A little over a year ago ForeWord Magazine began a pay for review site that created quite a controversy. ForeWordreviews.com offered a review for $295 to any publisher or author who could afford one.
Included in the price is the right to print the review in any marketing or publicity effort, lifetime archival of the review on-site, and distribution to numerous licensees including Ingram’s iPage and Baker & Taylor’s Title Source II.
When I interviewed her, Publisher Victoria Sutherland said the industry is sorely in need of a new method of obtaining reviews. “Currently there are over 70,000 print books published annually but only about 10 percent of them wind up getting reviewed -– and e-publishing adds ten of thousands more titles each year,” she said.
Since then the number of books published each year has gone up to about 150,000 titles a year. And reviews are more difficult to get than ever.
But should you pay for them?
Paid reviews are not worth the money you pay for them.
To understand why, first identify who you want the review for? Readers? Bookstore buyers? Librarians? Probably all of the above. Well most readers do not choose books by reviews. Rather they rely on word of mouth and blurbs.
In fact when I interview readers I find well over 50% say reviews are bogus and they don’t read them. They read the blurbs from other authors and readers and they listen to their friends. Readers want someone they trust and know to tell them about a book… and not many review sources have their trust.
Bookstore buyers and librarians do rely on reviews but from a very small and select group of publications that have been around for years: Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.
Think about it.
Here is this bookstore owner. He gets catalogs from all the major publishers every quarter. Plus a rep from each of those publishing companies comes to visit him every three months. The houses also send each and every buyer and librarian marketing material and four-color glossy catalogs a year.
Every three months the new stack of catalogs that comes in is as tall as he is. The people making the major buying decisions at bookstores and libraries just do not have time to read alternative reviews from sources they’ve never heard of.
So what is an author to do? The one thing that works. Save the money. Take what you would have spent getting a paid review and use it to send free books to avid readers.
All you should ask of your readers is that, if they like the book, to post reviews at Amazon.com and BN.com and go to their local independent bookstores and talk up your book. Real enthusiasm from a reader is worth more than any paid review. You can then ask those readers for permission to use their comments in your promotional materials.
Katharine Weber, author of The Music Lesson and a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, as well as a reviewer and board member of the National Book Critics Circle, said that a purchased professional review seems to be as much a contradiction in terms as those “free gifts” that one is offered for purchasing something. Weber won’t take paid reviews very seriously, nor can she imagine that many serious reviewers will want to work under such circumstances.
Karen Templer, who runs Readerville.com, said she would never pay attention to a review that was paid for. “But then again — I don’t care much about any review,” she said. “It’s what real readers say about a book that matters.”
M.J. Rose’s (www.mjrose.com) next novel, FLESH TONES, will be available June 25th.