RANDOMS by Jena: Book Bloggers That…..CHARGE FOR REVIEWS?!?!?!? (@expatdiaries)

 

When I established Pure Textuality, I had one goal in mind – to create a place where I could tell people what I thought of books, both good and bad.  The fact of the matter is, not every book a reader picks up is stellar.  Some aren’t even tolerable.  The idea of not publishing a review if the book was less than favorable never crossed my mind.  In the last few days, something really confusing (two really confusing somethings) has come to my notice and I want to talk about it. 

 

 

The idea of being a reviewer is to give a fair and honest review.  The review won’t always be good and it won’t always be bad.  To review a book is to give the general public an assessment of the book by telling what you did or did not like about a book. 

 

Recently, Pure Textuality has started offering certain services to indie authors.  One of those services is to organize blog tours – a tedious task to most and since a good portion of self published authors do not yet have the luxury of writing for a living, they don’t really have the time to do so. 

 

When we started offering this service, I started trolling through the bazillion book blogs on the net looking for blogs that are BOTH indie author friendly and accept eBooks.  As I sifted through blog after blog, what I found was mind boggling to me. 

 

There are a LOT of book blogs out there that will not post a review of anything they feel is below 3 stars.  I don’t understand this concept.  If it weren’t for reviews that tell the truth about subpar writing, those of us who have not imbibed the Kool-Aid would have no clue how badly Fifty Shades of Gray is written.  Frankly, the bad reviews out there are what saved me the wasted hours (and money) I would have spent reading that series simply because EVERYONE is talking about it. 

 

Good and bad, reviews allow us to see both sides of the coin.  It allows us to see the different reasons why someone liked or disliked a book.  With a properly mixed bag of opinions, a potential reader may be better informed before making their decision to delve into a book. 

 

Another thing about “bad” reviews is that they’re not necessarily bad exactly.  They’re a way to provide constructive criticism to an author as a reader.  If you look at it from a Customer Service perspective, the reader is the author’s end customer.  If the author doesn’t have an audience, they will never be successful.  Period.  Suggestions on what could have been done differently in a book could help them with later projects to avoid the same potholes and mistakes. 

 

Aside from the lack of sense that I see in only posting only positive reviews is another separate issue I saw appear on the web this week.  Pointed out to me by my P.I.C. Ginny, I was FLOORED when I read this. 

 

There is an article on the web written by an author named Michele Gorman.  She recently got into a tussle with a blog that is CHARGING FOR REVIEWS.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Charging for reviews.   Ok, so let me break this down. 

 

She had written a post going into detail about a response she received when requesting a review from this blog.  As Michele states on her own blog post, all underlining, bold and italics are done by the review site, not Michele.    Under the threat of legal action for telling the general public the TRUTH about this site and the way they work. Michele went through and deleted the name of the site.  As she points out in her post, the name really is not important.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love access to the name so I could happily tell all my author friends to steer clear but that really isn’t the point.  The point is the discussion. 

 

Let’s take a peek at this e-mail and…..well, tear it apart.

 

First, they tell her AT LENGTH about their “screening process” in which they state that they won’t review anything that is below 4 out of 5 stars because they want to maintain the quality and honesty of their site and then inform her that her book has made the cut:

 

Hello Michele,

Thank you for contacting us concerning your new book, “Misfortune Cookie,” it looks very good. And I actually think that  I, personally, have it listed on my “to read” section on goodeads. 

 

However, we are very selective with the books we choose to review. So, we won’t review books that we feel won’t get a minimum of (4-) out of a total of (5+) stars from us. We want to keep up the quality of our site, and also be as honest as possible with our reviews; and this is one of the ways that we accomplish that.

 

The other way that we accomplish our desired goal for our site, is to research you, your new book and previous writings, as well as, your ratings and previous reviews, if you have any. We will also read the synopsis of the book in question and snippets, etc.

 

It must be noted that we do turn many requests down. Actually, only one out of seven or eight make it this far in the process. You may want to review some of our reviews and their subsequent comments, to get an idea of why people love our site so much!

 

With that in mind, this letter has been sent to you because after our preliminary research of you, your book and previous writings/ratings, we have determined that you and your book, Misfortune Cookie, will qualify for our site, and that we will be able to give you a favorable/good or even an excellent review.

 

 

 

Oh good!  Let’s move on to the normal stat info.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Bragging is part of self promotion.  We are taught that bragging is wrong and rude as a kid but when it comes to creating a career, it’s a requirement.  So they go on to talk about how great they are, no doubt laying it on thick so that we don’t CHOKE in the next paragraph:

 

We are a featured book site on the [NAME DELETED] website as a daily & permanent contributor to their book section. All of our reviews are posted on their site as well as our website. Together we currently have over 2.5 million readers per “month.“ We are excited to be a part of this very popular news and entertainment site because it means that our authors, you, will get a huge amount of exposure for yourself and your much greatly deserved novels. 

 

We want to help you, the author, obtain a favorable and likeable online presence, so we work hard on your behalf..

So, let’s get to the gist of it,

 

 

 

Let the choking commence…..

 

Currently, we have so many requests for book reviews and promotion help, that we do have about a 3-4 week wait list. Because we have such a large amount of book review requests, we have had to start charging for them . So now we are now charging a fee of $95.00 per review and subsequent postings. That includes a nice review with the short synopsis that comes with your book, a picture of the book with a link to purchase it from Amazon.

 

We post the review on the following sites: the [NAME DELETED] website, [NAME DELETED] website, 4 different Twitter profile pages and accounts, 6 different Facebook profile pages and fan pages, 3 different Google+ profiles on the G+ site, 2 different stumbleupon profile pages, Diggs news site, and several blogging groups, and anywhere else that you would like to request for us to post it.

 

And of course, it will automatically be posted on [NAME DELETED] under their book section. Everyone of our posts will be posted by them.

 

Also, we have a few more “sister-websites” where we post our reviews too, along with their prospective twitter and facebook profiles.

 

Also, we post to some book clubs and book stores, but we will discuss that more later if you decide to proceed,

 

 

 

Oh!  So you mean you post to all of the same sites that any author or review site can also do for themselves without paying a dime?!?!?!  Oh!!!!  Ok!!!!!  Now I understand!!!  Yeah, NOT SO MUCH. 

 

And the closing….

 

 

 

All of this posting on our part results in good exposure-promotion for you and your book.

 

We do work hard to create a positive online presence for you and your work. But, it must be noted that although an increase in sales of your book is likely, it is not guaranteed.

 

No matter what you decide, we would like to stay in contact and be connected online-and we look forward to seeing you on and around the World Wide Web!

 

Thank you your interest in the [NAME DELETED] .

 

[name excluded]
[position excluded]
[NAME DELETED]

 

 

 

The author goes on in her post to talk about her own reaction to the news that a BOOK BLOGGER is charging for reviews.  The blogger’s defense???? 

“Kirkus does it.” 

[Ok, I paraphrased that]

 

You’re right, Blogger Who Shall Not Be Named.  Kirkus DOES do it.  Kirkus is also an internationally known and HIGHLY respected company – as is Publishers Weekly and the New York Times.  THEY ARE ALL PUBLICATIONS.  Not book blogs.  And you don’t pay them for a guaranteed positive review!  Kirkus gets paid to complete a review.  Could be good.  Could be bad.  You get what you get.  NYT and PW are publications who will review your book if asked but their paycheck comes from PAID ADVERTISING.  They’re not paid for the reviews themselves! 

 

I love book blogging.  I hope to make it my job one day.  We offer up VALID services in hopes that we will get up and sputtering enough to make our dream come true.  But the reality if Pure Textuality is a book blog and it takes a lot of work and dedication.  Extortion of authors who are just trying to get noticed should NOT be an option.  What the Blogger Who Shall Not Be Named is offering is bogus.  How they could even possibly consider charging for a book review is beyond me.  If you want to charge for reviews, get yourself a job at a magazine or a newspaper and write as a critic and get paid by the word.  THOSE reviewers are being paid for their reviews but STILL not by the author.  The minute an author has to pay for their review, they are buying an opinion.  In the case of this unnamed blog, the author would be buying a positive review – something that by the very standards of the site’s screening process, they would have gotten anyway!!! 

 

Ugh….

 

So Michele Gorman posed some questions at the end of her article that she feels should be talked about and I couldn’t agree more!!!

 

I’d love for our discussion to move away from the individual blogs that are charging for reviews, because they are a symptom. I’d like us to debate whether there are any circumstances in which reviews should be compensated, and whether readers trust reviews that are compensated in any way.

 

No, a review is supposed to be a fair and honest opinion.  The minute you start charging for a review, the unbiased opinion of the book is tainted by your fat paycheck. 

 

Do you consider free books as compensation?

 

In a way, yes.  The authors are nice enough to provide a copy so we don’t have to pay for a book that we may very well hate.  If we like it, they get good words and nearly free promo (except for the cost of the book). 

 

Would there be a difference between getting a free book and being paid a small amount?

 

Shouldn’t be paid for a book review.  Period. 

 

Is there a difference between NYT book reviewers being paid, and a blogger being paid?

 

Absolutely!  As I stated above.  NYT is a news publication owned by a major corporation that functions like any other.  They’re writers who are being paid by the magazine to write, not being paid by the author to review their book.  There is no difference between that writer being paid and a me earning my weekly paycheck from the company I work for Monday through Friday.

 

In other words, within the wide range of compensation for reviews, what’s acceptable to us as readers, writers and bloggers?

 

A blogger is a blogger.  They are doing something that every Tom, Dick or Harry with a laptop can do.  It’s as simple as that.  As a reader, if I discovered that I read a review that was paid for by the author, raving about how good the book was, I would instantly assume that the review was “bought” and therefore a giant steaming crock of shit.

 

Any blogger that charges for their reviews should be ashamed of themselves!!  If you want to get paid to write reviews, then get off your ass, get the degree you are more than likely lacking and get hired by a major publication and get paid by THEM to write reviews.  You should not be CONNING authors into essentially paying you for a guaranteed positive review. 

 

I don’t know this blog.  I don’t know how they operate but here’s what I take away from their initial e-mail response that they sent to Michele.  I would bet a good chunk of change that the review request response e-mail is sent to EVERY author that requests a review.  They probably outline their screening process to show how STRICT (and….ah….ELITIST, by the way) they are by only accepting the very best books.  Then they graciously inform you that through their tireless digging and research, you made the cut and are deemed worthy!  Suddenly, YOU’RE SPECIAL.  They told you that you’re WORTH IT.  And YES!!  They’d be HAPPY to review your book since they already know that it’s going to be AMAZING.  You just have to pay them $95.00 so they can write the review and post it to Twitter and Goodreads and Amazon and Facebook and any other FREE social media network they can get their grubby little paws on.  That way, you will feel like they’ve really EARNED that $95.00. 

 

Well, the truth of the matter is, the probably never even looked at the author’s website, let alone actually researched the book.   They probably just copy/paste the author’s name and book title into a pre-typed e-mail and hope to the gods of old that the author is dumb enough to not question the integrity of a book blog that charges for reviews. 

 

Well, Michele, big props to you for posing the question:  WTF?!?!?!?!?! 

 

If you would like more info on Michele Gorman or her writing, check out her site by CLICKING HERE.  

 

To see her original post that I copied the email and her questions from, CLICK HERE!

 

I just want to say that I am so happy that I can hold my head up and have pride in the fact that Pure Textuality DOES give fair and honest reviews.  We will NEVER charge for a review.  Reviews are not something you should make money off of, unless it’s because you’ve been lucky enough to be hired by NYT or USA Today to fill column inches.  We are happy to offer advertising and blog tour organization and such to make our money. 

 

To all my author friends out there, beware of a BOOK BLOG that says they charge for reviews.  They’re opinion really isn’t worth listening to…

  

 

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11 thoughts on “RANDOMS by Jena: Book Bloggers That…..CHARGE FOR REVIEWS?!?!?!? (@expatdiaries)

  1. Thanks Jena, for talking about the issue here – it’s an important one and I hope that through the internet chatter going on that all writers become aware that a) these paid-for marketing sites exist, and often look like regular old book blogs, b) it’s not the norm for bloggers to charge for reviews and c) readers don’t value paid-for reviews.

    And I hope all readers become aware that these sites do exist and, unfortunately, we now need to check the blog’s disclosure policy carefully (sometimes you’ll have to look hard to find it but the FTC in the US requires a disclosure to be made). If it says it accepts compensation then you may be reading a paid-for review. But do check with the blog – email them to find out exactly what’s going on because that compensation could simply be the free book which, as Jena points out, is normal for bloggers to accept. If they accept cash compensation for books, then make your own decision about whether to trust their reviews.

    Thanks everyone!

    • Thanks for stopping by Michele. My jaw hit the floor when my co-owner sent me the link to your post. I was already appalled at the number of book blogs that only post 3+ rating reviews. Then she hit me with that link and I was just……FLOORED. It’s just not right. If you want to run a PR service, fine. Dont masquerade as a book blog. State what you really are.

  2. That’s so scammy! Especially that they don’t post on their website that they charge, but just tell you in email once you’ve already emailed them. It’s creepy spam ickiness. Ugh. Disgusting. The way they go about telling you in an email makes it even more creepy than the fact that they’re charging period, because it’s so backhanded.

  3. Wow, that is way toooo fishy smelling. It’s almost like paying for a guarantee 4or5 stars. But it’s not honest. I couldn’t stand reviewing for a site that only does that. Grrr. I’m glad Michele was smart enough to take her book somewhere else, and to question the” site that won’t be named”. Love PT and everything it stands for!

    • mamaxsix, we very well may be – Gorman is a fairly unusual surname in Ireland (unlike O’Gorman, which aren’t relations) so if you’re grandfather came from Tipperary then perhaps we’re cousins :-)

  4. I used to post all reviews, but I also used to make sure I finished all books. Now if a book is worth less than 3 stars, I don’t finish it (and I personally don’t rate books I don’t finish, but I will say that I didn’t finish it and why).

    Also, as an author, I find anything less than 4-5 stars you post might get you a retaliation review (either from other authors or from fans). SO I have a new policy that I don’t rate books anymore (just decided this last night). I will review them, and if I really love them I will review/rate them on amazon/barnes and noble, maybe even goodreads, BUT on my blog I will not be posting ratings anymore.

    I agree we need positive and negative reviews though. I also think we need HONEST reviews. I just got a ratings on a book that I . . . get this . . . HAVEN’T WRITTEN YET.

    How can you rate a book you didn’t read? Well, apparently people do this all the time, on sites like good reads, based on how they feel about an author. That’s why we need honest blogs like your own. Because “review sites” really are more of a measure of how people feel about the author, not how they feel about the author’s books.

    I wish I’d realized that years ago. Or maybe this is just a new trend. At any rate, keep doing what you are doing. As long as a review is fair, honest, and considerate, that’s what matters IMO.

    • Thanks for the post Becca! :) We all here at PT love what we do and all disagree whole heartedly with the random rating drive bys that happen on GR too. I know it doesn’t help the authors. Everyone does, that’s for sure. Including the people doing it. Like you said, that’s a personal thing.

  5. Jena, so very glad you did this blog and that Ginny brought the story to your attention. I had read about this but was just wordless. I’ve felt uncomfortable in giving 3 or less stars, but I’ve done it because it was my opinion. A 3 star review is not a bad review. It’s like getting a satisfactory on a test. It’s not fantastic and it doesn’t stink. Be happy. Now I just go with my gut and how I felt about the book, if people don’t like it, so be it. I have more important things to worry about.

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