to even know what the book was about. That’s bad, considering they charge around $425 to review a book, not to skim one.

Publisher’s Weekly

It gets no better with Publishers Weekly’s program. Again, a few authors discussed the merits or lack thereof on the Kindle Boards. Some cited that the reviews are necessary if you want your books in libraries and book stores. The logic being that since Kirkus and PW periodicals are marketed toward book stores, libraries, and those within the publishing industry, your book will get in front of the right people. However, I don’t agree, the industry wants to see big sales, not good reviews.  

As I read on, things got worse, one person claiming to be an agent said, that several of his clients paid for reviews only to have them put in a newsletter squished between 50 other reviews. Another author said it was a waste of money and that their book was never reviewed. While another alleged that PW only chooses poorly edited books to slam.

Now here’s the deal, if you’re an indie author who wants their book in the library then you might want to consider getting an editorial review from PW or Kirkus. However, if you have no intention of getting your book in the library, then an editorial review is an unnecessary expense. Below, I list some of the more popular sources for paid editorial reviews as well as their free alternatives.

Paid Editorial Reviews

Free Editorial Reviews

If you must have an editorial review, you can secure one for free of charge if you’re willing to send a free ARC. Below I list a couple of places to check out:

Getting Reviews From Readers

During a book launch most authors and publishers go on a pitching blitz to get reviews for their new book. This is time consuming and doesn’t guarantee results at least, not immediate ones. If you are short on time and have money to spend, you might want to look into a service that can help you find reviews for your book. Keep in mind, these are not editorial reviews, just reader reviews. Below are just a few of the more popular choices:

Paid Book Review Services

This is the Part Where I Tell You How to Get Free Book Reviews

There are sites that indie authors can submit their books for free, or only for the cost of shipping, to get an honest review. Hopefully, you’ve built a network on social media of readers and bloggers who review books in your genre. Also, don’t forget to solicit reviews on your blog or newsletter when you launch a book, you should shout it from the rooftops. Anyway, below I list free ways to secure book reviews. 

Free:

There’s nothing wrong with going the free route, in fact, it’s the most popular way for indie authors and traditional publishers to market their books. Unless, you are trying to get the attention of libraries or an agent, you might want to stick to the free route. With the proliferation of social media, there is no shortage of people willing to share their opinions for free and this is a good thing for authors.