Buying Influence

ImageReviews are on my mind today.

I’m irritated with my Readers Favorite review. They corrected the spelling and most of the grammar/sentence structure on their site, but the original review stands at Barnes & Noble – where the reviewer, an ex-teacher no less, appears to have had trouble with the English language, and where racquetball is spelled racket ball. RF would be happy to post the edited review, but only an author can request the removal of their first one. Good luck with that. It’s irritating, but not worth losing time or sleep over. I’ve made the request to B&N twice, and if they ever remove it, I’ll the RF people know.

It’s hard for a new author to get reviews. I wrote to an online friend of many years and asked if she would have time to read my book. I told her I would send a gift card through Amazon, and all I wanted was an honest review. She was excited for me and said yes. Three months later she is sheepish, but she simply hasn’t had time to read the book with summer, kids, back-to-school, etc.  I told her I completely understood, and I wouldn’t be offended if she never read it.

Now I’m reading across many forums that it was unethical for me to ask for the review in the first place. Giving a book away for free in return for a review, or paying someone to read your book then leave a review, is a shunning offense as an author.

The payment to Readers Favorite was to have someone read the book and post the review within two weeks – nothing more. There was no guarantee of a positive review. They will review any book for free if you are willing to wait three months or more. But with five stars across the board in all categories, and then the racket ball misspelling; well, I can’t help but to wonder if the payment had a bearing on the review.

Charlie, thatgirlwhoreadsbooks, posted this article in a reply to one of my posts. It’s from the New York Times and is an article about book reviewers for hire. By the way, I enjoy Charlie’s blog immensely as she attempts to read every book in her house. You should check it out.

The entire article was interesting, but I found the mention of John Locke to be especially noteworthy. Everyone who self publishes knows who John Locke is. He is the first self-published author to sell more than a million eBooks through Amazon. I would love to know his true sales numbers, as I believe even his free downloads were considered a “sale.” Oh, I’m not taking anything away from the amount of money he’s made; I’ve contributed! A quick check of my Nook shows 13 John Locke books which I purchased at 99 cents each.

What interested me so much about the article was that Mr. Locke “commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledgling service’s best customers.” Mr. Locke went on to say “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

It reminded me of the disc jockey scandal of the 60’s. Disc jockeys took payment in return for playing certain music tracks more frequently on the radio. Just as hearing a song over and over again can run it up the charts, seeing a book with hundreds of positive reviews can bring more and more buyers.

I’ve set aside a budget for advertising. When I originally set my budget, I allowed for free books in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only done that with my friend who doesn’t have the time, but I’m wondering if I should even consider this given the current review climate – especially at Amazon. I received a glowing review for one of my books, and it has disappeared. It was a verified purchase, I didn’t know the person, and I have no idea why the review is gone. Do I really want to pay for reviews via free books when they could disappear at any time anyway? I think not.

Having at least one positive review on each book right now is just fine (none were paid for!). I can live with that.

But I am curious … have you had any experience with offering a book in exchange for a review? Or have you paid for a review? Did you change your mind about the practice after you did? What does Scrooge McDuck have to do with any of this?

26 thoughts on “Buying Influence

  1. Since I haven’t as of yet published my first book, I don’t have any experience in *acquiring* reviews. However, I have gotten to review several books from self-published authors, and it’s been a pretty good experience so far. If you’re looking for people to review, look no further than WordPress. These authors either sent me a digital copy of the book, or a physical copy (in one case), at which point I read, reviewed, and posted the review on whatever sites they requested (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.)

  2. I used the Readers Favorite site for reviews when I first published. Since they wouldn’t guarantee that a review would be done in any specific time period, and wouldn’t even guarantee that a review would be done unless payment was made, I anted up. I wanted more than one person to give their opinion, so I dug into the dark coffers and went for five reviews.

    You know what? I don’t feel bad about it at all, though there was always the nagging thought that because they were paid, the reviews would be slanted. I really did it just to get SOMEONE… ANYONE… to read it and say, more or less, what they think of it.

    Anybody that can’t handle that? Waaaagh.

  3. I answered a fellow bloggers request to swap books reviews with her. She is self-published. I told her I would do a review for her, but since I am not (yet) published, I asked her for feedback on what she thinks of my WIP. A beta reader so to speak.

    I read her book, did a review, let her know I did a review, and haven’t heard from her since. That is either bad manners, or she hated my book and didn’t know how to tell me. HOWEVER, I told her I want her HONEST opinion. Geez. I wasted a bunch of time reading her poorly written book. Ticks me off.

    Thanks for letting me rant.

    • Had to be bad manners! My friend – I do consider her a friend – was excited about my book. I told her to please say no if it wasn’t a good time for her, or if she wasn’t interested. I am a little surprised she didn’t read it, so I thought the same thing – she tried and hated it. 🙂 I just put it behind and me and decided not to let it get me torqued up. I know in time the reviews will come -both good and bad.

  4. More ranting from Robin . . . I gave my best friend my book to read. She did and had some good comments, questions, and corrections. I worked on it for another 6 months (off and on), printed out, and gave her another copy to read. THEN HEARD NOTHING. Frankly, my feeling were hurt.

    So you don’t think I must be the world’s worst writer, another new friend read it three times and loves it! She says she “savors it like a nice glass of wine.” I know this is rather off-topic for your post, but this is a safe place for me to vent. Sigh.

    • Oh, I don’t mind at all. I thought most of the comments would be about Scrooge McDuck. I sometimes think people are so busy propelling themselves through their daily lives, they don’t mean to be rude, but it happens and they are. You’ve had good feedback on your book now, so you know it’s good. – Be sure to come back to this thread and check T.W. Dittmer’s follow up comment. 😉

  5. I know, I know . . . it is “just” that when I say I am going to do something, I DO it. Or, tell the person why I can’t do it at this time. My mom drilled that into me and I in turn drilled that into my kids. Live up to your word.

  6. I’ve requested a free review through Reader’s Favourite, but the 12 week waiting period is almost up, so I don’t think I’ll be getting anything from them. xD However, I have contacted many book bloggers in the past offering them a free copy in exchange for an honest review, and I’ve had good results. I don’t see anything unethical about it; it’s simply a way of promoting your book. These bloggers usually have a lot of followers, and if said followers see a positive review, they may be inclined to look for the book and possibly even buy it. Even big publishers and authors use sites like NetGalley to acquire reviews for their books. There’s no problem with that!

    • I thought about the free 12-week review with RF, but after looking over their site, I get the impression that the free ones are probably far and few between. I don’t want to pay for another poorly written review, so I’m not planning to use them again – free or not. I’ve run across several people who like to promote indie books on their blogs, and I’ll look into that soon. Like you, I do like the idea of offering a copy of a book for an honest review. There are plenty of places beside Amazon to do this ethically.

  7. I have done a couple of reviews from free books via good reads (I also still have some to do yet sorry to those waiting) but think even if only a few people post reviews it helps

    • Yes, a few helps, and that’s what keeps me from getting too hyper about it. I know there are people who would review my book if I would review theirs, but I barely have time to read the books I’m trying to read now. I’m not going to worry too much about it until October. I’ll either be writing a fifth book then, or taking time out to address marketing in a serious way. I’ll have to see how the wind is blowing then.

  8. I think when I write my book, I will simply create multiple accounts everywhere and give myself glowing reviews. After all, that’s what I’m best at. Telling myself (and others) how wonderful and fabulous I am.

    • 🙂 Stephen Leather beat you to it. Lots of news articles about him after he “confessed.” He even had conversations with himself (with multiple accounts and characters) on Twitter. And yes, you are fabulous!

      • I must be, I’ve had 49 hits today, and haven’t written anything since Monday or Tuesday. What’s that all about? But I’ll take it…even though it’s me. I signed out of WP and am hitting my own blog relentlessly as a stranger.

  9. Paying for reviews… huh. I really had no idea. Here’s hoping your books become so successful, folks are lining up to write reviews for you… : )

    Always good to see ol’ Scrooge McDuck. He certainly got my attention. And I knew that delightful Julie Browning was very naughty to begin with. : )

    • Thank you, Mark. I saw your smiling avatar around here and there, and you seem like such a happy bloke, so I had to check your blog to see what you were all about. I love your illustrations! I could only dream of having that much talent. And yes, Julie is delightful and naughty – she’s my kind of gal. 🙂

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