Reasons your book isn't selling: Paid Reviews

Last week I kicked off a brand new series here on the blog: Reasons your book isn't selling. Every Wednesday I'll discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales (except this is Friday because Wednesday was Thanksgiving Eve). Last week I talked about bad review requests.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Paid Reviews
So, we know how important reviews are and now you've got a handle on how to write a request letter that might actually get reviewers interested in your book. But even with a great letter, you may still find it difficult to get reviewers on board, especially if you are a new author without a track record.

And that's when paid reviews start looking mighty tempting.

Let's break down two types of paid reviews you should definitely avoid.

#1 - Fiver Style
We've all seen the ads on Fiver and various other sites advertising paid reviews for cheap. For as little as five buckeroos someone you don't know will "read" your book and write a review for Amazon or B&N or wherever. And you may be thinking that this is a much better option than spending all that time researching legitimate reviewers, sending them requests, sending them books and then waiting on reviews. And you'd be wrong. Here's why.

First, the people who advertise these review type services make their money with volume. That means, they need to pump out a ton of reviews every week in order to pay the bills. Think about it. At $5 a pop, a reviewer needs to turn around 58 reviews per week just to make minimum wage. Do you think they are reading all those books? And if they aren't reading them, how are they reviewing them? They aren't, they are pumping out generic paragraphs that will basically be worthless to you. And if that's all you've got, readers are going to be wise to the gig and your sales will suffer.

Second, when you reach out to legitimate blogger/reviewers, you start building relationships. And this means each time you have a new book release, it gets easier and easier to contact reviewers and get reviews. You aren't building relationships on Fiver, because it's a business transaction, plain and simple.

Trust me on this one. Don't do it.

#2 - Kirkus Style
In the world of reviews, there are some paid services which are considered "above board" within in the industry. Several industry publications sell reviews and Kirkus is considered the gold standard for paid review services. While it gives me a bit of the ick factor, paid reviews of this nature are part of the biz for traditional publishing. If you are with a traditional house, they will generally cover this cost if they feel it is worth it.

Most of these publications offer an option for indie authors to get in on the deal as well. And this is where I say run. These options are usually very expensive and I can think of a hundred better ways to spend your marketing dollars. Seriously, hundreds. Also, for an indie author there really isn't a payoff. These types of reviews are not going to attract readers and that's not what they are designed for. These are the reviews for the industry, librarians, booksellers, etc. They consider these reviews when deciding what books to put on their shelves. While there are plenty of ways for indies to get into bookstores and libraries, I don't think a Kirkus review is your golden ticket.

While a review of this nature isn't going to hurt your book the way a Fiver review will, the cost is so high, it is likely to be the only marketing effort you can afford which will result in an inability to use that money toward more effective marketing. And that will hurt your book.

When it comes to paid reviews, you really are better off keeping your money in your pocket. I know how tempting it is, trust me, I know. But the reality is that buying reviews can cost you a lot of money, and, more importantly, your reputation.