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Should Writers Pay To Have Their Books Reviewed?

Money for nothing
Money for nothing
Photo by Jessica Hromas/Getty Images

Over the past few years self-publishing has given the professional publishers a run for their money with more than half of the available books on the open market coming out directly from the authors. With that has come a cottage industry of services for the self publisher, from freelance editors, private book cover artist and custom designed marketing services. One such service is the Book Review for a Fee.
With a majority of books sales now happening on-line, the public have a much larger selection to choose from with very little to go by about the book other than the art and the authors “Book Jacket” description. In the old days, so to speak, a customer would walk into a book store and be able to read some of the book that caught their eye before purchasing. Most traditional books stores provided soft chairs and coffee nooks so that their customers could take the time to find the work they wished to go home with. Such luxuries don’t exist on the on-line landscape. Some of the larger internet retailers have tried to fill some of the readers needs by offering sample pages for the consumer to read and reviews posted by other customers about the books.
A great review for any book can have a very positive impact on a book’s sales. When published in a major publication that has a large following, such as a news paper, magazine or popular blog, it can drive more business than a million dollar ad campaign. Yet to even have such a notable reviewer take the time to even read ones book is like winning a lottery.
The services that offer to review a book for a fee often make promises of positive reviews that will get the word out about a book, statements that can be quoted on the books and in sources like blogs and great exposure to the people who would want to buy the book, claims that are quite difficult to quantify. So the question was put to a group of professional writers “Should writers pay to have their books reviewed?” Everyone responded in the negative. Some pointed out that a review isn’t a review if it is commissioned. Others stated that from their experience reviews from unknown sources did nothing to effect the sales of their books. One writer added that purchased reviews could get writers in trouble as some book distributors are starting to crack down on the use of reviews that are not legitimate. Without the distributors the book is dead in the water.
Public reviews may be the best way for a new author to get some positive word of mouth out about their book. Some writers will give away a number of their books to family and friends with the request that they write a positive review on the distributor’s web site. That might not be much better than the paid review, but it is a larger pool of voices that can share what they liked about the book. That could attract more like minded readers who would be more likely to enjoy the book and share their unsolicited positive opinions.