Believe me, I struggled with this idea for a long time. In a world where self-publishers get ripped off by shady print on demand outfits, there’s a lot of sensitivity to charging self-publishers any money. The main purpose of charging for reviews is not to make me money as editor of this site, but to attract a bunch of reviewers web-wide who might be able to review a greater variety of books – cookbooks, kids, romance, whatever it may be. I want this site to be able to cover every wing of self-publishing.
A while back when I was debating doing this I ran a poll asking if people would prefer the site to post fewer free reviews or more paid reviews, and free reviews won by a lot. Honestly, I don’t agree with that. And given that self-publishing is exploding, and will only get larger, the site needs reviewers from all walks of life. As a magazine, rather than a personal litblog, the purpose is to cover the entire industry.
And the dynamic in publishing is changing. For one thing, writers aren’t getting ripped off as much, as they can publish to Kindle for free. Also, books are getting better, so they’re actually worth the investment. So the reaction to charging has been more positive: Fantasy Sci Fi Lovin’ writes:
My first thought is that this is a pretty smart strategy. Payment is a sure-fire way to generate some word-of-mouth for a book that would otherwise struggle to find an audience in an increasingly saturated market, and if the book is good an author can quickly make a name for themselves. The only downside I can think of, off the top of my head, is whether or not the reviews will be less-than-honest due to the financial incentive to be nice.
About objectivity. If a writer was paying a lot of money I could understand feeling guilty about giving a bad review, but reviews are under $50 so it’s not a gigantic investment. Plus, the review is guaranteed to be 500 words, which is not the case for a lot of indie review sites. It means someone has to put in some thought. And I’m not going to give gigs to reviewers who have written fluff reviews in the past. Finally, reviews will be posted to Goodreads, Amazon, Library Thing, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble, plus this fairly well-trafficked site, Twitter account, Facebook account, etc., plus the site of whoever reviews it.
Would a writer be well-served by sending out a book to the litany of free book review sites? Sure. But this site can guarantee a thorough review for relatively little money, which can only help.
Anyway, the idea is to pay reviewers for their time, and to provide a thorough review, not just some scheme to take writers’ money. I’m very sensitive to that charge, so I hope I’ve covered my bases. Really, I think this is a good set-up for both reviewers and writers or I wouldn’t be doing it.
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If you’re interested in being a reviewer, click here.