Book Reviews—Why Free Reviews are Best and Paid Reviews are Problematic
Paid Book Review Houses

Paid Book Review Houses

When I entered the publishing industry 15 years ago, almost no one paid for book reviews. Websites that offered paid book reviews were marketing to authors who either didn’t know how to request a standard review or weren’t eligible to be reviewed through existing channels. As independent publishing progressed over the years, standard review houses like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus realized they were leaving money on the table by not offering a review stream to indie authors. This realization led to the birth of Kirkus Indie in 2005 and BookLife in 2014 from Publishers Weekly.

It could easily be argued that traditional publishing spawned the paid review stream by barring indie authors from being reviewed by ALA Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus. If this is true, then these four were simply late for their own capitalistic party.

One exception among The Big Five standard review houses is Shelf Awareness, which has always accepted both indie and traditionally published books for free review consideration. From my own experience, it seems as if Shelf Awareness assigns more galleys for review consideration than other review houses. However, their reviewers aren’t required to turn in opinions on every galley they receive.

Moving in the opposite direction, Foreword Reviews, which accepts indie published and university press releases, began offering free reviews after starting out with paid Clarion Reviews. Today Foreword offers almost a two-for-one bundle with Clarion and BlueInk Reviews as their “fee-for-review” option. With all the advertising they sell in their gorgeous full color magazine, the Sutherlands must be making more money than ever.

In conclusion, let me say that I will never go along with paid reviews as a standard in our industry. Once money is exchanged, the opinion is bought and sold, which taints its quality and colors its neutrality.

What do YOU think about the monetization of book reviews? Let me hear from you! Drop your comment below.

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  1. When I starting writing book reviews for various companies I was paid a nominal fee for my unbiased review. When companies started charging authors for reviews, my nominal fee remained the same as the companies received what I felt was outrageous fees from the authors.

    As a believer that writers should help other writers I began doing free reviews on my blog. I was bombarded with books. As much as I wanted to help others, my own writing time suffered.

    To remedy this I devised a unique format to help others without hurting myself in the process. I added social media promotion to authors with the review and accept books only with a donation from the author, who determines what that amount will be from their budget. Books are reviewed in the order received, and all reviews are done independent from the amount received around my own writing.

    Yes, some authors send even less than the nominal amount than the companies paid me, but overall since I’ve been doing this most authors appreciate my efforts and are fair with their donation amounts.

  2. I’m unaware of a useful paid reviewer for a business book

  3. Thanks for sharing what it’s like from the reviewer side, Angie, by payment from the review house and optional donation from the author.

  4. Thanks for sharing your opinion about reviews for business books, Greg.

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