Should Authors Pay for Good Reviews?

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:

I AM ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY AGAINST AUTHORS PAYING REVIEWERS TO WRITE GOOD REVIEWS. (Yes, I’m shouting.)

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?

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14 thoughts on “Should Authors Pay for Good Reviews?

  1. I agree with the sentiment that paying for a guaranteed good review is just dumb on so many levels. But, part of me wishes that authors would come to me and say something like, “Hey, I’d like to offer you $50 to take the time to read my book and give it a review, an honest review of course.”

    That would be far too much of a pipe dream to ever happen though.

  2. I agree with you, although I make a point of keeping all of my electronic review copies, because sometimes I’m asked to review the sequels and in those cases I like to be able to be able to go back to the first book as a refresher.

    • That’s true. I don’t keep electronic copies just because I need to free up the space. I haven’t yet encountered the problem of reviewing the sequels, so we’ll see what happens when that comes up.

  3. I like honesty. If a writer is paying for a review then the review should be honest. They should not be paying for positive reviews with no chance of receiving a negative; paying to persuade readers is the issue. This is dishonesty.

    On the other hand, some writers do not have big social networks, they may live in countries foreign to their own, they may have little contact with people as they have self-isolation techniques to encourage them to write. If this person was to pay for a review, and it was not to persuade readers but to give them honest feedback on their story, that’s fine.

    I like negative reviews, too, provided they are honest. Payment to trick people is not right and will soon be discovered.

    Cheers.

    • Absolutely! That’s why I made the point in my article that there’s nothing wrong with paying for HONEST reviews. Yet, if you were the type of author who would pay for a review, wouldn’t you rather pay for a guaranteed good one than a potentially bad one?

      • No. I’d like an honest review to save me and everybody time. If my book’s no good I’d rather find out sooner rather than later. I don’t see any point in trying sugarcoat a book with reviews that aren’t inline with the story’s ratings.

        Book reviews can be difficult to get and so I can understand people looking at all sorts of options to get them. I only have eleven reviews.

        Recently, I was lucky enough to find a girl I’d never meet before, over the internet, who said she’d be interested in my story and would do a review in exchange for an ebook. Once she’d completed her read I had no idea if she’d liked the story before she posted the review. In the end she’d posted it on amazon and gave me three stars. Now, I see this as a positive that somebody’s not saying my book’s amazing and the rest. I think it shows honesty in the reviews. A book can’t be for everybody and sometimes these reviews are just as valuable as the five star reviews; they show real people are actually reading and reviewing.

        So, for me, bad review’s are not always that bad. Take it on the chin, I say, and keep your book real.

  4. Re-posting comment from Masquerade Crew site
    ~~~

    I would never pay for a review. Period.

    Accepting payment for this service carries a conflict of interest. Bias is attached no matter how you slice it.

    If the reviewer wants to continue being paid to write reviews – he/she must write GOOD reviews, not honest ones.

    By paying, the author has an expectation of getting something that will be helpful, not detrimental to his book sales.

    The churn of dishonest, consistently glowing reviews lends no credibility to an author nor a reviewer.

    eden

    • You’re absolutely right. Paying for a review, even if the author insists there is no obligation for a good one, makes the reviewer feel obligated. Besides, why would an author pay for a potentially bad one when they can get a guaranteed good one? And you’re right on the money when you say consistently good reviews lend no credibility to either party. Let’s be honest with ourselves: Would anyone trust a reviewer who only gave excellent reviews or an author who only has 5 star reviews on Amazon? Of course not.

  5. I also agree. These writers are just fooling themselves and in turn potentially misleading people who have read those false reviews and wasted money that could have been spent constructively in so many other ways.
    I kind of feel sorry for those authors, perhaps many of them don’t have enough confidence in themselves, but then why did they publish their books in the first place? Maybe they had some hope, but that still doesn’t make it right and I have no respect for such people. If they offer to pay for honest reviews risking a negative one, then that’s okay.
    I tend to leave even this kind of stuff for karma to take care of because in the end it will all come back to bite them in the petunia and catch a literary plague of some sort.

    • I feel sorry for the reviewers who are so morally bankrupt or are so desperate for cash more than I feel sorry for the writers. In some ways, these reviewers take advantage of new writers. But then again, writers should know better.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Pingback: Critic for Hire: A Thought Exercise

  7. You can please some of the people all of the time. You can please all of the people some of the time. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
    As far as I’m concerned you should never, ever pay for a good review – it negates the entire point of what you are doing and invalidates you as a creative person.
    Bad reviews hurt – I’ve had my share. But a genuine, honest, good review from someone who reads your work as a fan…well that’s just an amazing feeling whenever it happens.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! You’re absolutely right about trying to please people. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but you should never compromise your principles in order to do so. I could never accept money in exchange for writing a good review; I would be disgusted with myself. Some reviewers can do it, but I personally find it reprehensible.

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