It was my intention to write the second part of my ‘Self-Publishing Myths’ series today, but a recent development in the publishing world has forced me to push that back to Monday. John Locke, poster boy of indie success, has admitted that he paid for book reviews, in a move that is becoming increasingly common in the self-publishing world.
I won’t go into the technicalities, as several other bloggers have already done a pretty damn good job of that, but basically, there are websites out there that allow you to purchase paid book reviews for Amazon, or around the web. You can often buy in bulk of twenty or fifty, and these reviews vary in legitimacy and positivity.
While I disagree with purchasing book reviews from a moral standpoint, am I surprised? Not at all.
Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be. It’s just as competitive a market as the traditional world now, so any potential shortcut to success is going to sell, simple as that. Cover design sells. Editing sells. Why shouldn’t reviews sell?
Well, paid book reviews shouldn’t sell, because reviews are something an author should earn.
Receiving a positive review is one of the greatest feelings of pleasure in the writing world, for me, anyway. The knowledge that someone you don’t know has taken the time not only to read your work, but returned to the store from which they bought it to big it up on a global stage, is flattering to say the least.
How would you experience that buzz of a book review if you’re receiving tonnes of illegitimate ones? And how can you ever hope to grow as a writer if you ignore critical judgements and seek fake praise?
Sure, some paid book reviews claim to be ‘objective’, but then that makes things even more immoral. Negative book reviews balanced with positive is a more effective sales tool than positive alone, as it creates the illusion of REAL judgement. Basically, you’re tricking your reader into buying your book. Nice way to treat your fan base, eh?
I don’t have any personal problem with authors who indulge in purchased book reviews. To be honest, a fake review can be sniffed at from a mile away, so in my opinion, fake reviews only do more damage than they do good. Debut indie book with twenty reviews after two days on sale? Give me a break.
If you want to spend your money on book reviews because you want an early rush of sales, go for it. Just don’t have the cheek to expect any support from the rest of us indies who graft day in, day out, for honest appraisal.
If you want to earn a long-term fan base of honest people, and still get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside when you receive a review, then save your cash and spend it on editing and cover design instead. It’s a slow-burn approach, but your fan-base will grow steadily.
Where do you stand on paid book reviews? Is it ‘morally wrong’, or just inevitable circumstance? Drop a comment below and let everyone know what you think! The girls at SelfPublishingTeam.com already have a great debate going too, so be sure to head over to the comments section of their page.
PS: Just a note to say that the people at Amazon, who are usually brilliant, have cocked up a little bit and offered my short story collection, Something in the Cellar, for free these last couple of days. Whilst it isn’t a great advert for their KDP Select program, I see no reason to hide their error, so if you want a free copy, head on over to amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. No idea how long it’ll last, so this message could even be dead on arrival. Just wanted to inform you so you don’t think I’m running a promo without your knowledge, or something!
Image courtesy of luxuryluke via Flickr
It seems to be the blog topic of the week. http://theresabodyinthelibrary.blogspot.com/2012/08/to-buy-or-not-to-buy-reviews.html
I’m with you. I think they do more harm than good. And I’d never buy them for myself.
I think this was, sadly, an inevitable consequence of the eBook market getting more accessible. Many writers who have always wanted to get into the business will find it hard to raise their voices enough to be heard over the din of others, and paying for reviews seems like a quick and easy way to get to the top. Now that the Publishers and Agents aren’t acting as “Gatekeepers” and giving authors a semblance of authenticity, they have to rely on readers. This is the way it should be, in my opinion, but as you mention, reviews should be earned–paying for them is a cop out.
It’s especially disappointing to hear that Locke is in the middle of this. He’s demonstrating that one doesn’t need to be moral to make money.