Should a Newbie Author Pay For a Review?

Speaking of reviews, Perigee Moon had a nice one here. Thanks to Carrie (AKA Connie) Rubin for including me in her list of books by fellow bloggers. I read her new book too and posted a review here. And no, it wasn’t a case of “you give me five stars and I’ll return the favor”, it was a genuinely fast-paced, exciting, well-written first novel. I recommend it, especially if you like medical thrillers with a little Sci Fi thrown in. Really, I recommend it to anyone.

Another blogger, Peggy Strack, in her post about Credible Reviews and the Debut Author, talked about how she decided to spring for a Kirkus review. Kirkus will review pre-released novels, which can be a great marketing tool, supposing that you get a good review, especially if you are self-publishing.

They (Kirkus) don’t make any promises, send them a crappy novel and you’ll get a crappy review.  If it happens that way, that the review is bad, the author has the option of not accepting it and it will never be seen by anyone. So, hmmm. Doesn’t that mean that all Kirkus reviews will be good ones? On the other hand, why not? If it’s good, it’s good, and if it’s bad, no one will be the wiser, except the author who can cry about it in private.

Kirkus charges between $400 and $500 for a review, which is pricey, and probably another example of an outlay of cash for my rather expensive hobby. My books aren’t selling well, and I am struggling with marketing them. So I’m considering it.

There is another more inexpensive option that I could try, $149 for a Publisher’s Weekly review. Authors submitting to them may or may not have their books accepted for a review. 25% are accepted, and the review still is not guaranteed to be good, which of course it shouldn’t be. These reviews get published on their website, bad or good. I’m considering that too.

I also consulted the Book Blogger Directory, which is a list of blogs/sites of book reviewers who will review for nothing. Normally they specify a genre that they prefer, but sometimes they’ll say “I’ll Review Anything!!” yet when you look at what they have reviewed you see (yet again) books about vampires and drudges and werewolves. So I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be into character-driven novels about people who came of age in the sixties.

I delved into this huge list alphabetically, and went to each site and looked to see if it could be a fit. I got through the B’s which took days of endless searching. And it has to be on a Good Internet Day, which is another story, but the short version is I have a Verizon Mifi Hotspot which tends to suck, on and off, and provide me with less than optimum opportunities to surf.

Literally, I went through hundreds of sites, and found 3 which may be applicable but learned a lot about who I might approach for a review and who I would not. The following is a list of reasons I would bypass a particular review site:

  1. Your blog says “Grand Opening June 30th, 2012” and it’s already August.
  2. The dreaded “Error 404 No Page Found” comes up. This one is self-explanatory.
  3. Your blog is not in English. This wouldn’t be a problem for an author who speaks your language, but you know, it’s probably going to be a bit of a communication barrier for us.
  4. Your last post was one year ago. Got a problem with commitment?
  5. You say you are “not currently reviewing books”. Then what are you doing on this list of book review blogs?
  6. I see reviews for books about “faeries”. Or any of the above-mentioned stuff, for the above-mentioned reason.
  7. You deign not to review self-published books. Aren’t we fussy?
  8. You say you are “currently without internet access”. Well, I know all about that. It can be a real problem, but still, better get on that if you want to be a book reviewer.
  9. You apologize profusely for your absence and give an explanation of “where you have been”. I wonder how often that happens with you, Ms. Book Reviewer. Not sure I want to take the chance that you will go away again and I’ll think it’s because you can’t bear to give me bad news.
  10. Your site offers the possibility to “embrace my decadent desires” and there is a warning that it is a “Mature Site”. Pretty sure this isn’t a good fit.
  11. Your review policy is “Coming Soon”. Shouldn’t you have this figured out before you created your site and appeared on the list?
  12. Your website/blog color combo is such that it makes it impossible for my older eyes to read the text. An example: yellow lettering against a red background. This is obviously an age discrepancy, which probably makes us incompatible as reviewer/reviewee anyway.
  13. Your reviews are so chock full of bad English and misspellings that I don’t think you’d recognize good writing if it fell at your feet. (How do you spell misspelling? Is that right?)
  14. There’s a picture of a guy with a six-pack on your latest review, and it’s not the kind that comes in cans, it’s the abdominal thing.
  15. Your site is too pink. This is irrational, I know. Just  got a feeling about it.
  16. You review The Hunger Games and the latest Nora Roberts romance novel. These books don’t need your reviews, they have the New York Times, among others.
  17. Your latest post wishes me Happy New Year (2012). See #4 above for a question about commitment.

This brings me to question if I might do reviews myself. I already have my Review Policy worked out. I’d review books in my own genre, by new authors, of my particular age group. Is there a market for it? Would anyone be interested? Would I be able to give bad news to aspiring writers? Does anyone care what I have to say anyway?

Is there a future for baby boomer literature? Or matron-lit as it’s sometimes called, although I do hate that term. Don’t you think there must be a lot of retiring boomers out there with more time on their hands now? Wouldn’t they like to read stories about their own age group?

Or are they all living in Fifty Shades of Fantasy Land?


11 thoughts on “Should a Newbie Author Pay For a Review?

  1. Thanks for the mention, Lynn. Is always appreciated!

    Having to pay $400-500 for a review seems a bit crazy, especially when there’s no guarantee how effective that review will be. But it really does become a catch-22—the book needs reviews to get noticed but getting reviews can be difficult if the book isn’t already ‘noticed.’

    Thanks for linking to Book Blogger Directory. I haven’t heard of that site, so I’ll have to go check it out.

    • Exactly. To pay that much you’d have to realize a bump up in sales of more than that or it wouldn’t make sense to do it. I suppose there are stories out there where it made a difference but I don’t think I’m willing to take that chance. I am considering Publisher’s Weekly though.

      • My publisher has requested that their authors don’t seek out formal reviews without checking with them first in case they also solicit that review site–they don’t want a duplicate request sent, which is apparently a faux-pas in the publishing world (this does not apply to personal blog reviews and such). But I’m not expecting any formal reviews on The Seneca Scourge, because the publisher admits that for small publishers, getting reviews has become exceedingly difficult, especially when they are primarily an e-book publisher like mine is. So I’m not holding my breath.

  2. You’ve given us another informative blog, Lynn. I think I will spend the money and give Publishers Weekly a go. I’m a storyteller – not especially ‘literary’ so they may roast me. But worth a try. Cheers!

  3. Wow, it all sounds exhausting. I give you so much credit for your patience. After reading this, I am doubly sure I could never be an author. My attention span is way too short.

  4. Pingback: Freshly Pressed A Second Time? « The Write Transition

  5. I did this same journey and only found a few (a couple) that actually produced free reviews worth reading. I’ll plug my favorite blog book reviewer here and note that I have no idea what her current schedule is like.
    I also hear that amazon reviews will help increase sales. Not sure if this is true all the time, but I am having trouble accumulating them as well. It’s a slightly different topic, but it hard to get people to spend their time to write even a one liner review. The handful of reviews that I have posted from non-relatives (thanks mom), are all 5 star, so I’m getting the feeling that my book is entertaining. But this whole marketing thing is way harder than I would have ever imagined.

    • Thanks for the comment and the reference. And thanks for liking, and while your comment came in I was off reading your post about those nasty birds. That was after I read the post about the comment from Someone. Some people just don’t have a sense of humor do they? They’d probably give your book a one-star rating, just to be mean. Anyway, I think your blog is very entertaining. I am considering following you. That is a commitment because I actually read all the blogs I follow. But I like yours a lot.

  6. Pingback: The Baby Boomer Reviewer? « Lynn Schneider Books

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