Should I Pay For Reviews?

I’ll just skip right to it. No.

If you’re curious as to why, keep on reading.

How Did This Come About?

When I first started Instagram, I was almost immediately flooded by DMs from people who “wanted to review my book.” At first, I was so incredibly flattered. I was relieved that it was gaining any attraction. I responded to those DMs with gusto, offering to send them my book for free.

Some didn’t respond at all. Others responded with, “great! For a nominal fee of….”

It was incredibly discouraging. I started to feel like the only way to get eyes on my books was to literally pay someone to read them.

Needless to say, that went completely against my financial plan. I could go in depth about my business model, but that would likely be better suited for another blog post (pssst, let me know if you’re interested in the comment section). Anyway, the tl;dr was to do as much as I could with as little money out of pocket as possible. Why? Because I’m a no-name-self-publishing-indie-author-with-a-mortgage. I figured the lowest barrier to entry would be what would work best for me. 

It was discouraging. It felt predatory. It felt like a situation where I was just doomed to fail. (I did end up getting reviews of the unpaid variety – I’ll explain how in a later blog).

Fortunately enough, I have such a tight grip on my wallet, it would take the jaws of life to pry my grubby little fingers off it. The temptation was there – that hopeless, listless feeling was starting to get the best of me. And there I was, 65 followers to my name, and these people were asking for $100 a pop for one review. How much money would I have to set aside for advertising, I wondered. 

Don’t worry if you’re there currently. It gets better. And for all that is holy, save your money.

So, why shouldn’t I buy a review?

Well, the biggest reason is that Google, Amazon and all other large retailers hate paid reviews. Why? Because they’re fake. What do fake reviews net you? In some instances, black-listing from publishing on various platforms. In others, complete removal of your product. 

Why are paid reviews fake? Well, my dude… it’s because you bought them. You are paying someone to leave a review on your book. That, by itself, makes it impossible to be truly impartial. You might have written a solid three-star book, but they will rate you five. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal until you realize $100 for one review (bear in mind that it takes about 10 reviews to get your book into the algorithm, which brings you to $1,000 minimum, yeesh). And also, when you realize that the review is likely generic and wholly dishonest. Whatever readership you do accrue will see through those five stars. And no one likes a phony. In fact, some might be moved to rate it a one-star, just to balance out that singular, unfair rating. 

Also, did I mention that it’s illegal? More on that later in the post.

Don’t get me wrong, book reviewers deserve to get their bag.

Just as much as we (authors) do. They are, after all, spending a lot of their own time reading and creating well-thought-out reviews. I would never tell someone they’re undeserving of compensation for the work they’ve done. Authors and book reviewers have a symbiotic relationship. We, simply put, cannot exist without the other. Especially as indie creators.

That doesn’t take away the fact that it is completely unethical for an author to hand over their money and expect a *wink, wink* fair *nudge nudge* review.

Beyond the ethics, there are several other things to take into consideration as a reviewer who A) currently does accept compensation or B) is considering starting. Firstly, it tanks your credibility. Nothing screams ‘fake reviews’ like five stars across the board. Eventually, people disengage with the content – or, worse, they spend their money on a one-star book and drag you by your toe hair for influencing them to purchase something that… wasn’t the greatest. Secondly, and most importantly, according to the FTC, posting fake reviews is also illegal – especially since you’re not disclosing that it was a paid endorsement.

In a later blog, I’ll cover how book reviewers can make money without directly asking for it from the authors (long story short, blog, adsense, go forth and multiply). 

When is it appropriate to pay for reviews?

Never. It’s never appropriate to pay for reviews. It is however, appropriate to pay for promotions – an ad on someone’s blog, posts on their social media. But never for reviews.

In Conclusion

It’s better all the way around to avoid paying for reviews. All in all, it’s a waste of money that’s really just setting up your keister for a bruising.

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