Friday, April 17, 2015

The definitive guide* on paying for reviews

On Wednesday I shared my tips for finding book reviewers. For most of you, I'm hoping that information was helpful. For some of you, it was overwhelming.

Maybe you're just barely eeking out an hour a day to write and the idea of spending all that time finding, researching and contacting reviewers makes you want to cry onto your blank pages. I don't personally relate since I'm one of those weird people that finds marketing fun. But I can understand.

If that all feels like too much, it's okay. You can hire a reputable and respectable blog tour company to organize your tour for you. Be aware that you will probably end up with fewer reviewers or pay heavily for them. I'm personally not a fan of this route, but it is absolutely an option and one that I support if this is what you need.

But I want to be clear that there is a big difference between paying someone to organize your blog tour and buying reviews. One of these is perfectly acceptable and above the bar and the other is a quick way to become a schwarmy author.

Buying reviews is, in my book, a seriously bad decision. It goes against everything I love about being an author and a reader. It taints the process of finding new books and makes the author look like a huckster instead of an artist.

Just in case there is any confusion when it comes to what exactly is a paid review. I've made this definitive guide* to steer you on the path of the straight and narrow.
*Or maybe not so much definitive as just the list of things I could think of. So...yeah.

DO give your book to reviewers in exchange for an honest review.
Some might feel that this is paying for a review. Trust me when I say that if reviewers were going to get paid, their time would be worth way more than the cost of my $2.99 eBook. Giving your book to someone who wants to review it is not paying them. On the reverse, I've seen folks ask for reviews and then provide a purchase link.This is not asking for reviews. This is begging for people to buy your book. Reviewers dedicate many (MANY) hours to reviewing books simply because they love them and want to share their passion with others. Understand that asking them to pay for your book is going to net you zero reviews.

DO NOT give someone the money to buy your book so their review shows up as a "verified purchase".
I've seen this listed as a viable method on various group sites and handed out as advice from people who brand themselves as book marketing professionals. Here's why this is a no-no. First, it is intentionally deceitful. The verified purchase identifier on Amazon is there so that a review is given more credence, since theoretically, the reviewer bought the book in question on their own and chose to review it. By giving someone the money so they get the verified purchase identifier, you are gaming the system. Bad. Also, I cannot recall a single time when I bothered to see if a review was from a verified purchase. I don't care and I'm guessing the average reader doesn't either. So your deception is pretty pointless.

DO understand that not everyone will finish/review your book.
Even when you've given your book to a reviewer for free, they may not finish it. And if they do, they might not review it. Understand that sometimes a reviewer chooses not to leave a review. Maybe because they honestly didn't like your book and don't want to give you a one star. So no review is actually a good thing. Regardless of the reason, a reviewer doesn't owe you anything. Remember when I said they are worth more than $2.99. That book was not a payment for service. It was a gift in the hopes of a review.

DO NOT pay someone in exchange for a review.
This is pretty clear cut, but you should never, ever give someone money as payment for their review. First, this goes against the terms of service for Amazon and is grounds for getting you and your books kicked off the website. Second, it is just so dirty. Seriously, it's wrong and gives me the heebie jeebies. Third, the people who write reviews for a living punch those things out by the dozen. They probably didn't read your book and you'll end up with a generic review that will most likely be worthless. Just saying.


DO expect that you will get negative reviews.
When someone agrees to read and review your book, they are not making a promise that they will like your book and give it a good review. Reviews are so powerful because readers put faith in their honestly. There will be people who don't like your book (shocker, I know) and they will leave negative reviews. The good news here is that you actually want a few of these on your book page. All 5-star reviews for a book makes them look fake or as if all your reviews came from your relatives. A few negative reviews gives more credit to the positive ones.

DO NOT pay a service to find reviewers for you
This one sounds tricky, but it's not. This is different than a service organizing your blog tour. A tour coordinator is in constant communication with you and the bloggers to ensure everyone has the information they need, your tour dates are covered and the tour is promoted. It's a lot of work and should be a paid gig. A service that is simply finding reviews for you is not doing any of that. They are hiring people who will give your book a glowing review for a fiver. There are probably a few sites out there that are simply coordinating reviewers with authors and keeps it all on the up and up. But for everyone company that is staying true to the nature of reviews, there are dozens who are churning reviews out like a puppy farm. I realize it's tempting, but just don't.

So there you have it. Reviews are super valuable to you and a major part of promoting your book. Getting them doesn't have to be torture. But if that sounds like less fun than having all your fingernails pulled off, don't turn to the easy answer of paying for reviews. It might help you in the short term, but eventually those fake reviews will come back to bite you and you'll wish you hadn't.

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