Should Authors Pay for Good Reviews? syndicated post from @TheMadReviewer


The following is syndicated from The Mad Reviewer and is posted here with permission.

Yet another ethical dilemma for reviewers and authors.

Most people consider me either ridiculously calm or emotionally stunted.  Either way, I don’t get angry very often and on the rare occasion I do, it’s generally very mild.  However, there are two things that make me furious to the point of being irrational: bullying and paid reviews.  The former is neither here nor there on this blog, but the latter is an issue that has cropped up frequently these last few weeks.  Somehow I think you can guess my stance on paid reviews, but I’ll tell you anyway:


Accepting money for a good review is unethical on the reviewer’s part and laughably pathetic on the author’s.  There is only one scenario I can think of in which money for a review is acceptable: if it’s in exchange for an honest review.  But if you’re the kind of author that would even consider paying for a review, you’re not going to risk a bad review when you can pay the same amount for a guaranteed good review.

Notice that here I’m against paying or sending free books in exchange for a good review.  There is nothing wrong with an author sending a reviewer a free copy of their novel (print or ebook) in exchange for an honest review.  If you’re an author, sending a reviewer a free ebook in exchange for an honest review doesn’t cost you a thing and most reviewers are scrupulous enough to delete the book when they’re finished with it.  If you’re a reviewer and you get a free ebook, all it costs you is time and in return you get content and publicity, possibly even new readers who never would have found your blog otherwise.

It will eventually get out if you’re charging for good reviews.

Reviewers: We have an obligation to our readers to tell the truth as we see it.  If you are accepting money in return for a good review, you are lying to your readers and yourself.  And if your readers find out you accept money in exchange for good reviews, they will never trust you again.  In most people’s eyes, you are going to lose all credibility because even if you actually liked the novels you review, people are going to assume you’re lying.

I don’t have any time or respect for people who do paid reviews.  I can understand the need to make money from your blog, but that’s why you can run ads or use your reviewing experience to apply for other jobs in the industry.  For example, Mark from The Masquerade Crew took me on as the content editor of his first anthology because of my reviewing experience.  Be creative!  You don’t have to lower your moral standards to make money.

A terrifying statistic, in my opinion.

Writers: If you have to pay for a good review, you shouldn’t be a writer.  Good reviews will come from readers who find your book and talk about it because they love it.  And no matter how good you are, you will always get bad reviews.  If your book isn’t being talked about for whatever reason, search for well-established book reviewing blogs and check the reviewer’s reviewing policy.  Most reviewers are ecstatic when you ask them to review your book.  It doesn’t cost you a thing as nearly all reviewers accept ebooks and review your books for free as long as you accept that they will give an honest review.

If you’re still considering paying someone to write you a good review, consider this: if people find out you’re spamming Amazon with paid reviews, the writing community is going to blacklist you.  Word gets around the internet very quickly and soon most scrupulous reviewers will not go anywhere near you.  If you’re an indie or self-published author, you are harming all indie and self-published writers by paying for reviews.  The traditional publishing industry and the general public is judging a group by the actions of very few people, so you need to think about not just your own reputation, but the reputation of an entire industry.  Conduct yourself accordingly.

Where is the line between ethical and unethical? Is there one?

I can absolutely understand the need for quick money for a lot of bloggers, but there is no excuse for lying to your readers.  What’s more important: being someone people can trust or making quick money by lying to consumers?  Besides, if you’re in blogging for the money, you’re in the wrong business, just like the writers who have to pay for good reviews.  Most people will not trust or even respect both parties in instances of paid reviews.

Now I want to know: what do you guys think of paid reviews?  Would you trust a reviewer who wrote good reviews in exchange for money?  Would you ever do a paid review?  Authors, have you ever considered paying for a good review?  Why or why not?