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Thread: Paid Reviews
December 22nd, 2011, 03:03 AM #1
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Query on companies that offer to do book reviews for pay. This post altered by request of the OP.
Last edited by KatG; January 19th, 2012 at 05:46 PM.
December 22nd, 2011, 05:32 PM #2
I would suggest that you don't do either. The way that readers get interested in books, the kinds of reviews they are doing -- perfunctory, for cash by volume -- I doubt those reviews get read that much, much less followed up on.
December 22nd, 2011, 11:54 PM #3
I have never heard of either of these sites, but I must say I am intrigued. Reviews are getting harder and harder to come by. I have averaged only about one review per two thousand readers, so it takes me forever to get a sufficient number of reviews posted to mean anything to prospective buyers.
KatG's worries, however, are probably valid. What if the reviews were nothing but vapid one-line slogans? They would actually harm your marketing.
But if, as the sites claim, there is true quality control, then the price is probably more than fair.
So, no, I don't have any advice to offer. If you learn any more about either site, I would be very interested in your findings. I, too, will try to search for information.
Thanks -- WB
PS to KatG -- Kat, have you heard any actual horror stories concerning these sites? Thanks in advance. -- WB
December 24th, 2011, 11:34 PM #4
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I am with WindowBar, I'd like to see how it turns out for you. Please keep us posted. But honestly, KatG's advice is usually as good as bread (as the Italians would put it). Although not infallible, she's exceptionally experienced and I'd trust her word on this.
Last edited by KatG; January 19th, 2012 at 05:47 PM.
December 28th, 2011, 11:11 AM #5
Book Rooster Review
Redacted for the new year!
Last edited by Carlyle Clark; January 2nd, 2012 at 07:20 PM. Reason: Humiliating amount of typos
December 28th, 2011, 12:11 PM #6
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I would have to agree with Window Bar, Reviews are harder to come by... As a small publisher, I created a database of reviewers so I could send them notifications of new books as they came out. My most recent message went out to 30 different review sites, 9 of them responded, saying they were too full to take on any new books. The rest just didn't answer.
I also agree with KatG, paying for a review from a service designed for reviews doesn't seem terribly effective.
As much as the tone of the review is important, who does the review should be equally important. One of the reviews we did receive on the book came from a small writing community out of the blue, but it generated sales within that community because they knew the reviewer.
But if it works, and it generates sales and interest, who am I to disagree?
December 28th, 2011, 01:27 PM #7
It depends on what you’re expecting when you pay for reviews and what you mean by “paying.”
For instance, I suppose because it’s tradition, sending ARCs and finished copies is somehow not considered payment, even though they end up in used book stores, Amazon, e-Bay, etc. and the reviewer is compensated in some way for the book, on top of receiving something (the book) for free instead of paying for it.
I would assume that that is effective method as so many successful publishers do it.
Besides if you are self-pubbed through POD the cost of “buying” one of your own print books to send out for review, plus the media mail cost to ship it, works out to more than it costs to send a PDF to either of these review services.
Ideally, you could just hunt down blogs etc. and send for reviews yourself. I’ve done it and will continue to do it. It takes a massive amount of time and a lot of blogs won’t touch Indie authors. So, you have to calculate if you are
All that said, paying for reviews at Amazon, or anywhere else, unless the reviewer has a blog or review site or something along those line is not marketing your novel (even though a lot of the paid reviewers allegedly do have blog or something so your book will get exposure there also) it’s making it more attractive at point-of-sale. You still have to get the reader there somehow. As long as the reviews are thoughtful, somewhat positive, and not rave fests that just make people think the person is a friend or family member of the author. Also,
Someone posted a link to an article on a study on it (was it at this site?) which determined that customer reviews were the largest factor in buying anything on-line. The article said the key determiners were if the reviewer seemed objective and how well written the review was. For me that’s true, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book. Maybe the things they didn’t like are things I do like or wouldn’t bother me, like violence, or sex. And sometime the thing the reviewer doesn’t like is the exact thing I’m looking for, like complexity.
Last edited by Carlyle Clark; December 28th, 2011 at 01:32 PM. Reason: Apparently, even cut-n-paste is beyond me at times
December 28th, 2011, 02:38 PM #8
Being Realistic About Reviews
Let's be honest about reviews: What are they, exactly?
We'll consider a pair of examples:
Why has John Irving, a first-rate author, endorsed Abraham Verghese (another first-rate author) since Verghese's first short stories were mailed out? Irving's remarks can be found anywhere on the Net, not to mention being printed on Verghese's book covers. Are these "reviews" objective? Hard to say. Verghese studied under Irving and became a tight personal friend. Maybe the friendship is based upon the quality of Verghese's work, maybe upon some personality aspects that are totally intangible. But the fact remains that the full-scale endorsement by one of North America's best-loved authors has been invaluable to Verghese's career.
The Irving/Verghese connection is not unique, nor should it come as a surprise that dozens of advance copies of books are sent spinning around the nation in hopes of landing some kind words by a well-known author or critic. And of course, it will be only the kind words that are publicized. The snickers and moans will head for the shredder or the computer trash bin.
In my second example, I'm going to omit the names of people and corporations, simply because the employment relationship that I will discuss still exists, and I'm bound to keep confidentiality:
A woman whom I know, a highly educated professional in her thirties, works as a project-management editor for a small non-fiction publisher. Each time a book is released, my friend is expected to send a copy apiece home with each of a dozen employees at the firm. Each of these employees has an online bookstore account. Each of them, by morning, has produced a glowing review of the work: sometimes 4-star, sometimes 5-star. Are they ordered to praise the book? Of course not. They are asked to be objective. But there is an unspoken pressure upon them. It's called salary.
Is the system corrupt? Perhaps. It's certainly less corrupt than hiring an advertising agency to produce TV endorsements mouthed by models who have no interest or expertise relating to the product they endorse. Books are media, they are pop culture. Is it any wonder that publishers' advertising methods have so many similarities to the release of movies?
Unfortunately, the bump in the road lies within the rating system. Amazon and its imitators-in-review use computer averaging to "assist" the reader. So if a reader's search terms indicate that he/she wants to consider only books rated 4-star or above, many classics will be omitted, whereas the latest Zombie attack might top the list. A reviewer who reads a science fiction book and rates it 1-star because "I don't much care for sci-fi," or "this book ought to focus more on Jesus" is given just as much mathematical weight as the most careful and erudite reviewer. (Don't dismiss these two imaginary reviewers. Both are based upon actual reviews).
To an author, reviews are real. Our sales depend upon them. We must each discover how to achieve notice on the Net while maintaining integrity. The paths will be varied, but they must be explored. Yes, writing a fine story comes first; but many fine stories languish in obscurity because the author is unrealistic about the process of salesmanship.
POP QUIZ (5-stars of extra credit):
Choose (A) or (B) below:
(A) Andy Warhol was the best American painter of the 60s, and that's why he became a well-known rich celebrity.
(B) Andy Warhol was the best-marketed American painter of the 60s, who happened to parlay some convenient social connections into stardom.
Sharpen your pencils and begin. Anyone who implies that Andy Warhol "cheated" will be immediately disqualified.
December 29th, 2011, 05:26 AM #9
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In my experience there are two no-no's with regard to reviews.
#1 - Never pay for one - it reflects badly on you and your work - shows that you are desperate and no one will put any weight in a paid review - and it's not hard to discover. I was interested in a book ... read a review... went to see other reviews that reviewer liked and saw it was a paid site. I immediately decided not to buy the book.
#2 - Don't "trade reviews" - i.e. say to one author I'll read/review your book if you do the same to mine. This puts both of you in a terrible situation as if you don't like their book then you are between a rock and a hard place. If you give a good review for a bad book then you'll lose credibility. If you tell them....I can't in good conscious review this book - then you'll make an enemy.
I know getting reviews is difficult (at first) but like anything it grows with time. Try to start with readers (for instance do a giveaway at Goodreads) and once you get a few ratings then move up to "smaller blogs" and then keep trading up to larger ones.
December 29th, 2011, 08:50 AM #10
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I personally don't think it is desperate to pay for reviews. This type of commentary comes from folks entrenched in the center of a universe where things are a particular way and are comfortable with a process that is well known to them - and this isn't meant as a slight because when it comes to ANYTHING NEW, the process of 'a thing' has to start on the fringe and work its way into establishment. History is littered with examples of "that will never fly" and it winds up flying well.
When the concept of e-books came onto the scene, it was brushed off as an epic-fail by many, yet slowly and steadily it is working its way into entrenchment. Self-publishing was initially considered the way of the untalented or unpublishable (and to some extent it is), yet more and more people are doing it and we are hearing and reading more and more success stories as this becomes a more respectable avenue to venture into. Don't worry, the traditional publishing houses will adapt or go the way of the dinosaur when it comes to picking up authors who have initially gone the self-published route....money is green and its their favorite color - where it originates from won't matter in the long run.
The paying for reviews at first seems to against the grain but in a social media world where the avenues of promotion have broken off into thousands of side streets, one has to always be on the lookout for opportunity to promote themselves. The traditional way is still the best way, the prefered way by many and has the best chance to attract a high volume of eyeballs to your product but when certain avenues are closed, you seek out and venture the side roads and see how those approaches work. The average reader doesn't know what these review services are nor do they care - they want quality product and if a paid review helps in attaining that promotional edge which lead to more revenue, you take it. I say, if you are comfortable with the approach you try it.
December 29th, 2011, 09:52 AM #11
Forty years (more?) when "Mr. Whipple" hit television, admonishing us "Don't squeeze the Charmin," he became instantly the most hated man on TV. Yet Charmin leaped overnight from a concept to the best selling bathroom tissue in America.
Darcie Chan, a major eBook success story with over 400m sales of her first novel, purchased a review from Kirkus and turned it into an ad on Goodreads. I know nothing of the quality of the book, but I do recognize a successful business promotion.
We also might consider the matter of differences among the various genres and the readers who might be interested. Different promotional strategies will work out differently for one author than for another.
December 29th, 2011, 04:52 PM #12
Again this rasies the question of what paying for a review is:
Is giving someone for free a hardcover that sells for 25 dollars in the store in hopes they will review it not paying for it? Especially, when they can and do sell it themselves? And even if they didn't, presumably they are readers who received a free book which is like being paid. Why is that not a conflict of interest, but giving someone 1/4th of that amount in is? Doesn't someone receiving free ARCs or hardcovers for review have the exact same incentive to leave postive reviews? Is it just a matter of an accepted standard industry practice vs. unaccepted practice? Is it as Tyler said, just the knee jerk suspicious reaction to something allegedly new while people aren't realizing that it isn't the slightest bit new, just altered a bit, like the difference between e-books and print books? What am I missing?
December 29th, 2011, 08:47 PM #13
Hey, sorry, I was away. Let me see if I can catch up here.
1) Do I know anything about either company? Nope, never heard of them before this thread. But they are part of the companies that have popped up to try to get money out of the new crop of self-published electronic authors. I don't think it's a scam, but it is taking advantage of a lot of authors desperate to get reviews in a marketplace that is still adapting to their large numbers and it generates an enormous amount of money for these sites with absolutely no guarantees of any real benefit or effect for the authors paying for what is essentially a weird type of PR release, not a real review.
2) "I do not normally read science fiction" -- if you're paying for a review of your science fiction book, and the reviewer they assign the book has no knowledge or interest in science fiction whatsoever, that's bad. It means that the review will be ignored by core fan buyers. In SFFH, this is particularly a problem as regular buyers of SFFH want reviews from knowledgeable fans who are active in the community. These are key word of mouth people, and that's not what you are getting from these sites, despite paying them.
3) Fiction buyers are marketing resistant. They particularly don't like marketing that seems to be shoving the book at them or trying to trick them into buying the book. Such marketing attempts tend to give them a negative impression of the book and they may avoid it or bad-mouth it and the author. The number one way that fiction is sold is word of mouth recommendations from friends, family and fellow fans. Reviews can help build that word of mouth, but they are less useful for that -- as people trust very few reviewers -- than they are for simply spreading awareness of a book's existence. To trust a reviewer, buyers expect that reviewer to not be being paid by the people he or she is reviewing, to be non-partisan, to have used his or her own judgement (or the judgement of an assigning editor of a publication also not paid for reviews,) to select a book for review and then to review in an honest assessment that has no other agenda than to assess the book. If readers believe that is not what is happening -- and this situation has come up many times, on Amazon and elsewhere -- they distrust the review and regard the reviewer negatively and often the book reviewed as well. As it is not hidden that these reviews are paid for, presumably, these reviews are very unlikely to interest many people in the book, if they even get read at all. Many reviews that are not paid for don't get read either, but if readers believe a review is simply an ad, they lose interest very quickly. Eventually, there will be more reviewers and sites reviewing self-published works for free, but the market is still very young. You might think that paid reviews is a good stop-gap method, but readers tend to regard them differently.
If you are paying for these reviews with these sites, then you may want to try and do some marketing research -- ask people who bought your book where they heard about it and see if these reviews are really having any effect. But based on how readers buy, these paid reviews are the exact opposite of what readers want to get to make purchasing decisions.
4) ARC's are sent out to percolate interest, not pay for reviews, and are not just sent to reviewers. Reviewers are under no obligation to review a book for which they've received an ARC or to return it to the publisher. The ARC makes the reviewer aware of the book's existence and then they can decide whether they want to deal with it or not. The ARC is essentially like a press release and is not the same thing as a paid review.
5) A lot of people think established authors are paid or blackmailed into giving laudatory quotes for a new author's work, but this is never the case. The established authors are asked whether they will review, they don't have to and if they review the book and don't like it, they don't have to give a quote. If they do give a quote, it is genuine. It also does not have that much effect on sales. At this point, an author gushing about a book on his blog would have more effect possibly, at least for a segment of his blog audience. But quotes are better than not. Many readers don't trust them, but it doesn't hurt to have them.
If you've paid these sites for reviews, it's not the worst thing in the world. It's just that I don't think you're really getting anything for your money. Building an audience, even if you are working with a publisher who is distributing widely, takes time, essentially for awareness of your work's existence and then word of mouth recommendation to spread. Most bestsellers, for instance, are slow burn sellers, who build up large sales over time. And every book is going to take a different path. That is why fiction publishing is perhaps the most frustrating and counter-intuitive market ever. If you look at the paid reviews as press release advertising, then it may spread awareness. I would just worry that it's going to boomerang on you. Readers already don't necessarily trust self-published authors to have interesting, quality works and production. Paid reviews don't then inspire further trust. But ads -- and that's what a paid review is -- may have an effect. If you're going to spend the money, though, I'd suggest putting it into actual ads -- banners and placards -- in targeted areas. That builds awareness of the book in a way that readers don't regard as a cheat or a scam.
That's just my opinion, based on buying patterns which seem to have remained the same for e-books. But every author has to find their own way.
December 30th, 2011, 05:22 AM #14
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For me paying for a review seems wrong but Carlyle has a point in the definition of 'pay'.
It's commonly accepted that arc's (either in print or pdf) will be sent out in the hope of getting reviews. I've had a few good reads giveaways and I've spent countless hours going through the YA blog list sending out review requests - I'd be lucky to get 1 / 20 people who actually accept to read my novel and this can take anywhere up to 6 months. To show for it I have 30 ratings and 21 reviews on goodreads for book 1 that was released in March (ebook in May) and now that book 2 was released at the start of the month 6 ratings, 4 reviews already with the majority of those who read book 1 already in the process of reading book 2. When a review is released I offer discount coupons to the blogger for their reader... it's a very slow process but it's getting there.
For the vast majority of writers, it's not going to happen quickly (becoming well known let alone making money), and there is quite a lot of writers out there that it won't happen at all.
I highly recommend patience over the risk of seeming desperate.
What's commonly accepted is what will affect peoples view's and for me, I don't think paid for reviews is currently commonly accepted.
December 30th, 2011, 12:02 PM #15
The feeling then is if you pay someone to find reviewers for you than those reviews are no longer reviews they are then PR releases?
However, something doesn't sound right to me. If you are sending someone a book to make them aware of it and it's basically a press release, why not just send a press release which would be far simpler and cheaper especially in the electronic age and hoping they buy the book? Instead of sending something of value like a book? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason an actual book is sent is that presenting the person/organization with the book elevates the likelihood they will review it beyond that of just sending a press release and hoping they will purchase it themself.
Granted, there is no one to one expected ration with that system, but reviews are expected from that individual/organization in general. In other words, if Kirkus stopped revieweng or doing anything with any book publishers sent them, publishers would eventually stop sending them.
It sounds to me like the distinction made in politics where you can't pay a politician to do something, but you can make it known to them you want something done and then donate to their campaign.
So what makes something go from a review to a PR release is not the providing something of value, but the expectancy that you will receive that something being elevated to an undetermined, but nonetheless, unacceptable level.