What to Expect from a Paid Book Review

What to Expect from a Paid Book Review

By Rachel Rueben

Paid Book Reviews

By Moriza via Flickr

I’ve been fascinated with this subject, and even wrote a little about it but I’ve never met an author who paid for a book review.  Well, not one that would actually admit to it!  So I went to the internet to find out what you really get when you pay a reviewer.  Investigating the most legitimate (popular) paid services Publisher’s Weekly Select and Kirkus, I tried to find out the truth.

What surprised me about this investigation was the belief that some authors had about paid reviewers.  Some believed that these reviewers were somehow more “qualified” to judge their work.  But nowhere have I seen any resumes or qualifications listed on the reviewers.  In fact, most of these reviewers are forced, by the company, to remain anonymous.  So honestly, you have no idea who’s reviewing your book.

Another shocking belief:  all publishing companies pay for reviews.  Honestly, that’s unknown, though it’s been alleged for years.  The rumor being that big media outlets like the New York Times won’t review books by publishing companies that haven’t purchased advertising.  By the way, it’s very expensive to advertise in NYT just check out their ad rates in PDF here.

Kirkus Confessions

It was the confession of a Kirkus reviewer who talked about how difficult it was to fulfill his assignments which got me thinking.  If they’re having issues with meeting assignments/quotas how on earth are these books getting reviewed?

According to a few dissatisfied authors, they’re not!  One author I found in a chat room, claimed that Kirkus simply skimmed her submission and gave an incorrect review of her book.  In her complaint, the author alleges that the reviewer didn’t get the arc of the story right and didn’t seem to even know what the book was about.  That’s bad, considering they charge around $425 to review a book, not to skim one.

Publisher’s Weekly (Select)

It gets no better with Publisher’s Weekly Select program.  Again, a few authors discussed the merits or lack thereof on the Kindle Boards.  Some cited that the reviews are necessary if you want your books in libraries and book stores.  The logic being since Kirkus and PW are marketed to book stores, libraries and the publishing industry, your book will get in front of the eyeballs of the right people.  However I don’t agree, you need an ISBN as well as expanded distribution through places like Amazon, Ingram, or Baker and Taylor not reviews from PW or Kirkus.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget, you need big sales numbers!

As I read on, things got worse, one person claiming to be an agent said, that several of his clients paid for reviews only to have them put in a newsletter squished between 50 other reviews.  Another author said it was a waste of money and that their book was never reviewed.  While another person alleged that PW only chooses poorly edited books to slam.

The Inherent Problem

The problem with the review business is there’s no real way to manage it.  How would a supervisor or managing editor know for certain a job is being done unless they read every book themselves to make sure details are not skipped or forgotten.

Another problem is lack of understanding, how can someone review book on World War 2 when they don’t have a firm grasp on that time period?  And how can a suburban middle-aged soccer mom review a book about a YA urban romance?  See how this is all subjective?  Indie authors are paying real money for an opinion that may or may not be relevant, let alone, intelligent.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that it’s considered unethical to pay anyone for a review.

This is the Part Where I Tell You How Get Free Book Reviews

There are sites that indie authors can submit their books for free, or only for the cost of shipping, to get an honest review.   Hopefully, you’ve built a network on social media of fellow authors who review books in your genre.  You can even solicit reviews on your blog or newsletter.  Here are a few resources:

Library Thing “Member Giveaways”: http://www.librarything.com/er/giveaway/list

Libboo: https://www.libboo.com/

BookSneeze: http://www.booksneeze.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show_tag/reviews

World Lit Cafe: http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/forum/167

A Twitter List I Put Together of 75 Reviewers:   https://twitter.com/WritingPants/reviewers-on-twitter/members

Articles That You Need to Check Out:

How to Get Reviews via The Creative Penn

The Top 25 Reviewers on Goodreads via Forbes

How to Find Readers on Facebook via Yours Truly!

About Rachel:

Rachel Rueben went to school to become an administrative assistant but instead, wound up an author.  In her defense, she tried freelance writing, virtual assisting, and blogging to pay the bills, but creating worlds was her one and only passion.

This past summer, Rachel entered the sacred order of authorhood with the release of her first novel “Hag” which made it to #10 on the Amazon’s Women’s and Girl’s Literature list.

To find out what Rachel is up to you can check out her new site at: http://www.rachelrueben.com

She continues to blog about her publishing journey at: http://www.writingbytheseatofmypants.com

You can also find Rachel on Twitter @RachelRueben

And catch her on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelRueben

Critiquing 101 by Karen Vaughan

So a friend asks you for some feedback on a WORK IN PROGRESS.  You want to give a clear and concise critique.   Having been on the wrong end of a scathing review of my work, I came up with a few guidelines I use to give them. First I ask the following questions to the writer.

  • Do you want me to comment on content only?
  • Should I edit for grammar and spelling?
  • Ask for the genre and age group it is targeted for—if YA you’ll know to watch for inappropriate subject for that age. Eg too much explicit sex.

If he/she gives the okay to edit you are free to have at it but be NICE! Always start with what you liked about the work so far. Feel free to ask for clarification about words or phrases you aren’t sure about. If you feel that there is something uncomfortable about it and can’t continue with it say so up front. Example you may not like the genre or the subject matter tell the writer so he can get some one else to read it. i.e you can’t handle horror or say abuse of women, children, or animals and excessive violence. Use humor when possible –Like “you had a lot of foul language and violence buddy, did someone crap in your Wheaties that morning?”  The fact that you didn’t like the language or violence will come out but if he/she can laugh at the comment. Be sure to comment on:

  • Plot
  • Characterization
  • Setting—time frame
  • Place

Alternate good and bad points –a former boss calls it a McMaster sandwich—start with positive, state negative and end on a positive note. Tact is important you don’t want to make the person wonder if he/she should give up writing. Most people know how to give feed back but my co-member in a writing group needs serious sensitivity training. Above all be encouraging. Even if the story is full of technical errors and holes in the plot assure the writer that with a bit of tweaking there is a great story to be told. Your relationship will be safe and he/she will feel like they can build a better mouse trap.

Good Writing Is In The Eye Of The Beholder by Prudence Hayes

I will not deny that I don’t handle criticism well, especially in my writing.  Outwardly, I say ‘okay’, but inward there are flames galore and my heart is twisted in knots.  I have a few reviews on Amazon for my book and most are great. There is one, though, that has been chasing me ever since it was posted.  It’s like someone holding a chalkboard in their hands and following me throughout the day dragging their long nails across it.  I try and push it far back in my mind, but it has the strength to pop up and show its appearance at the most inopportune times.  Typically, it’s when I’m writing, which I then, throw my pen across the room and a downward spiral is kick started, during which I tell myself that I suck. Then, I have to talk myself off a ledge and push that bad review to the way back again.  I know; I’m a mess.

During my crisis negotiations with myself, I constantly say that good writing is in the eye of the beholder.  Just because this one person doesn’t like my writing doesn’t mean that it is horrible, it just means he doesn’t like my style.  There have been plenty of books that have been between my hands and I have had to place them right back on the shelf because I couldn’t get through them. We all have different ways in writing. If I wrote like you, I wouldn’t be me and my books would be yours not mine. 

There will be a day when a professional editor will read my books and they will probably have a field day.   I will try and take the constructive criticism in stride, even though I will be fuming inside.  I will take all the editing help that is thrown my way, commas and punctuation are a pain in my a**, but what I refuse to do is eliminate myself from my writing.  I don’t want to disappear in words that aren’t really mine and I don’t want those words to come out the way that they weren’t intended to by me. 

To some, it may be overly wordy and extensively adjective-infused writing and to others it is poetic and beautiful.

To some, it may be stark and bland and to others it is concise and to the point.  It all depends on the beholder of the book.  To each his own, I say to that bad reviewer.

BOOK REVIEWS and BOOK BIRTHDAY CAKE by Una Tiers

 

My first mystery, Judge vs Nuts, will celebrate its first birthday, in February.  Before the release, I conjured up images of reviews raving about the magnificence of my book, written by literary scholars who begged for more. My potential reviewers included authors who write wildly popular non-fiction books about the law or famous Chicago figures.  Of course the occasional celebrity author or librarian would stop me on the street and ask about doing a review.

At the Printers Row Lit Fest in 2011, I attended a panel discussion with three women authors who talked about the low numbers of women reviewers.  My list of hopefuls were all men.  Later I approached one of the authors to thank her and asked if she was interested in taking a look at my book. I’ll come back to this.

At the early stage “book review” was synonymous with “book report.”  Reading reviews daily I understand they are opinions.  Most are generous, with gentle notation of areas for improvement while others are petty.  Reviews can cover plot, characters, pace, grammar and more.  One review blamed the publisher for faulty editing.

My understanding continues to grow along with my confusion, skepticism and evaluation of the quality of a review.  Reviews come from many sources:  readers, friends, and professional reviewers.  If you look closely, some books are reviewed by one review reviewers.  “Book cover blurbs” are short, three or four sentences that would appear on the back cover or inside the book.  These are my favorite version of a review.  The author benefits and the reviewer benefits

Amazon uncovered “purchased” reviews and announced authors could not review books of other authors.  What?  Writers are prolific readers and well suited to review books.  The “exchange” book reviews are too often meaningless.  I don’t make these pacts.  If your friend has a book, read it before you give an opinion.  We know they are wonderful, that’s why you call them a friend.

Of the two categories, requested and spontaneous reviews, I think authors need to be specific when requesting a review.  Items to consider are:  receipt of manuscript; word count; time frame; how you will use the review and what you want.  Will the reviewer post the review on their blog or website?   Invite the reviewer to tell you if they can’t meet the time frame.  If your release date is pushed back, let them know.

My pet peeve of the requested reviews are the hiders.  Those folks make an agreement to review your book and then avoid you when you follow up.  Did they hate the book?  Want it for free?  Lose it?  Change their tiny minds about doing the review?  You won’t be able to get the answer, because the hiders, well, hide.

There are also people in the ambiguous category.  When you ask them to take a look at your book they tell you they give you a dozen reasons why they can’t read your book.  I’m a little naïve, so if you want me to print it out and drive it over please tell me.  If the answer is no…

One of my favorite reviews is from Author Barbara D’Amato.  I love her writing and her review was delightful.  Her review means more to me because Ms. D’Amato went out of her way to help a stranger who approached her at a book fair, showing me how authors help authors.

Every review thrills me.  When I send a sample, and get a note back saying they started the book and are laughing, even editing becomes less painful. Reviews from other authors are awesome and the reader reviews are very special.  Some reviews are written in a note to the author and others are posted on blogs, sales sites and book review sites I’ve never seen.

Thank you to those who took the time to help me.     Best, Una Tiers.

Judge_vs_Nuts[1]

The review:

Judge vs Nuts is a hilariously funny take on judges, but also a scathing indictment of judicial politics.  Lawyer Fiona Gavelle narrates with a wonderful, self-deprecating wit, as she goes about unraveling the murder of a Cook County judge.

Barbara D’Amato

Author of Other Eyes

Buy the Book: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Judge-vs-Nuts-ebook/dp/B007BSD4RU
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/judge-vs-nuts-una-tiers/1108946512
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=judge+vs+nuts&adult=on
Omnilit: https://www.omnilit.com/product-judgevsnuts-727807-243.html http://unatiers.com     una@unatiers.com  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55XqIbk0VY4

Judge vs Nuts, by Una Tiers was released in February of 2012 and posted on Ellis Vidler’s blog:  http://theunpredictablemuse.blogspot.com/2012/02/book-reviews-reviewed.html

This blog has been updated.