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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No, I have never paid for a review. I think this is an unfortunate development due to the drastic cutting of books review pages in the newspapers everywhere. Still, in this instance, it takes two to tango. The author has to be willing to enter into this dubious relationship, and the reviewer will have to be prepared to lie -- or the system will soon collapse.
Yes, but the fact is that the reading public does not know that. They will most likely accept such a review as legitimate. There is an equally hazy understanding about publishing houses: which are advance-paying and which are vanity presses?
There is a very interesting discussion going on right now concerning this issue, which prompted me to ask these questions here. Several publications are displaying what I consider unethical behavior and at least one of them is supposed to be sold on news stands and sells subscriptions, so it is not just an E-mag. Read through the Blog and you will find where a lack of ethics in one area of publishing reaches into other areas as well.

How does the reader know how the reviews were obtained? How many people are ever going to look up the magazine's rules and regulations and find out when they come upon a review? The main magazine discussed in part of this Blog doesn't pay its reviewers and has a very convoluted way of looking at how "its reviews are really free". I googled it and read its advertising page.

It seems fairly obvious that ethics may be being breached here, to me, but what about openly paid for reviews? What sites do you believe when deciding what to buy (other than the New York Times)?

I've been very personally involved in the issue of ethics in my entire publishing experience and I hang out with other new authors, some of whom are very good. Reviews are crucial to book sales and are very hard to get for new authors, and we are very tempted to purchase them. My personal feeling is that it's a slippery slope and the purchase of a review predisposes it to being favorable, hence renders it expensive and useless. Not that I want anyone to review MY book unfavorably, of course. But what is right?
Well, getting an agent (make that a member of AAR) guards against the wrong publisher.
As for new authors: In reality it's easier for an author to get reviewed for his first book than for future books.
The publisher generally sends ARCs. And the publisher's publicist knows the legitimate venues. You may of course send your own books out for review, but surely then you'll do some research first.
That's what makes reader reviews so valuable for me when I'm thinking about buying a book. Sure, sometimes there's reviews that are out to get the writer, but you can tell which ones those are. But if there's twenty people saying it's a good book, it just might be, and these are people like me, not industry insiders who might have other motivations.
Amazon lists the publisher. The prime sources fro reviews are Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist, The New York Times, and a few other big city newspapers. The problem is that the papers can only review a few books and most papers are cutting out weekly book reviews altogether.
I have been lucky with amazon reviews (except in one instance when a couple of people reacted to a Booklist review).
I assume you are talking about Romantic Times a magazine that requires that authors buy ads. They say if you don't buy an ad you will still be considered for a review--but I know of authors who have participated in group ads who were not given a review because there were too many in the group. RT claims that all of their reviews are impartial.
I had my first book reviewed there (and yes, I participated in a group ad) for a number of reasons. They are one of the few magazines that considers e-books for one and although that book was also out in print, I wanted to promote the e format too. The review was not a five star review but it was decent. I know other authors who got much worse from them. Would I do it again? You got me. Probably not. But I do see authors with names much bigger than mine reviewed and presumably advertised in there.
Is it immoral? I admit to being scandalized at first but since then I realized that even the best seller lists are up for grabs--money wise. Sigh. Writing IS a business and I believe the authors are the only ones NOT making (much) money off of it.
I am a reader and a book lover first. The only writing I have done is in answer to writers of articles in my local papers. I write for my own enjoyment, but my real passion is reading novels and nonfiction and then corresponding with the authors who are contemporary. Never has an author failed to write back at least a one-line thank you.

I always recommend books I have enjoyed to members, and I put the books into the wild for others to enjoy (not the autographed editions, however). I also discuss the books that I did not finish reading and why I did not continue reading.

I tell my local librarian about the books I liked and request that they be ordered for the collection. Word of mouth, in my estimation, is still the best advertising, and with the Net one can go global in a matter of seconds. Not only good news but also bad news travel fast.
Having edited a number of magazines in my life, having had four books published, having written book reviews and having had my books reviewed, my opinion is that paying for a review in any way - whether directly or by purchasing an ad, subscription or anything else - is a totally sleazy practice on both sides of the transaction - the reviewer and the reviewed. Any review that results from any such deal, is in my mind so suspect as to be useless. As far as I'm concerned, there just isn't a gray area in this matter.

As a matter of fact, it was a policy of several of the publications I have worked for in the past, that we would never review our advertisers in the regular editorial pages of the publication. If an advertiser wished to purchase an ad that quoted reviews they'd received elsewhere, or even a clearly marked advertising supplement that called itself a review (although we would never let one of those use our standard editorial page layouts), they could do that as well. On one publication we turned down an ad from a restaurant because we intended to review that restaurant in the issue that would come out a month after the ad would have run.
Thanks, Eric. I totally agree. As for amazon reviews: since an author can (and occasionally does) get friends, club buddies, co-workers, family members to post glowing reviews of his/her book, amazon reviews should be taken cautiously.

And writing is certainly not a business for me. If that means, I'm a failure because I don't have huge sales, so be it.
Sleazy, sleazy, sleazy.

Not that "aboveboard" reviews don't have their problems, too, but the practice you describe is sleaze and nothing but sleaze.
No, I would never pay for a review, nor would I put much weight on reviews that appear in publications or on websites where authors are asked to pay for the reviews.


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