Reviews For Sale

6/14/10

My inbox today contained an interesting offer from a book review publication that shall remain nameless.  After congratulating me on The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare, the form letter proceeded to point out how much competition there is for authors to get their books reviewed nowadays.  Thus, the letter continued, it’s possible some great books [mine, presumably] could get overlooked or lost in the shuffle.

But here’s the solution:  a “sponsored review.”  This paid service “expedites” the process by ensuring your book is read by one of their “established reviewers.”  It does not guarantee the review will appear in their print publication, only that your book will be read and the review put “in the pipeline.”  The more you pay ($99-$299), the faster the turnaround time on your review.  If the review does not end up in the print publication, they will post it online and put an ad for your book in their paper instead.

A few questions:

1) Isn’t it a conflict of interest for a reviewer or publication to accept money from the person whose book they are reviewing?

2) Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like payola?  Or extortion?  Or bait-and-switch?

3) How does the reader of the paper know which reviews have been “bought” and which are genuine?

4) Do readers care?

5) How much do I have to pay to get a really great review for my book?

6) Does anybody besides me think this is appalling?

I’ve had some very favorable reviews on my past books and some that were less so.  I’ve had reviews that made me wonder what the reviewer was smoking–one review even got a main character’s name wrong.

But all the reviews I’ve had so far have been honest ones.  I plan to stick with that this time around.