You do not have to pay for reviews

Dear Self Published/Indie/Whatever you call yourself Author,

You do not have to pay for reviews. Your friend may have done it, it may have resulted in some sales. The average Joe saying, wowza that’s a lot of positive reviews. Then Joe buys the book. That’s awesome right? But as an author, do you feel like your friend gave Joe a legitimate route to buying your book?

Isn’t writing a creative thing? Don’t you want people to be drawn to your work based on its merit? If you are getting bad reviews, stop and think. Is there some common theme in these bad reviews that you can use to make your writing better for the next book? Or hell, you can revise this book and put it up again replacing the older copy. That is the beauty of self publishing!

I ain’t even mad at y’all for paying. I’m not even mad at the douchebag who takes your money and doesn’t even read your book before he writes you fifty glowing reviews. But I’m saddened that yet again another black mark has found its way onto self publishing’s reputation.

Todd Rutherford (@PublishingGuru) is not your friend. He’s a guy making money off your need to have these good reviews, and your want to make it big time on your own without traditional publishing. I’m in your corner! I want to see more Amanda Hockings, but I want to see this done on hard work and actual fucking ethics, like Hocking did.

Hocking went to blog reviewers (a lot of whom also post on Goodreads and Amazon) and she worked hard pitching them individually on her own and getting her books read. There are bloggers who read self published works in the genres they are passionate about (No, I am not one of them. No, your book isn’t different. Please don’t pitch me.).

Last year I read three or four self published books that were recommended to me by these blogger friends. This year I’ve bought seven. They were recommended to me by blogger friends. Do you see a pattern? I am not about to buy a self published book based on how many AMZ reviews it has if I do not know the reviewers. I have been wary of these reviews for a while, the good and the bad. The good could be from someone like Rutherford, and the bad from the competition.

Consumers are smarter than you give them credit for, and especially now after the New York Times ran this story your consumers will become even more wary of online reviews.

Here is my suggestion for you. Go research bloggers who review self published books, and see which of those blogs review books in your genre. Write a pitch (much like a query letter to an agent) and maybe they will review your book. Do not spam, do not write, “Hey, Blogger,” our names are on our blog somewhere. If you can’t find it just say hi.

It is a lot of work. Hell, it may be harder than the actual writing of your book, but people know these reviews are for real and bloggers are the online word of mouth. You should never pay for a review, ever.

With love,
Pam, who still thinks Rutherford is a douche.

If you are a blogger that reviews self published books please say so in the comments. It will help the peeps who read this post get a start on their search.

What do you guys think of paying for AMZ reviews?

14 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    Agree x1000.

    It’s so sad that ethics is non-existent these days.

  2. Gravatar

    I sometimes review self-published books. I go for book descriptions that really, really peak my interest. And a great cover picture!

    I did a post on how to pitch to book bloggers a while ago that’s been very useful to authors (they say): http://leeswammes.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/authors-how-to-pitch-your-book-to-bloggers/

    I think people can’t be paid for writing reviews because their credibility (if they had any) will go down the drain. Of course you could make up negative reviews (of books that you haven’t been paid for) to balance things a bit. :-)

  3. Gravatar

    1) Yes, I do OCCASIONALLY read Self-Published books, but really they have to sound pretty damn interesting.

    2) I can see both sides. Look the man saw an oppurtunity to make money and he did. Awesome. I pretty much will never repremaned someone for doing that (within reason) However, I just couldn’t do that. Yes I would like to make money reviewing books. But not to give good reviews and that is where I think this goes wrong. Where I think the integrity is gone and someone’s moral compass is a little off and it ruins it for others out there.

    PS if this post makes no sense that is because I am running on no sleep = /

  4. Gravatar

    Heyo! Nice article. I review a lot of things, including video games/TV shows/movies for japanator and toys/statues/collectibles for tomopop, much bigger and more established blogs than my book blog, and we do not, ever, ever take money for a good review.

    As for my personal blog (linked to my name on this comment: geekerydo.blogspot.com) I don’t care how a book is published – if I find the premise compelling I’ll probably read it, and if I enjoy it I’ll give it a sterling review. If I didn’t, I’ll probably switch to “unbiased” mode and give it a neutral review with some positive notes (because I reserve my negative posts for things I truly disliked for stronger reasons).

    I’ve been getting more review requests lately, so it’s about time for me to add a page for authors and their prospective book pitches. <3 please check it soon!

  5. Gravatar

    Organic reviews are best, no matter how long they may take to show up. Great post, Pam. I hope those paying for reviews pay attention. :)

  6. Gravatar

    I read this article yesterday and was appalled at the lack of ethics. I think Pam hits the nail on the head when she notes that consumers are smarter than sellers think. We do follow the pattern she points out – following the reviews of people we trust.

    I know a lot of the reviewers whose reviews I read from @goodreads – I interact with them, know what they like, and know that I can trust their review honesty, even if we don’t always agree about a book’s merits.

    I have a stack of to-read books based on people’s reviews from @goodreads. I don’t think I’ve ever decided to read a book because of an AMZ review (or even one anywhere else).

    And that’s because the anonymity of AMZ as well as the fact that I can’t determine whether it’s a good/bad review from a vested interest, as Pam points out, means I take it with grain of salt.

    I review books only on goodreads in several genres for both children, adults, as well as non-fiction.

  7. Gravatar

    Thanks for summing everything I wanted to say up Pam!!

    I review books mostly from indie/self pubs on my blog. That change happened when I realized how good many self pubs are.

    Also in emails please be friendly and not rude, it goes a long way with getting someone to read your review. Providing some info so it shows that you put effort into looking into this bloggers website and not just spamming every blogger you find.

    Even if you just want to talk about your book and having it featured. If your friendly and genuine I usually grant the requests. The authors I work with even the ones who’s novels are not my favorite gain advice and good criticism in my reviews.

  8. Gravatar

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  9. Gravatar

    Reading that NYT article last week made me queasy. I didn’t realize the scale was as large as it was. Or that there was such a high level of desperation to be seen.

    The idea of reviews for cash of any kind makes me wary. I get wanting to have a review, but spend a little effort to try and find readers who will write them honestly. And for free. And give them great ratings because they love them. Not because they were paid to do so.

    If I were a writer I would much rather spend the day grinning over one genuine positive review that perhaps generated one honest sale then fifty bought and paid for reviews which mean absolutely nothing and that potentially lead to sales which I would never really know were genuine or based on the false praise.

    There are other ways to market than to pay someone to say something nice.

    I know there’s some review service – Kirkus maybe? – that you can pay to have one of their reviewers review. But they’ll likely be honest reviews. And they cost much more than $50. And probably do little for those Amazon sales numbers.

    But no, I don’t think it’s right to buy your way to higher Amazon ratings. Though it doesn’t really matter for me, personally, as I’ve never read a single Amazon review when making a decision about a book to purchase as I’ve personally known of people having friends boost a book and have been asked to do so myself before I became a blogger.

    But where is the pride and faith in the work/creation? Where is the integrity? Where is the willingness to throw some effort behind marketing efforts that would lead to honest reviews?

    If you take the easy road out to get positive reviews, does that mean you took the easy road when writing your book and gave it less than 100%? Took words and ideas that weren’t your own?

    Sorry for the comment ramble… yep, this still makes me so mad.

  10. Gravatar

    [...] good friend of mine, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg recently spoke out about this as well and authors, it’s certainly worth the time reading over it. Authors shouldn’t [...]

  11. Gravatar

    Great post, Pam. And I agree. One way to combat the degraded Amazon review is to read great book bloggers like you.

    But this is not a problem exclusive to self-publishers by any means. (As Nathan Bransford pointed out in a great post on Aug 29th) One third of ALL online reviews (not just books) are paid for–mostly by corporations.

    And R J Ellory, who admitted today that he faked his own reviews and panned his rivals with sockpuppet accounts is a long-time traditionally published author. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9515593/RJ-Ellory-detected-crime-writer-who-faked-his-own-glowing-reviews.html

    I’m traditionally published myself, and I think the growing phenomenon of amateurs self-publishing unpolished work is a bad one, but putting the problem of review abuse on the shoulders of self-publishers is unfair–and also minimalizes a much bigger problem.

  12. Gravatar

    [...] time to scroll down to comment 150, that is! – and my opinion is the very same of Bookalicio: you don’t have to pay for reviews. I never paid, but gave away free copies to reviewers (who sometimes didn’t deliver, but [...]

  13. Gravatar

    “If you are a blogger that reviews self published books please say so in the comments. It will help the peeps who read this post get a start on their search.”

    I would be one of the “peeps.” Great post/rant/infomercial, whatever you want to call it, I enjoyed it. Back to looking for new victims.

  14. Gravatar

    Thanks for this very helpful and practical free advise.

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