Poll: Would you donate to be on a special waiting list?

I may be opening a can of worms, so bear with me.

My long term goal is to work from home, helping authors in any way that I can, from the very beginning of their writing journey to the very end, including brainstorming, writing, editing, marketing and more. But to do that I need to make money. I could do it as a hobby as I am doing now, but that's not what I want. I don't want to HAVE to work outside the home.

I want to get involved in publishing, so hopefully, I'll make a little money from that. With our site traffic up as it is, I might be able to start bringing in the cash a little earlier. I've got lots of ideas of how this might play out, so nothing is set in stone at the moment. Before I reveal any of that in any sort of detail, I'd like to get your opinion on a controversial side of it.

Donations, Ethics, and Book Reviews

For clarity sake, I want to make this clear: Donations and Payment for Services are synonymous at this point. (Because my goal is that everyone who donates will get something in exchange.)

Our combined waiting list for book reviews has close to a hundred books, maybe more. We don't take books in strict order for various reasons, such as for blog tours with specific date requirements, reviewer interest (or lack thereof), etc. I would like to tie in donations with our waiting list.

But that brings up the question of ethics.

Is it ethical for someone to pay to be bumped up on a waiting list, hence creating a short list? As soon as I asked this question on Twitter, the common view was that I would be accepting payment for the review, which is majorly frowned upon in the industry. I don't see it the same way. The review would still be honest and fair. I'll give you two examples.

One of the reasons we bump up a review is if you join our crew. Diantha Jones joined our crew last week. I got her book from her and sent it to Bec who had already requested it. Here's what Bec wrote in an email:
Consider her book pushed up the list when I get it. I just hope it's good so I don't risk insulting her.

Was she going to pad the review just because of the relationship with the author? NO!

I offered to review a book after one of the authors (of a collection of short stories) helped me upgrade my book review list. Did that book get an automatic 5 star review? NO! In fact, it received 4 stars because some of the stoires weren't as good as the others. Now, while the story by the author who helped me was my favorite, that fact was not swayed by the bartering of services.

How it would work

I'm perfectly fine with someone paying to be higher up on the waiting list or to be listed in a separate section, like a sponsored waiting list or a premium waiting list (that list would get promotion). But I wouldn't tie a specific amount with the upgraded waiting list. If you donate $5, you'd be listed ahead of the Free Listing but behind the $10 donations.

This wouldn't guarantee a review, and it certainly wouldn't guarantee a positive review.

Since this idea is about promotion, not a gaming of the review system, I would be willing to do something else. The bump in the waiting list would not be what the donation or payment is for. It would simply be complimentary. What the donation would really be for would be some other service.

For example, someone purchases ad space on our site. The donation goes toward that, but I also bump up their review request. If someone is solely interested in getting a review sooner, I would at least do a shout out post for them, so even in that case the donation would be for the shout out, not for the waiting list bump.

I didn't address every issue, but I think there's enough here to give you an idea of what I would like to do. I am very much interested in your opinion, whether you agree, disagree or are somewhere in between. Healthy discussions, even those that lean on the heated side, help me continually shape my personal opinion. So, please answer the following poll question. Leave a comment. If you have a lot to say, write a blog post and link to it in a comment. If you don't want your opinion public, send me an email. msl_007 {AT} live {DOT} com