Whether you are an indie or published author, you know by now how important reviews are. Genuine ones. It might be tempting at some point to pay for someone to write a flawlessly positive review of your book. In these times of self-doubt, what you should do is think for a while, and remember what made you start writing in first place.
This all started when the other day I was checking my spam folder for any genuine emails who might have ended up there. And what was my surprise when I start reading an intensely promotional email (luckily hasn’t reached my primary inbox) that is supposed to convince “me” as an author to purchase their “paid reviews” service. You can imagine how ironic receiving such an email is, for someone who has been a book blogger (and I will add, never once had I accepted any type of payment for giving my genuine opinion) and book reviewer for a while now . Yes, I’ve accepted free copies for reviews, but not only I always include this information when it’s the case but I also give my 100% honest opinion (in fact, I encourage you to not submit book review requests if it is not a 100% honest opinion you want to receive).
Now, these so called “book reviewers” do claim that you are “not paying for the review” but you are actually “paying for the time they are taking to read your book”. Oh, well, if someone cannot invest their time in your book, then it means they are not that interested in first place. Then the funny bit is that they will guarantee you they will leave an “honest” and “positive” review – how can they guarantee such thing, I wonder? It should be noted that this service doesn’t come with any type of promo or marketing deal – just the “positive” review on its own.
Why you shouldn’t pay for a book review
1. The incentive for someone to read your book should be your book on its own, not an extra payment.
This is pretty much self-explanatory.
2. You’ll actually never get honest feedback, and will never know what truly went well or wrong.
While honest reviews are useful as you get to know your readers’ opinions and can even use their feedback to improve; fake reviews on the other hand are completely useless.
3. Even Google agrees.
This is Google’s policy in regards to reviews: “Reviews are most valuable when they’re honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.” This applies to any product. Needless to say, it can also get your website penalized.
4. It’s against Amazon policies too.
Paid Reviews – We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a prize draw or competition, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts.
The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. Reviews from the Amazon Vine programme are already labelled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.
5. It’s dishonest and it’s not an accurate reflection of your readers’ opinion
Fake book reviews equal to fake testimonials of products that are incapable of delivering their promises and resort to dishonest tactics to convince you otherwise (we are all too familiar with websites that make you scream “spam”) . And they are as easy to spot.
Whether you like it or not, when you are presenting your potential readers with fake reviews, you are being dishonest to them.
Never think negative book reviews are always bad. They are real, they are the proof that others found your book interesting enough to give it a try, but then in the end, it just wasn’t the book for them. If your product doesn’t have a single negative review, then something is wrong. It’s impossible to please everyone, learn how to embrace both positive and negative feedback.
Shouldn’t bloggers be allowed to make money from their blog?
Of course they should! Apart from making money from affiliates and advertising, bloggers should be more than allowed to offer their services as mentioned below, such as marketing, promotion, design services. However, a review is an opinion, and you can’t buy an opinion (well, you shouldn’t).
Only a blogger knows how hard is to run a blog, and while my primary goal with this blog is sharing my passion about books, I am already looking to expand and offer my Design services, for example, as I’ve been mentioning before.
What you should pay for
Just because you can’t buy every reader’s happiness, doesn’t mean there’s nothing that money can buy. In fact, if you are a self-published author, you are way too familiar with all the costs related to editing, book cover design, etc. (yes, these all should be paid for!)
Additionally, marketing doesn’t come for free.
Promotions / Advertising space / etc
No blogger should be ashamed of selling their marketing services, specially after they have worked hard enough to earn an audience of their own. In my case, while I am happy to promote and interview a few authors that pique my interest for free, there are others who offer paid options to get your word out there more quickly. Many popular blogs and websites can sell advertising space, promo space, feature your book on their newsletters, etc. The options are endless. Then you have Book Tour websites that help you promote your book and reach bloggers who might be interested in reviewing your book – again, you are paying for the promotion itself, and positive reviews cannot be guaranteed (note that I am selective with Book Tour hosts myself, as I won’t participate in any tour that doesn’t follow these basic policies).
While there are many voluntary beta-readers that will be happy to read your book for free, beta-reading and reviewing is not the same. Beta-reading works more like a consulting service (some beta-readers even offer copy-editing, proofreading, etc), because it’s a matter of personal feedback (as opposed to public reviews). I think it’s acceptable to charge for beta-reading specially if this involves in-depth reports with lots of useful advice that you will benefit from. On the other hand, it also makes sense to have voluntary beta-readers that are your target audience even if they are only able to provide a few sentences of feedback – because once again, it will be helpful to understand your readers and what tweaks are needed. Remember these people are doing this for free because they are truly interested in your work, and want to help you! If someone has particularly helped you as an author, I’d think it’s always nice to thank them with a nice gesture, such as a signed book, or even include them in the acknowledgments page.
But it’s so difficult to get book reviews…
I know, I know. Not only is difficult to get book bloggers to review your book (since our reading schedule is normally pretty full and as much as we’d like to, we can’t possibly accept every single request), but also not everyone who has bought and read your book will leave a review. I guess this is a bit of human nature, if we don’t love or hate something, we don’t feel the need to either rave or rant about it. Except, of course, for us book bloggers and book addicts.
In the next post of this “series”, I’d like to debate on How To Get More Book Reviews.