What Would You Do? Paying for Reviews

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
As 2021 is the year in which I forgo creative writing to peddle my wares and myself, I’m spending money for professional services, such as video making, promotion code distribution for my audiobooks, and press release distribution. But, what about paying for reviews?

I contemplated the ethics of doing so, back in 2013, when I began uploading short stories and novellas to Smashwords. At the time, I didn’t have the funds to do so...and, it felt like cheating! :(

In the last eight years, the world of self-publishing has changed in many ways and paying for reviews has become more common and accepted. The best-known outfit is Kirkus Reviews, which got involved in some bother in 2017 to do with political correctness and cultural appropriation.

A quick trawl through pay-for review sites revealed some eye-watering fees!

Self-Publishing Review - Get Your Book Reviewed - $ 89 to $329

Blue Ink Review - BlueInk Review - Build an Audience with a Professional Book Review - $395 - $495

Indie Reader - Home - IndieReader - $275

Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Reviews - $425 - $575

One of the problems with these sites, is that they don’t want to offend the writers keeping them operating, which means the reviews are too nice, not to say fawning. Take a look at Self-Publishing Review, where most reviews are four stars, at worst three-and-a-half stars.

What do you think of paid reviews?

Have any of you used them?

Did they help sales?

Seems much more ethical (and I daresay a lot cheaper) to do targeted giveaways for honest reviews. Also, I would check Amazon rules regarding paid reviews.
I think most of those you mentioned give you an editorial review which is different to a reader's one and they appear further down your amazon page. Don't pay them. Anyone can give you an editorial review, even me :) You can then insert them yourself. Mine could read:
Litopia Reviewer and Author: What a great fucking book etc etc
If you look at m page I have put 3 or 4 editorial reviews n there. They are legit ones fron Netgalley members who posted on the NetGalley site but didn't bother to write a reader review on my amazon page.
I've been thinking about how to get reviews. I can't do this myself just yet because I am in kindle select but selling one of your books, the first probably, for zero + promoting it with amazon ads will get you loads of readers if not any money. If you have a note at the end of your book asking nicely for a review with links to the review page then you may well see some results. Selling free for a month with say a $150 ad budget might well produce results. It will also boost you up the rankings which will help sell your other books in the series. They need to be priced around $1.99 or maybe $2.99 and you may well make a profit on the month.
Another idea would be to put a note at the end of the book listing your other books in the series with links to them
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I've gotten editorial reviews through NZ's speculative fiction organisation--you may be able to do the same with your local groups. Ours are free for members, written by other members. Do they help? No idea. But they're honest, at least.

I also paid to enter the Wishing Shelf Book Awards one year, not so much for the contest, but because they'll post the contest readers' reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It was much cheaper than any other paid reviews (at least at the time), and it was reviews from my target market. Again, I've no idea if they helped, but they add to the 'evidence' on my books' sales pages.

As an author of mostly middle grade books, getting reviews (or even just ratings) is brutal--parents don't always read the books at that age, and kids aren't the ones who buy them, and certainly don't go onto Amazon and leave a review. And putting a review link at the end of an e-book is great, but 99% of my sales are physical books.
For my latest book I plumped for netgalley and goodreads giveaways. Some traction, but the spend is always speculative. They are definitely not paid reviews in the sense that Amazon would consider a no-go.
I've read some articles that say reviews don't make any difference. I suppose it depends upon how much weight customers put on reviews when buying their books and I'd be interested in any Litopian thoughts here.
I know I put some weight on them, particularly negative reviews, when making my decision about which book to buy next, but once I've chosen my next book, i.e. I've seen an advert for a book and I've decided that's the book I want to read next, reviews have little effect.
At the end of the day, reviews are a facility to help customers make their decision, and whether that help is paid for (and so perhaps a little biased) or comes from other customers that are perhaps more truthful makes no difference. In the end it all gets mixed together in the giant, melting pot of opinion and is probably not a lot of help to anyone...in my opinion.
Yes, you're right @Steve C and so I guess customers do put weight on reviews...at the end of the day they have to go by some metric. Guess I'd better go and pay for some reviews to be done! :D
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