I’ve been fascinated with this subject, and even wrote a little about it but I’ve never met an author who paid for a book review. Well, not one that would actually admit to it! So I went to the internet to find out what you really 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 about this investigation was the belief that some authors had about paid reviewers. Some believed that these reviewers were somehow more “qualified” to judge their work. But nowhere have I seen any resumes or qualifications listed on the reviewers. In fact, 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. By the way, it’s very expensive to advertise in NYT just check out their ad rates in PDF here.
It was the confession of a Kirkus reviewer who talked about how difficult it was to fulfill his assignments which got me thinking. If they’re having issues with meeting assignments/quotas 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 since Kirkus and PW are marketed to book stores, libraries and the publishing industry, your book will get in front of the eyeballs of the right people. However I don’t agree, you need an ISBN as well as expanded distribution through places like Amazon, Ingram, or Baker and Taylor not reviews from PW or Kirkus. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget, you need big sales numbers!
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 person alleged that PW only chooses poorly edited books to slam.
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 book themselves to make sure details are not skipped or forgotten.
Another problem is lack of understanding, how can someone review book on World War 2 when they don’t have a firm grasp on that time period? And how can a suburban middle-aged soccer mom review a book about a YA urban romance? See how this is all subjective? Indie authors are paying real money for an opinion that may or may not be relevant, let alone, intelligent.
I would be remiss in not mentioning that it’s considered unethical to pay anyone for a review.
This is the Part Where I Tell You How 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 fellow authors who review books in your genre. You can even solicit reviews on your blog or newsletter remember last week?
Library Thing “Member Giveaways”: http://www.librarything.com/er/giveaway/list
World Lit Cafe: http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/forum/167
A Twitter List I Put Together of 75 Reviewers: https://twitter.com/WritingPants/reviewers-on-twitter/members
Articles That You Need to Check Out:
How to Get Reviews via The Creative Penn
The Top 25 Reviewers on Goodreads via Forbes
How to Find Readers on Facebook via Yours Truly!
If you know of more reviewers list them in the comments section.