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 came across a spammy email (luckily hasn’t reached my primary inbox) attempting 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 get).
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 at all in the 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 monetary compensation.
This is pretty much self-explanatory.
2. You’ll actually never get honest feedback, and you will never know what 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, if you’re showing fake reviews to your potential readers, you are being dishonest to them.
It’s not true that negative book reviews are a bad thing. They are real, they are the proof that others found your book interesting enough to give it a try, and it could be the case it just wasn’t the book for them. We can’t please everyone and your readers know this, they are not stupid. If your product doesn’t have a single negative review, then for sure something is wrong. 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
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,
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 thing. 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 especially 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 quick feedback – because once again, it will be helpful to understand your readers and how they feel about your work. Remember anyone who’s doing this for free is because they’re 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.
So a topic for another day will be… How
Book reviews are just like sponsored posts for the bloggers. I agree on this one because it’s just the same as blogging a sponsored entry. That’s why I’d rather make a review about a product or a service voluntarily because I get to say what I really think about them.
Spot on, Ana. For a blog, paying for review or comments is unfathomable, what more books? Reviews are meant to be a reflection of how people feel about your book and as an author, treating books as a source of income, negativity could have an impact on sales, but the same negativity can also be a positive because that is how you know where to go from there. In the end, it is better. I commend you for your values and readers appreciate that.
Excellent advice. I was recently approached to do a review for pay. I couldn’t believe they actually exist and without any kind of disclosure! I had to add a note on to my submission guidelines that I never will review for money so please don’t ask.
Yes I agree. The fact is that if you’re interested in a book, you would read it anyways. Also without getting paid. However if you like so many books, that you can’t decide, getting paid for it make the choice easier haha!
I’m familiar with sponsored posts but I didn’t these things also happen with books. This could sure be tempting for a lot of writers but I do agree with you. GENUINE reviews are better because they are legit, honest and unbiased. Thanks for sharing! ;0
Great post. I watched a video where another indie author talked about this same topic. She said someone who is known to be a paid reviewer had posted a review on her Goodreads page and Goodreads admin deleted most of her genuine reviews as a result because they were suspicious.
In the long run, it doesn’t pay to buy something you should come by naturally.
That said, I am looking for more honest reviews of my book. If anyone reading is interested in reviewing my book, please let me know.
A very controversial topic for it’s similar to product reviews. Should brand pay bloggers? I know there are still bloggers who don’t ask for payment. When it comes to reader reviews, don’t think authors will benefit much…
I think the main issue here is that there is a thin line between “promotion” and actual “review”. Should brands pay to be promoted? Definitely. Should brands pay for advertising space? Definitely. Should brands or authors pay for a positive opinion / review? No. Opinions shouldn’t be bought. Reviews should be genuine.
Agreed! That’s straight up bribery! I don’t know why an author would feel the need to do that to be honest- there are plenty of reviewers that will be happy just to review for free books- I don’t even do that- but I respect people that do it and it’s a good way to publicise new or indie books.
I agree that reviews should not be paid or even so the pr should allow the reviewer to give a honest feedback. The reader of the blog or article will suffer by buying things that they shouldn’t have and the writer as well because his or her credibility will be affected.
One form of marketing in the film industry is having advance screenings for bloggers/reviewers and that is their incentive more often than not. Sometimes they also give some little extra freebies. The giveaways doesn’t guarantee a positive review. I think it should work similarly for book reviewers. You give them a book and they review it, no payments necessary, like you said.
I agree that authors should not pay book reviewers. I’ve read so many interesting books and most of them are on my blog-review list not because they paid me but because I’d just like to share my reading experience. Can’t wait for your other posts 🙂
I agree to this. If you had to pay someone to read your book, it beats the purpose. You didn’t put your art there just so it could sell. You put it so it could touch people’s lives. Giving preview would be a better option.
As both a book blogger and editor I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen authors buying reviews thinking it’s going to help them rise to the top but it’s usually glaringly obvious. The writing should speak for itself.
This post is just so accurate in so many ways. I totally agree with this not only because that I’m a book lover as well but also, when you do reviews, you raise awareness. You share what you felt when you read it. You let them feel what you felt when you were reading. Plus, would you read a book with “fake” reviews? 😐
I certainly agree that authors and publishers can pay the reviewers but certainly not the reviews. As for those services who offer positive reviews, it is so common today which is quite difficult to trust reviews posted online.
True! While I totally don’t agree with this method of buying good feedback, I feel like for some authors it’s the only way to get their book out there. Maybe they could bear with the lack of integrity of the initial reviews but it could be that what they’re really paying for is the numbers effect: the stats, publicity, reviews, everything that could lead to real sales, in which case I couldn’t blame them. 😉
Honestly, all I think a review does is provide visibility of the specific book and author. I don’t read any reviews before deciding on a book, and it wouldn’t make any difference. There was a novel that was getting a lot of five stars from people (a best selling author), but my response to the book was “Meh.” The book wasn’t for me. Reviews are very much animals of personal taste.
I totally agree with this post! Reviews should come from the customer’s (in this case, readers) heart. It should be genuine, and not anything sugarcoated. And on the author’s part, isn’t it more motivating if the reviews are something that you never asked for? something that came up because the readers loved your craft? I guess this should be applied to all businesses too. Just saying though. ^_^
i completely agree with this.. I do prefer reading those honest and unbias book reviews rather than a review that is merely like a promotion only.
however, it is a sad reality that authors get a very small amount of book reviews and this is why paid reviews emerged in the system…