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.
I’ve been fascinated with this subject and even wrote a little about it but I’ve never met an author who actually paid for a book review. So I went to the internet to find out what you get when you pay a reviewer. Investigating the most legitimate (popular) paid services Publisher’s Weekly Select and Kirkus, I tried to find out the truth.
What surprised me the most about this investigation was the belief that authors had about paid reviewers. Some authors believed that these paid reviewers were somehow more qualified to judge their work. But nowhere have I seen any resumes or qualifications listed on the reviewers. In reality, most of these reviewers are forced by the company to remain anonymous. So honestly, you have no idea who’s reviewing your book.
Another shocking belief: All publishing companies pay for reviews. Honestly, that’s unknown, though it’s been alleged for years. The rumor being that big media outlets like the New York Times won’t review books by publishing companies that haven’t purchased advertising. However, 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.
It was the confession of a Kirkus reviewer who talked about how difficult it was to fulfill his assignments that 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 alleges 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 (Select)
It gets no better with Publisher’s Weekly Select 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.
More Paid Services
- Hidden Gems $20 – $400.
- StoryOrigin (Free for now but they plan to charge in the future)
- Reedsy Reviews $50
- Book Sirens $10 – $180
- Author Marketing Club $97
- NetGalley $450 and up
The Inherent Problem
The problem with the review business is there’s no real way to manage it. How would a supervisor or managing editor know for certain a job is being done unless they read every single book themselves to make sure details are not skipped or forgotten.
I don’t need to tell you that paying for reviews can save you time but that’s about it. It doesn’t guarantee you a glowing review nor does it boost your book’s visibility. However, if you’re truly short on time, this may be an easier way to secure reviews.
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. Below, I list free ways to secure book reviewers.
- Library Thing Member Giveaways
- Prolific Works
- The Kindle Book Review
- The Indie View
- Book Sirens Database
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.
If you know of any book reviewers let us know in the comments section.