Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is Paying For A Book Review Sinful?

Some say that authors who pay for reviews not only lack integrity, they are wasting their money because a paid review is worse than no review. Purists even go so far as to say that if you get a review from a site that accepts payment for an expedited review, your review is tainted even if you haven't paid anything for it. They add that for authors whose books are self-published, getting a paid review is especially tacky. It's bad enough that we're paying to have our books published, now we're compounding the offense by paying for a review.

The belief that underlies this thinking is that paid reviews—or even reviews from sites that accept payment—are corrupted by having money involved. After all, why would anyone pay for a negative review? But what they overlook is that the payment is made before the review is written. If the review is negative, the author doesn't have to use it, but the fee will not be returned.

I've given this issue a lot of thought lately (see my January 24 post below) and I've decided not to be a purist about reviews. If you've read this blog much, you won't be surprised that I'm once again going the pragmatic route. And for my usual reason. Because that's what works. I'd rather get my book reviewed than not get it reviewed.

Furthermore, it's been my experience that online review sites that charge fees for some or all of the reviews they write can and often do provide useful and honest reviews. Let's look at an example. One of the online review sites that reviewed my novel is This review site is included in Midwest Book Review's list of the best of online review organizations and publications. Norm Goldman, the editor and publisher of accepts email queries from authors who want their books reviewed. If he selects a book for review, he makes it available to his 40+ international reviewers, most of whom are writers and/or editors.

But, the BookPleasures website says that demand for reviews is so high that it can now take three to four months to get a review. So they offer a priority, fast track quick review service for authors who are in a hurry to have their books reviewed. Authors who pay $119 are guaranteed to get a review within fifteen business days of the date their book is received. And their review will also be posted on a bunch of online magazines, Amazon, and some social networking sites. The review will also be cross-linked to an e-interview with the author.

The site specifically states that they will provide an honest review and that there is no guarantee that the review will be positive. How true is this statement? I randomly read some reviews from the general fiction category on the BookPleasures site. While I can't tell which ones were paid reviews, I definitely did not find the reviews to be universally positive. While reviewers found much to like about the books and talked about aspects of plot and character they found satisfying, they also made critical comments. Here are some:

  • The entire novel doesn’t completely hang together

  • An overwriting of chapters considerably slowing down the pace of the story

  • What is not up to scratch about this novel is its lack of good editing and proofreading. There are glaring grammatical and spelling errors that at times required me to re-read entire paragraphs and sentences to comprehend what the author was trying to say

  • Readers may feel short changed with some of the minor characters

  • Believability is diminished by some less compelling scenes

  • I was a little disappointed in the overall story

  • As a reader I felt just as confused and perplexed as the character

  • The beginning of the story is a bit slow

My review from BookPleasures was done over a year ago at no charge and only took a month. But I might consider their fast track service for my next book, especially since it includes posting the review in online magazines and other sites. I think we need to continue to change with the times. If I offend the purists, so be it.


  1. "Sinful" is a straw man, but I would say unwise. A review not driven by book readers is not useful in selling to them. If anyone pays, it needs to be readers. A paid review, IMHO, is paying someone to stroke your ego by proxy. I say that as someone who used to review for PB, emphasis on the 'used to'.

  2. [...] Credible?, she talks about the dangers of this: When I researched and wrote about this issue three years ago, I concluded that paid reviews could be honest and meaningful and were a reasonable option for [...]