SPR is Now Charging for Reviews

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.

If you’re interested in getting reviewed, click here.

If you’re interested in being a reviewer, click here.

  • Henry, I don’t know how anybody can complain that SPR is charging writers, and passing along to reviewers, $35 for an honest review of their books. Indie authors can’t expect everything to be free. The world just isn’t made that way.

  • Charging for reviews isn’t a problem for me. It’s a free market. Vendors can put services out there, authors can decide whether they’re worth it, as will readers.

    Two questions, one for me and one more general:
    1) I would consider paying for a review of my non-fiction running book, Chasing the Runner’s High, if you could assure me that the reviewer would be part of my target audience (i.e., other runners). Is that possible?

    2) Other paid review sites offer authors the ability to keep bad reviews from being published. I, of course, am confident that I’d get a good review :-), but other writers may want the ability to preview the review before it’s distributed. Will you provide that option?

    • To be honest, running is a pretty specific niche, so I would have to ask around if anyone who expressed interest in sports or health non-fiction are interested.

      On the second point – this FAQ has come up a few times, so I’m adding something new to the guidelines: writers can choose for a review not to go live.

  • I don’t think this is a bad idea, and the price is reasonable too.

  • I have been considering submitting my book for a paid review on another site, but in truth I would trust one from SPR more than the other one. My only concern is the delivery method.

    I will not have my hard copy ready for a few more weeks and need to work out the method to send the ebook version.

    • Thanks, Patrick. Whenever you’re ready.

  • To charge for reviews is not the same as selling potatoes.
    I would never pay for a review, even if written by a genius.
    Let me use this joke for Kirkus:
    Billionaire: would you sleep with me for a million?
    Blonde: Yeah!
    Billionaire: How about a hundred cash?
    Blonde: What do you thing I am?
    Billionaire: That I already know. Now I need a price.
    To write a review is to risk your honor.
    That is why so few reviewers dare to sign their work with their real name.
    A review signed by a ghost? Only very stupid people would pay for such a ‘review’.

    • Henry Baum

      That is why so few reviewers dare to sign their work with their real name.

      I don’t know what you mean by that. Most reviewers sign their real name.

    • As they say, Arturo, you are entitled to your opinion. (I don’t see how the joke applies, but maybe that’s just me.) I’ve paid for and received detailed and intelligently written reviews of my two books that clearly indicated to me the reviewers had read the books from beginning to end. They had no reason not to be honest. I paid the reviewing services upfront and knew I couldn’t get my money back even if the reviewers said my books were the worst trash ever written. Joseph Yurt for Reader Views said my second book was “unforgettable.” Karen Shaw Suriner for Feathered Quill Book Reviews said the “suspenseful battles, sweeping scenery, and interpersonal drama would undoubtedly be a satisfying mix on the big screen. Are you listening, Hollywood?” I’m a total nobody. Why would reviewers say such things about a total nobody’s book unless they truly meant what they said? And except for the two reviews from Kirkus (both surprisingly favorable), all the reviews were signed by real people. I Googled them.

  • I am with Henry on this one. Good for SPR for stepping up and providing a valuable service to the ebook author. If we can put some sort of consistency to ebook reviews so that the would-be reader can make a reasonable buy-decision that is what the industry needs.

    An Amazon review can be from anyone; your next door neighbor, your girlfriend or the guy down that the street who doesn’t like you or your dog and rains on your parade.

    I think, especially for new authors, getting a solid review from a third party of their works is an important step. It can keep them from going off in the wrong direction with their book. For example, after a bad review, the author may go back to the drawing board and redo their book. Nothing says the review can’t be used for reconstruction and than marketing.

    I just blogged on SPR about Amazon and reviews: eBook Industry: Does Amazon Have a Winning Hand or a Dead Man’s Hand?
    “Buyers don’t really know if they are true reviews or a friend of the family.”