Sunday, October 6, 2013

Should You Pay For A Book Review?

You’ve written your book and had it accepted by a publisher . . . now what? For many writers, the most difficult aspect of being an author is probably the most important of all—how do I market what I’ve written? Suffice it to say, there are many promotional avenues to travel, but one much-travelled road is the book review. Potential book buyers use book reviews as a primary tool in determining whether or not to purchase.

Not too long ago, most people perused bookshelves in brick and mortar stores when the urge to buy a book nudged them out of their homes. However, things have changed. A vast majority of readers now shop online. No longer able to read newspaper reviews (many papers have gone belly up) or pick up a book off the shelf and read the dust jacket, they instead go to Amazon or other such sites and browse titles  online.

Thus, the online book review has replaced the dust jacket and newspaper book section. A review, particularly a good one, is an important part of marketing. So is it worthwhile to pay someone to review your book? My sense is that paid reviews are a waste of money.

Take Kirkus for example, one of the major book reviewers in the industry. If my figures are correct, a $425.00 review will take nine weeks, or, if you can afford to pay $575.00, Kirkus will complete it in four to six weeks. What do you get for your money? A review—not a guarantee that it will be a starred review or Editor’s Choice. Moreover, the review will more than likely be buried under layers of other reviews and be practically invisible unless a reader specifically searches for it.

There are other paid sites for book reviews: Foreword Book Review, San Francisco Book Review, Portland Book Review, and Indie Reader, to name a few. Some paid sites also host awards for your book, with perhaps an additional fee. However, I have a problem with paid reviews, in that some of the sites guarantee “good” reviews. After all, you are paying them, and who in their right mind would pay to have someone tell them their book is terrible.

The other consideration is that most other authors and some savvy readers know when a review is from an objective unpaid source, versus one from a review mill whose goal is to make money. Whenever I see a review from a paid site, I automatically assume the book is not worth my while. I think paid reviews are a huge disservice to the review process. Frankly, I never use PW, Kirkus, or other such sites when searching for books.

If you’re not able or willing to pay for a review, what are your options? To begin with, you should have written a good book. Next, identify reviewers, both online and offline, who are willing to give you an honest review. Ask them for blurbs, and/or to post reviews with your publisher and Amazon, B&N, etc. Send complimentary copies of your book to sources you think may be interested in your work. These could be local papers, magazines, radio stations, etc. Cast a wide net, and if you pull in a few fish, that may be all you need.

Should you ask friends and associates for reviews? Of course. Reviews generate interest; the more reviews, the more interest in your book. Books with numerous reviews on Amazon attract a lot of attention. Book and author blogs are another way to generate interest without paying anyone any money.

Let’s be frank, a paid review is disingenuous. It’s actually a paid advertisement in disguise. If you want to advertise, you’re better off buying an ad in a magazine or one on the radio—you’ll get more bang for your buck.
John M. Wills


James Callan said...

Thanks, John. And I am totally amazed that Kirkus publishes paid reviews. And $425. Wow. But that will change the way I view Kirkus reviews. Personally, I am against paying for a review – other than supplying a free book to the reviewer. I recently got an e-mail from someone who became aware of my book A Ton of Gold from another review. They apparently publish reviews in print (I think) and on line. They do not charge for the review, but they charge “a reading fee” of $17. I decided to pass on that. It sounded like a paid review. But, against $425, I guess I’d have to call it a cheap review.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post.And I agree, I'd much rather have a review from a reader.