Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are Paid Book Reviews Unethical?

With the flooding of self-published work there comes another flood -- paid reviews. It seems there are a few well-known reviewers climbing aboard to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money, i.e. charging for their reviews. And I'm talking big dollars to fork out. Well, at least for some folks like myself with limited income it is a bit steep. Kirkus Indie charges $425 to $575 for a 250-350 word review. This option is geared toward self-pubbed, indie pubbed, POD, etc. authors. Okay, so on their webpage they do state that you will receive "a fair and unbiased assessment of your work" and that the rating can be anywhere from positive with stars down to negative.

Can you imagine? Fork out a few hundred, hard-earned dollars and get back a negative review? Ouch! At the same time, isn't this what really should happen? An unbiased, honest-to-goodness review of your work. I'd imagine that's what everyone should expect, but it's a pot-pourri of feedback out there. Friends and relatives who only want to give you a pat on the back and a leg up, persuading potential readers to buy your book. And of course, there are many others out there who would probably say all sorts of nice things, warranted or not, if you shoved some green under their noses.

I say this. Getting reviews, paid for or not, will always bring some bias along with them. In other words, it's not a perfect system. I, for one, from the reader's POV tend to ignore book reviews. If something strikes my interest, I buy it and read it to gather my own conclusions. But that's just me. As an author with a few books out there, both adult and teen fiction, I haven't really gotten much of anything in the review department. My books are selling okay, nothing worth writing home about, and I often wonder ... if I paid people to review ... hmm....

So, what's your take on it? Are paid reviews okay? Do you read reviews and let them influence your book-buying habits?

Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes
Not So Snow White
Cinderella Geek


Krista McLaughlin said...

Hmm... that's a difficult question. I don't think that a paid review is necessarily ethical, but some people will still do it. I find that if you do find reviews, some are obviously done by family members of the author or close friends because they compliment the character of the author, not always the book. It makes it hard to judge if a book is good or not. I don't always read reviews for books, but I find that reviews on my own books gratefully effect me and that's not always positive. I guess it depends.

It might remain as one of those questions that is just hard to answer. Great question!

Author and Reader said...

Krista, yes, it is really hard for me to answer. And I agree about what comes to us on the receiving end ... I so want to get reviews, but then I cringe if any are negative. The thicker skin and all that, it's hard to grow! What a business!

Henry Arnold said...

I think every book review should be paid, supposed it is written on the basis of some criteria like length, fairness, and content. A book review is a cultural performance which fits the performance of writing a book, and every book should be reviewed, and not only by 3 sentences.
The question is of course, who has to pay for the review; it shouldn't be the author, but some neutral person or institution, perhaps a public library or so.

If so, there will always be a true statement in the review, and and no paid for acclamation that no one will believe.

Henry Arnold, author of "School Stories"

Author and Reader said...

I think you have the right formula, Henry. If it's requested and handled by a third party, then there's less chance of bias. Thank you for your input :-)