Friday, April 30, 2010

Paid-For Reviews: Should You Buckle Down or Pay Up

Yep, it’s that time again. I am in the review process for the Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy ( and I ran into the pay-for-reviews or interviews conundrum--again.

I hadn’t heard about them for a while.

As much as I know how hard it for a new author to get a bona fide review, I’m not in favor of paid reviews. Because they aren’t bona fide reviews and probably never will be bona fide. A real review needs to be trusted by:

1. The author who needs reviews to sell books, certainly, but really needs them for the critique process, that is to learn what they do well and not so well so that their writing improves.

2. The reviewer who needs to trust him or herself to give an honest review.

3. The reader who needs to trust that what they are basing their book purchases on isn’t a bunch of biased hooey.

In fact, I advise readers to use other means of getting their information about books than a site or journal where reviews are paid for by the author or publisher.

Even reviews like the unpaid ones on aren’t trustworthy. They have been diluted.

1. Diluted by the average reader weighing in on an art it knows nothing about other than what it likes.

2. Diluted by the competitive meanness going on. I’m talking about authors posting biting reviews on a competitor’s sales page.

3. Diluted because the author—in most cases—isn’t getting the advantage of a knowledgeable critique.

Maybe I’m such a tough bean on this issue because of my journalism background. It's an ethics thing. How can someone give/get a fair review if they're being paid? The reader assumes reviews are given, no strings attached. That may be possible for some paid interviews and reviews, but it—by it’s nature—can’t be possible for all. Therefore it undermines the intent and trustworthiness of the review process. Paid reviews even taint the reviews that aren’t paid for. When trust is dead, it’s very hard to revive it.

In the old days of print journalism, the review journal paid the reviewer. It didn't have to be a lot of money, but that’s where the reviewer’s income came from. That kept the journal, the reviewer, and the author honest.

So, should you pay for a review. The choice is yours. Ask yourself what you will get from it. Ask yourself if you done everything you can to get a review the old-fashioned way--by asking.

Those who want to understand the review process better might read Mayra Calvani's book on reviewing (see the widget above) or the sections in The Frugal Book Promoter on getting reviews (, or go to my Web site and search through the Resources for Writers section where you'll find sources for getting the-real-thing in reviews.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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