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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Browsing on a writing site just now I saw comments made about paying for reviews and was horrified to see it seems some people find this a quite normal thing to do.
One of the writers concerned was stunned as they had just received a review from someone who hadn't been paid to do it. This has astounded me. Have any of the rest of you heard of this practice? I know lots have them done by friends or fellow writers to help boost their sales, but paying!

It's making me wonder if that's why I only have a few reviews on my books. At least mine are all from real readers.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 

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ascepticalmedium said:
Browsing on a writing site just now I saw comments made about paying for reviews and was horrified to see it seems some people find this a quite normal thing to do.
One of the writers concerned was stunned as they had just received a review from someone who hadn't been paid to do it. This has astounded me. Have any of the rest of you heard of this practice? I know lots have them done by friends or fellow writers to help boost their sales, but paying!

It's making me wonder if that's why I only have a few reviews on my books. At least mine are all from real readers.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Occasionally someone posts here who seems to think this is normal, but I think most writers know that this is not a good thing.

It used to be simple to protect authors by saying that people should pay THEM, they shouldn't pay people. This was back in the vanity press days. With indie publishing, the waters are muddied because there are legitimate reasons to pay for services like editing.

Paying for reviews though? Never. Not worth it at any price, especially if people find out. At best, it's amateurish and at worst, fraudulent. I think most people can understand the impulse, because reviews can be crucial. That isn't the way to get them though.
 

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Justin Alexander said:
It's self-evidently unethical. (You are paying someone to lie to other people on your behalf.)
Some of the authors doing it though will swear up and down that they just want honest reviews -- and some will mean it. :)

Honest reviews is a subjective term though. When someone pays you for something there is a implied obligation to do a task or supply something to that person's satisfaction, particularly if you want more money from them in the future. I think a reviewer has to ask herself what would be to this person's satisfaction.

For example, people in Amazon Vine get free stuff in exchange for reviews. Amazon says "review 75% of the stuff and don't abuse our TOS, and we're satisfied." 1 star review or 5 star, it's all good and to their satisfaction. A lot of reviewers accept free copies of books and that can work out too, because if the author hates the review they can simply stop giving that person books. Once money is given by an author to a reviewer though, and income is made, a reviewer is going to want to keep making money. By having satisfied customers.

Even if an author in that situation is honest, people will be suspicious. So, the writer has paid for a review that a percentage of people won't believe. Yay? And, let's face it, an author tends to think that their efforts deserve praise -- if they don't think that, they published too soon -- and so a negative review that they paid money for is going to seem, more times than not, both wrong and a poor value.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
How strange that people think it acceptable isn't it? Interesting it's illegal, never knew that - mind you, I never knew till today people actually paid to get reviews either.

It must take a pretty desperate writer (and one with no confidence in their own work) to pay someone to do that.

It's just a shame more readers don't realise we'd like a review on our books once they've read them. It's something I never thought of doing until I became a writer though so it isn't surprising the majority of readers don't think about it either.
 

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ascepticalmedium said:
It must take a pretty desperate writer (and one with no confidence in their own work) to pay someone to do that.
I don't see it as a confidence issue for many, more just the desperation you mention, or impatience. Of course, in some cases you're probably right.

It's just a shame more readers don't realise we'd like a review on our books once they've read them. It's something I never thought of doing until I became a writer though so it isn't surprising the majority of readers don't think about it either.
I think that if more readers realized how much it mattered, reviews would increase some. However, a reader has no obligation to review, and many have no desire to do so. Now in this case, for some it's a confidence issue. "I'm not a writer, what right do I have to judge? What if I make mistakes?" Other people just would prefer to do something else with their time.

Of course, ideally, a writer wants people to review them -- hopefully in a sincerely positive way. However, a reader's "job description" is to read -- and even that is completely voluntary. Review is not in the job description. Overlook errors because the writer is an indie, not in the job description. Give writer another chance, not in the description. I've met a few writers who are not completely clear on these things.

What is in the job description of someone who actually reviews is a separate topic -- but it also doesn't include a pass on errors or second chances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I think the problem is, so many try to be professional in their reviews and go too in depth. As a critique to help with writing that can be invaluable, but for a book review it just needs to be simple. Is it a good read, did you enjoy it and would you recommend it to others - if so why? If it was kept that simple I think more would do it. They see the ones who try to be too clever and it makes them think they have to do the same.

It's the same with art - some feel they have to sound ultra intelligent looking for meaning in a picture that often isn't there instead of just saying, yes I like it or no I don't.
 

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ascepticalmedium said:
I think the problem is, so many try to be professional in their reviews and go too in depth. As a critique to help with writing that can be invaluable, but for a book review it just needs to be simple. Is it a good read, did you enjoy it and would you recommend it to others - if so why? If it was kept that simple I think more would do it. They see the ones who try to be too clever and it makes them think they have to do the same.

It's the same with art - some feel they have to sound ultra intelligent looking for meaning in a picture that often isn't there instead of just saying, yes I like it or no I don't.
That's certainly a valid review style -- simple and to the point. Helpful, too. But, as with many things, variety is the spice of life and longer reviews are preferred by some. I do somewhat longer reviews, sometimes really long when I'm enthused or even vexed, but it has little to do with anything other than that being my style, my natural inclination, how I process stories, and -- in the Red Adept Reviews -- having a format to follow.

You might have noticed that when I get warmed up I can really just keep going. :D

The ideal is enough reviews for every potential reader -- and reviews are for readers, any benefit to authors is gravy -- to get opinions from a variety of people and in a variety of styles.
 

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While self-publishing has changed the game a little (paying for editing, paying for cover art, paying for formatting...), these are business expenses.  In general, money should flow toward the writer. 

Paying for a review is just wrong--but any time there is a market, someone will fill it.  I'm sure plenty of writers, biting their nails waiting to hear how folks feel about their books, cave and send the money. 

It's wrong. It's unethical to take money for a review. But ethics haven't stopped many questionable business practices (at least in the U.S., land of corporate corruption). 

:-\
 

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aaronpolson said:
While self-publishing has changed the game a little (paying for editing, paying for cover art, paying for formatting...), these are business expenses. In general, money should flow toward the writer.

Paying for a review is just wrong--but any time there is a market, someone will fill it. I'm sure plenty of writers, biting their nails waiting to hear how folks feel about their books, cave and send the money.

It's wrong. It's unethical to take money for a review. But ethics haven't stopped many questionable business practices (at least in the U.S., land of corporate corruption).

:-\
Yes. This.
 

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"Honest reviews is a subjective term though. When someone pays you for something there is a implied obligation to do a task or supply something to that person's satisfaction, particularly if you want more money from them in the future. I think a reviewer has to ask herself what would be to this person's satisfaction."

I would agree with that in most cases. However, if it were explicitly stated that a double blind system was in use and there was no guarantee of anything, then the implication isn't present. This would be more firmly established if reviews fell along a normal bell curve. I expect such a system to arise simply because there is a demand and someone will profit from meeting the demand. That's not a recommendation or approval, just a forecast based on economic reality.
 

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I've been paid to write reviews - by magazines (Starburst), so not the actual author. I suppose there's still a tacit agreement not to do a hatchet job as that doesn't reflect well on the magazine, but there's no agreement that I have to write a good review just because I'm being paid for it. More usually I just get free books!

deb
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi Deb,

The sort of review you're talking about is totally different. Like journalists who do reviews for their newspapers and magazines, they are paid to work there or as a freelance to do reviews. That is so different from an author approaching someone and saying "I'll pay you to do a review for me" or placing an ad. asking for people to do them in return for money. The latter to me is just so wrong.
As I say, I have very few, but those I do are genuine and they mean so much more as someone has taken the time to tell me what they think. I just wish I could put all the lovely e-mails on as reviews!

 

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Terrence OBrien said:
I would agree with that in most cases. However, if it were explicitly stated that a double blind system was in use and there was no guarantee of anything, then the implication isn't present. This would be more firmly established if reviews fell along a normal bell curve. I expect such a system to arise simply because there is a demand and someone will profit from meeting the demand. That's not a recommendation or approval, just a forecast based on economic reality.
I'd maintain it's still present. If a reviewer or a company consistently gave a writer's books a low grade, wouldn't be at least think about taking his green pieces of paper elsewhere? He might not be able to claim he was defrauded, but I don't see too many writers continuing to retain those services, which would be the bottom line if the goal for the reviewer is to make money.

DebBennett said:
I've been paid to write reviews - by magazines (Starburst), so not the actual author. I suppose there's still a tacit agreement not to do a hatchet job as that doesn't reflect well on the magazine, but there's no agreement that I have to write a good review just because I'm being paid for it. More usually I just get free books!

deb
Not the same, or, not automatically the same. I suppose that there could be a chance that a magazine or other entity could have an agenda to put out positive reviews, but I don't think that would be in their best long-term interest if their goal is sales and credibility. The issue isn't reviewers receiving books or compensation, but who is paying them and what do they expect, really expect if the secrets of their heart could be revealed. I also think that books are a different dynamic than money and this is why it's accepted practice to accept them directly from authors.
 

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"I'd maintain it's still present. If a reviewer or a company consistently gave a writer's books a low grade, wouldn't be at least think about taking his green pieces of paper elsewhere? "

If the reviews fit a normal Bell curve that wouldn't be the case. That would be something we could observe. A review company could do very well with just the new authors coming on the market. If they also wanted to make ad revenue from the review site, they would want to attract readers like any commercial review site. Demonstrating they were reliable would attract more eyeballs and more ad clicks.

Under your scenario, return customers would be only those who liked the review. OK. Under my scenario I add the new authors with a first book. A profit maximizer might realize that giving good reviews to crappy books decreased both traffic and attractiveness to paying authors. Properly managed, such a business could do well.

I'd agree some would screw it up. But others would do well.
 

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MichelleR said:
Some of the authors doing it though will swear up and down that they just want honest reviews -- and some will mean it. :)
The only way for such a review to be honest would be if it included the words, "I was paid by the author to write this review." Without that frank disclaimer, the reviewer is dishonestly presenting the context of the review to the reader.

Back when I wrote reviews professionally, the question of whether or not the receipt of a review copy should be acknowledged in a review was answered differently by different venues. I generally think that it should, because it does, in fact, create a notable relationship between creator and reviewer. (For example, I once had a review rejected by my editor for being too negative. Not because the review was inaccurate; but because it would have jeopardized the magazine's ability to get review product from that company in the future.) Some venues felt, however, that the receipt was of review product was just commonly understood by their readers as part of the reviewing process, and I can respect that.

Terrence OBrien said:
If the reviews fit a normal Bell curve that wouldn't be the case.
Unfortunately, there's no motive for such a company to maintain a bell curve. This is particularly true if the reviews are being posted to third-party sites. But even if the company were trying to maintain readership at their own site, it wouldn't take them long to figure out that their economic interests are best served by finding non-paying authors to supply the low-end of their bell curve instead of pissing off paying customers.

Look at the video game industry's reviewers, for example. You basically can't true any of the major video game review sites because they're all in the pocket of the industry.
 

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"Unfortunately, there's no motive for such a company to maintain a bell curve. "

Sure there is. The motive is money. It's a motive shared by Moody's and S&P. Even if we don't like their recent history, they are still in the rating business making money doing the same thing.

Set up a site that reviews for cash and make that known. Post the reviews only on that site with permission for the author to use them anywhere else. Once reviewed, a review stays forever.

To max profit, put up ads and associate links for books reviewed. Revenue derived here is a function of traffic.

Pissing off an author? They already have his money. Who cares if he's p*ssed? He's not going to tell anybody. If he tells folks he paid to get a good review and got a crappy review, that only enhances the reputation of the site. A steady supply of new authors is the niche they go after. The other niche is satisfied authors with new work.

The objective of the site is to gain a readership, just like any commercial review site. The readership is what attracts the authors.

We can certainly find scenarios where an operator will screw it up. But at the same time, we can find scenarios where he doesn't. My position is that it can be done, not that everyone who tries will do it well.
 
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