I'm still stunned. Apparently this is a fact. See David Montgomery's Crime Fiction Dossier blog for more.
This news has been so well suppressed that I recently mentioned a spam offer as a "scam" on my page. Apparently it is not. You and I and everyone else can pay Kirkus to have their book reviewed.
How does everyone feel about this?

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Actually, this is fairly old news.

Kirkus came up with a new "program" called Kirkus Discoveries, aimed primarily for self-pubbed works. Apparently, a fee of some sort is required.

They do not, however, charge to review books put out by legitimate publishers.
This has been going on for quite some time. Not just Kirkus, but one of the self publishing companies in the US has (had?) a package that included a guaranteed review in the NY Times. Evil Kev's the one to ask about which self pub press it was.

Unfortunately, the fact that Kirkus and NYT do it/have done it give others the bright idea of charging. What are any of us to say about it? If I could get Kirkus and NY Times reviews (without paying) for my next book I'd be thrilled for the exposure. It makes it hard to criticize. So many authors spend thousands on conventions and touring, it isn't hard to understand why people would be tempted to pay for big reviews that can get more exposure, and there's always someone willing to take your money.
All right. I'm clearly not at all well informed. But I do visit blogs and mystery sites. Why is there not an outrage over this? And where do they publish these reviews? Side-by-side with legitimate ones? And what will Sarah do? Will she report on the bought reviews along with the free ones? Apparently, the paid-for reviews by Kirkus are almost all excellent. This is a tad strange for Kirkus which has a reputation for harsh criticism when not remunerated. Perhaps we can see how that business works: If you don't pay us, we'll tear your book to shreds.

Bottomline: I have been reviewed by Kirkus and never paid for the review. In fact, I have never paid for any review and never will. Having hoped for a review of ISLAND OF EXILES from them, I now take that back. I don't want it. Why would anyone want to be reviewed by Kirkus?

And how bad is the NYT thing? Are many of those bought also? Or if they aren't, how can we be certain? Perhaps they are bought by the publisher without the knowledge of the author? Dear God! That opens all sorts of upsetting possibilities.

It should also upset the legitimate reviewers.
The link I posted above indicates that the paid reviews do not run side by side with the normal ones, but are part of some e-newsletter or online publication or something. Journalism ethics would pretty much preclude paid editorial content being included with the real stuff.

If someone pays to be published, why shouldn't they pay to be reviewed. (For the record, I would strongly advise against doing either.) As I recall, there was a little bit of a hullaballo when the annoucement first came out, but once it became obvious that the paid reviews were not part of the regular publication, and therefore not going to be confused with the legitimate ones, the outcry died down pretty quickly.
I think the Kirkus reviews are $300 or something like that, if I'm not mistaken. I don't mean to call any of the usual reviewers for the NY Times into question, as I have no experience with it from the NY Times side of the coin. I know that Author House did offer something with them before, so I went over to check the website and it only talks about co-op advertising in the NY Times now. It's possible there was never a purchased review in the NY Times. What I remember, eons ago, was us looking through some of the sites and seeing it then, and it was extremely expensive. The wonderful thing about the web is, people change their sites and erase history. (Have you ever looked at all those Author House agreements? My word.)

Bear something else in mind: A self publisher might say that if you buy X package your book will be submitted for review in the NY Times but it doesn't mean that you'll get the review. Since I can't find the original page from when we looked at it, it may completely be a misrepresentation on some self publisher's part, in their efforts to entice aspiring authors to part with cash. I probably should have hunted around for it before mentioning it.

Why not go after them? Well, clout. This industry is rife with what appear to be double standards... POD publisher - bad. Hmmm, yet Simon & Schuster is using POD, and they aren't the only big publisher to utilize it as a way of keeping a backlist accessible, from what I understand. Will we start seeing conditions on which books from some publishers can be approved by the writing organizations, based on method of publication? I doubt it. Simon & Schuster got spanked surprisingly hard for their contract issues earlier this year, and I do think the outcome was proof of what can happen if author organizations stand together to protect authors' rights.

My own personal view on the reviewing thing is that the existence of questionable reviews muddies the waters for everyone. The very act of offering a review for a fee throws all the reviews into question, but then are publications more likely to review someone if they advertise in their magazine? It is the slippery slope. As for who Sarah links to, well, this is what I'd say about that: At some point, we have to let the questions go. Perhaps we question whether or not a review was purchased. Well, what if someone sleeps with someone for a review, or got a good review from someone because they're friends, or a bad review because they're enemies? I mean, we simply can't know the reasons behind any review. We have to assume some level of professionalism unless it's clearly established that a source is tainted. My last time at Harrogate I was part of an all-night discussion that covered reviewer ethics, and the opinion of the non-writer in the group was that reviewers had no business attending conventions and schmoozing with authors. He felt it tainted their objectivity if they knew the authors personally. Believe me, there are people who think any level of contact at all makes a review suspect. So where do you draw the line?

I suspect it will only get worse as time goes on, more review space declines. At the end of the day there is only one person's integrity I can answer for, and that's my own. Yes, I've tossed books I couldn't finish and haven't reviewed them. Yes, I have wonderful friends who've written awful books (and I know better than to tell them my opinion unless they ask for it). Yes, I've criticized books by very nice people. Yes, I've praised books by people I've met and people I haven't met. All I know is that I stand behind my opinions.

The main reason I found out about purchasing reviews was because the publisher who handled SC decided to jump on the bandwagon and offered a critique package for $30 that included a review of the book or something like that. Of course it was a problem, and of course they got taken to task over it. They got the idea from Kirkus and were baffled by the fact people went after them, and not Kirkus. To me, it's no excuse - they deserved the criticism. We know the standards. Don't pay to be published, steer clear of publishers that refer you to an editorial service they offer for a fee (which actually this publisher did not do - the people who paid for that were people they didn't offer contracts to). People were very happy to go after that publisher over it, and me right along with them, although I never paid for editing or to be published or get a review. It was exceptionally bad judgment on their part. I addressed the issues with them, but I did it privately. And when they revamped their website they asked me to review the pages and content, and changed almost everything I addressed issue with. I'm not recommending them to anyone, just pointing out from a very real example that this industry is filled with double standards. The whole thing was a learning experience for me.
Just fyi, you can look at old versions of websites using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Lawyers use it all the time (!) What you put on the web can come back to haunt you. And claims that a company makes on a website, even if later deleted, might be used against them in a court of law.

I notice that Authorhouse currently buys reviews published in ForeWord, a small press publication that started selling reviews a few years ago, rendering it basically useless.

For the record, as a reader and librarian, I would not only not buy a book based on a paid-for review, I'd probably chalk up the author (fairly or not) as too desperate to be taken seriously. There are plenty of reviews that aren't paid for that I can use for my decisions.

As a reviewer, I won't review books if there's any conflict of interest involved. I might talk about a book by a personal friend, but I wouldn't do it in the form of a review. (Since there are lots of reviewers at Mystery Scene, and I don't know that many writers personally, it's generally not an issue - and MS is quite clear on not reviewing a book if there might be a conflict of interest.)
Interesting about that site - thanks Barbara! What a handy tool that can be.

I suppose the debate could be what consititutes conflict of interest, and for each person the line will shift. I used to agonize over it. Then, to some degree, I got over it. I realized that if people were going to view me as suspect they always would, whether it was fair or not. Of course, that happens to us with short story submissions as well, which may be why I reached some level of peace over it. There's only one way to ensure we don't do anything anyone thinks is biased - kill the ezine. Otherwise, I just worry about whether or not I can look myself in the mirror at night.
Ah, Thanks all! Especially to Harry and to Sandra, whose good sense as always reassured me. And I don't think for a minute that Sarah would review or cite one of those reviews. Apparently it is easy to keep them separated. Except perhaps on such sites as Amazon and Barnes&Noble.
But I have lost my respect for Kirkus. Heaven forbid PW should get involved in this. As I've said, I love reviews. They are just about the only signs of approval I get these days. And that probably accounts for my reaction above.
I completely agree with I. J. on this. It negates any legitimacy to pay to have a book reviewed. Regardless of whether Kirkus uses a different forum or not to publish these reviews, it's tainted and dimishes the remaining few dregs of respect I had for them.
I generally tend to avoid reviews by Kirkus. I personally think that any review that has been paid for is not worth the papet that it is written on. What is the point because you won't be giving your honest opinion.

Hello, I'm new here, and may only offer this reply. I would like to say thank you for you honest opinions regarding Kirkus Discoveries. You have saved me a great deal of money and perhaps embarrassment.
My book has only been published since Monday of this week, in which I went through Xlibris Publishing for many reasons, such as copyediting, their affiliation with Random House, and they offer more help in Marketing than some.

I ordered each of their services that I wanted individually saving close to $400.00 regarding their second to the last best package. I will have to say they chose to give me that package anyway. Now I'm wondering what I'm going to do with so many business cards and book marks, not to mention around 5 posters (I figure I can get rid of two or three of these in a couple of bookstores and a coffeeshop here in a Local Author Ad campaign). They also offer very nice books in both paperback and hardback. Among a few other things, I also just ordered simply the "Newswire" as my marketing service.
Any way, one of the Marketers there at Xlibris called this week asking me if I wanted to advertise "BIG".
He then brought up the Kirkus Discoveries method, as I didn't have the money Xlibris is willing to do all of this for in my bank account at that time, we agreed to discuss it furthter at the beginning of next week. I have to say, he was good, good, good, about telling me to do my homework.

I honestly do love my book. I learned so much while researching for it, and every bit of the work good, bad, or indifferent is my own.
Those who have read the manuscripts prior to publishing have offered mixed reviews on it, some love it, some say it's a little over their head (I'm an average thinker so I don't really understand this comment), and within my predominantly Fundamentally Christian Community, of those individuals who read it, they were uncomfortable with it because they felt I was honoring Earth too much and I guess, as one put it, I sort of slandered the Lord because apparently, He excludes all other religious communities (please understand I'm simply repeating what I was told. I'm not trying to be insulting to anyone or what they may or may not believe. The book itself offers a great acceptance of all on Earth and in the Universe, and Mother Earth, as a Life nurturing planet in and of herself is pretty nonbias and shows no prejudice toward any living thing. Not to mention, she's chosen as the book's story teller.) The only consistant report that I got was "Yes, it's very publishable."
The Marketer offering Kirkus stated that he felt it has very great potential and Kirkus is the plan I needed to grab up.

After comparing prices between Xlibris working with Kirkus and Kirkus alone, and also reading what others, be they professional or just an ordinary reader, I have decided I should let my book stand on it's own merit. I knew it was a gamble when I chose this route.

But again, I do thank you. Your input is far more valuable than you may realize.

Wishing you all the best in the future. And remember to check Preditors and Editors, and address yourself to agents listed with AAR.


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