It has come to my attention lately that many of the magazines, on-line commentaries, etc. charge for reviewing books, either directly or indirectly by linking the review with the purchase of advertising in the publication. In each case, when challenged, each publication insists it has done nothing wrong. Most of them also will take 'free reviews", but these are, understandably, placed at the end of the list and never surface to be reviewed. What are your thoughts on this practice?

Have you ever paid for a review?

If you know a publication charges the author or publisher for writing its reviews, does it change the way you evaluate the review?

What IS ethical?

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The problem is, of course, that such reviews are quoted without reference to how they were obtained. I already have problems with famous author blurbs because so many of them are given automatically and, in at least one instance, by asking the writer how the blurb should be phrased, as the famous author did not have time to read the book. Unfortunately such tales affect the legitimate praise which is given to new writers by someone who has already made a name.
Romantic Times offers a review to anyone who puts an ad in their magazine, but they do not guaranty a terrific view just because you've paid for an ad. I know that for a fact.

There are other online sites which offer a review if you advertise with them or if you provide content for them in some way. I'd concentrate on what value you're getting for the advertising before I'd bite.

I wouldn't go to a place charging money specifically for doing book reviews. It's obvious what they write holds no value.

Morgan Mandel
As my father always told me, "You get what you pay for."
For anyone who is interested there has been an in-depth discussion of ethical reviewing with some very detailed points made at Dear Author ...

While it began by examining the publication's ethics named in the blog title, it continues by discussing review ethics in general. It's a thought provoking read.

I found several things in it that I didn't expect. I always thought that a magazine would pay its reviewers, even if the authors should not pay for reviews. I also always thought reviews would be sent out in the person doing the reviews real, or at least professional, name. Turns out that in some publications neither of these are the way things are done. It's very important to check the practices and reputation of the publication when considering buying a book on its recommendation. Unless you're like me. I just buy books that appeal to me.
I only see two sources discussed, Affaire de Coeur and Kirkus Discoveries.
We've had a thread on Kirkus Discoveries (which is separate from Kirkus). Both undertakings are unethical and widely seen as such. I don't believe that this sort of thing affects at all the legitimate publications of reviews.
It's a sad statement to make, but you sell your soul the minute you sign the contract.

The other way to look at it is that publishers will not gamble on new writers if they cannot get publicity. If paying for reviews is one of way of getting it, so be it, and if it helps new authors, is it unethical, or just market reality? It is cheating the readers maybe, but that depends whether the taking out of an ad guarantees a good review, or just a review.
Paying for an ad is an open and above board way of receiving publicity. Reviews are not as easily evaluated. Not much of anyone gambles a lot on new authors, and even the new author him or herself has to have nerves of steel to believe in their book when faced with the immensity of the choice out there for the limited number of readers who still buy books. EVEN if the book IS well written AND original in theme, the cover has to stand out amid the thousands of others in the bookstore, the font has to be just the right size, and SOMEONE has to be recorded as telling the potential purchaser that they made it through the book and thought it was worth paying money for. So who is it to be?

If they're lucky they write horror and hang out with Stephen King, who reads it and applauds it as "something he wishes he had written." Mostly that doesn't happen. Even if it does happen, the new author still needs to take out a big ad in a well known publication and let everyone know he said it.

I don't know what the answer is to the review question. I don't intend to pay a publication or a person for reviewing my book (other than sending the the usual free copy) but I don't look down on anyone who does. I'm glad that I'm getting the opportunity to become aware of the issues involved so that I look for the hidden agendas that come with some reviews. Reviews ARE important, but they aren't the only thing that sells books. I believe that if you keep putting your book out there, if it is meant to make it evenually it will get read by someone who likes it well enough to help get it connected to its particular reading public.

"Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
Perhaps it's mean of me, but I do judge people who pay publications to review their books. It encourages the continuation of what is a very bad practice. It makes all reviews suspect by making it difficult for readers to differentiate between legitimate and corrupt reviews. If it wasn't profitable for publications to charge (either directly or through the guise of soliciting advertising) for reviews, they wouldn't do it. As the people who are the targets of this corrupt practice, it is up to us authors to not participate in it.
I judge the publication, I don't judge the new author. I won't go to publications who sell reviews, but it is up to ME to figure out which ones to avoid. Since I don't do a lot of shopping for books based on reviews, that isn't difficult, but it does affect me in one way.

I am not only an author but I'm also a reader. Since I belong to several book groups, reviewed books become required reading for me. I can't tell you how many awful-to-me books I've been sent to read just because some publication reviewed them highly and the book group fell for the line. What is worse, most of the readers plow through them and try to say something good. I'll go on record saying I HATE Ken Follett. Any book I read of his, even a few paragraphs, renders me unable to write a coherent line for a month. I heard "He was a fleshy man" on an audio book, enunciated in an affected English accent once, and I had nightmares. Unforunately, that's just me. He is reviewed highly by reviewers and I have to skip book group a couple of times a year while the dedicated readers plow through another 600 page Follett. But I digress.

Reviews are not the only way to decide what to read and even the best of them are suspect. I like books that are quirky and different, and have unique characters who are emotional and real. Before I buy a book I like to pick it up, open it and read a couple of pages from the front, from the middle, and near the end. If it reads well, I'll buy it. A review can't do that for me. As an author, that is what I want for my book, to be available so that readers can pick it up and read a little. That sells books, not to everyone, but to people who like and value much the same things I do.

Books are meant for different audiences and are written for different reasons. How an author reaches the people who will enjoy their book is different also. Books can change lives, expose lies and crimes, change the way a nation views its leaders and they can merely make a working stiff laugh. In the end, we love our white knights and our dancing clowns almost equally. The test of time will judge us all.
I judge both. A corrupt transaction requires two parties and they are equally at fault. Both the person accepting the bribe and the person paying the bribe (and let's face it, what we're talking about here is bribery) are hurting the rest of us.
Absolutely right. In fact, there are any number of things going on that hurt those authors who don't play the game or who don't quite fit the publisher's niche for promoting a book because they aren't writing for the sale.
Sales are paramount motivators for publishers, and many authors are desperate enough to do anything to get the sales, regardless whether the book warrants them or not (see the recent squabble over a soft-porn historical novel about the wife of Mohammed). More disturbing is the trend of readers to accept anything that makes the best seller list as great writing.


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