The interwebs have been abuzz with this for more than a week, following the New York Times article about self-published authors paying for reviews.
Well, since I'm doing some social media marketing (in my day job) for a website whose mission is to "bring together readers and books," and one of their services is paid reviews, I decided I'd throw in my two cents worth.
No, just to be clear, I don't think paying for Amazon reviews is worth it, and I think it's borderline fraud since readers go to Amazon for reviews by people who bought and read the book. Not paid shills who read a summary or a couple of pages and then wrote a fake 5-star review. Yes, that's bad.
But not all paid review are like that.
Reviews are a valuable tool for authors. Self-published authors have limited options to get quality reviews. I'm not talking Amazon reviews. Those are valuable, and I'm not discounting them, but some reader want to see "professional" reviews. (Please don't start an argument about the meaning of "professional" here. You know what I mean. Reviews by people who make it their business to write reviews.)
When you publish your book on Amazon or on B&N (and presumably also on Kobo, though I haven't done that yet), there's this intimidating box marked "Reviews." I know the value of having profiles filled out completely, so I wanted to fill in that box too when I published Haunted Vampire. But guess what? No one from the New York Times, Washington Post, or any other publication had offered to review it.
I could have asked one of my friends to write something, but that's known in the business as a "sock puppet," and readers see through that immediately. So no good.
Along came a friend who was starting a website called ReaderRap (launching in October). I could get the pre-launch special of a listing on the site and (whoo hoo!) a review by someone who didn't know me or the book. She didn't promise that it would be positive, but I was okay with that. Hopefully, it would be honest, and if it were critical, I could learn from it. I said, "Sign me up."
I can't reveal the pre-launch price right now, but trust me when I say it was very reasonable.
Yeah, it was nerve-wracking. I didn't know what the guy would say, and when Beth sent it to me, she prefaced it by saying, "Well, it's not completely positive, but I think it'll be okay."
She was right. It was good where it needed to be good, and the critical elements just showed the guy wasn't a real fan of vampire/warlock books. Whew! I figure that people who like books in the genre will be confident that it will be something they'll like, and people who aren't fans of the genre aren't my target audience anyway.
I was able to snip the parts I liked for the aforementioned "Review" section:
"replete with tongue-in-cheek first-person comments by the narrator, sometimes deftly interrupting the serious account with Am-I-really-talking-to-a-vampire? quips."
and left off the parts I didn't like as much:
"Paul can’t go into anyone’s house without being specifically invited, for some unexplained reason."
Dude! Really? Have you never read a vampire book? That's like, staple material. (I think I just channeled Dafydd there. Hope you don't mind.)
Anyway, it was a good review and definitely worth what I paid for it. As soon as Werewolf Puppy comes out, I plan to do it again. I'm eager to see what having a sample and the review on the ReaderRap site will do for sales. Exposure in more places is all good.
So don't think that paying for reviews is always bad. Sometimes it can be exactly what you need to get some additional exposure.