Sunday, February 14, 2010
There’s no shortage of fees for review services, from the thirty dollars charged by this blogger to the $399 that will get you a review from Kirkus Discoveries. But even if the author doesn’t mind paying out, as a reader I would not be comfortable with such an arrangement. I would always wonder which one the reviewer preferred – the book or the checkbook.
It can be problematic for the reviewer as well. Critical reviews that aren’t paid for sometimes make authors upset and angry – what would happen if the author had shelled out good money for something which is unlikely to boost sales? The alternative to that is to praise everything, which some review services certainly do, but those rarely come off as professional or truthful.
What I find interesting are attempts to avoid the stigma of paid reviews by shifting fees to something other than the actual review. Review services may require that writers buy a copy of their publication. They might offer a “fast-track” service – pay a fee and have the book reviewed more quickly.
Or they might get even more creative, such as BookSurge offering its authors/customers a review by “New York Times bestselling author Ellen Tanner Marsh”. As the NYT subsequently pointed out,
Ms. Marsh was last on the best-seller list in the early 1980s for bodice-rippers like “Reap the Savage Wind.” In her review of “The Beer Drinker’s Diet,” a self-published work, she wrote it was “motivating and significant.”
I really dislike it when new writers are given the impression that professional reviews are out of their league, so therefore they should go with an amateur site which either won’t charge as much or won’t charge except to expedite the review. It’s true, many writers won’t get reviewed by Publishers Weekly. But there’s no false dichotomy – there are many other reviewers who write good, unbiased evaluations of books. It’s not as though a writer has to choose between the professionals and the bottom of the barrel.
What are your thoughts on paid reviews?