I’m a fan of people being paid to work. Time is valuable and when a person invests their time to benefit others, it seems reasonable the person be compensated. Or, at least, the person should have the option to charge for their services without becoming illegitimized in their field.
Yet, it seems romance book reviewers are expected to review novels for the payment of one free book. Often, that free book is only free for a limited time and reviewers are asked (or forced) to delete their review copy once it’s been read.
A book costs between 99 cents and $13. So, this practice tells reviewers their reading time, analysis, and writing skill is only worth (monetarily) the cost of the book.
When I reviewed novels, it took me at least an hour to write the review. That doesn’t include adding a cover, buy links, author picture and bio, and advertising the review on social media. That doesn’t include posting to Goodreads or Amazon. That also doesn’t include the time I spent reading.
Authors were always grateful for my time, but make no mistake–at the end of the day I was working to sell their books for them and receiving a free read as compensation. (Not that I didn’t enjoy it; I did. But I do know the work required to post legitimate, well-written reviews.)
I believe telling our reviewers they should remain unpaid is a broken part of the publishing industry. We want our editors, book distributors, web designers, cover models, photographers, formatters, and authors to be paid…but it’s okay to let our reviewers work for free? Why?
There are several arguments, and while I cannot cover them all, here are a few:
Reviewers will act like Todd Rutherford.
This argument is flawed, because it assumes everyone acts like dishonest morons. Todd Rutherford stepped way out of bounds offering multiple positive reviews for a fee. Of course he was wrong. Just as authors who create multiple Amazon accounts to leave themselves good reviews is wrong. If authors can have Amazon accounts and be trusted not to sock-puppet, then reviewers can be paid and be trusted to be honest. (Also, Amazon allows authors to post reviews if they do not have a direct or indirect financial interest. If authors are trustworthy, can’t reviewers be as well?)
Reviewers will only give high-star reviews, so authors keep coming back.
This already happens, but for popularity instead of money. If a reviewer doesn’t sell their soul to be an author’s BFF now, it’s not likely they’ll do it for the small price of a review.
Authors won’t pay for reviews, and the reviewers will all go away.
I disagree. Every week I receive emails from potential clients stating so-and-so does it for free. If freelance editors are still in business, reviewers will still be in business.
Also, give reviewers the option to charge, not demand they charge.
Some authors can’t afford reviews, therefore won’t receive any.
Reviewers have bills, too. Unless an author is giving their hard word away for free at all times, they don’t deserve to receive special treatment.
Some reviews aren’t worth money.
Agreed. Don’t pay the reviewers who have a reputation for posting these. (Also, why submit your book to them even when they don’t charge?)
Side Note: Krikus and ForeWord charge for reviews. Publisher Weekly charges (in a round about way) for them as well. These are publications acting as a third party between the reviewer and author, but if it’s true a low-star review equals an author never returning, then reviewers are under the same pressure to offer high-star reviews.
Maybe reviewers charging for reviews isn’t the answer.
Maybe it does throw the integrity of reviewing more out of balance than it already is. And how much is a review by a lesser-known reviewer really worth? And if an author is paying for a review, they will choose the bigger bloggers–SmartBitches, Dear Author, Harlequin Junkie.
But can we at least tell bloggers it’s alright to charge for ads on their blog? Many do not. And many do not, because they feel this makes them dishonest.
Are book reviewers destined to review for free? Can they only be compensated by contributing to a publication (or starting one of their own)?
Is there nothing we can do to find a happy medium for the people who adore the genre so much they pay for web hosting and design?
Let’s talk it out. Let’s help book reviewers get paid.