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.