Minggu, 18 Agustus 2013

Paid Reviews

Print on demand technology has done a lot over the past 10 or 12 years to change the publishing landscape. Among other things, it has created an explosion of fee-based publishing options, small publishers, and micropresses. These ventures in turn have driven an intense proliferation of services targeted to writers, all of them intended (theoretically, at least) to offset the minimal marketing and limited distribution that's typical of POD publishing services and small presses.
Among these new writers' services (or "services," depending on how incompetent or unscrupulous the providers are) are book review services that review for a fee. Many are independent, and often run by not-necessarily-highly-qualified people--for instance, Reader's Choice, which offers an Express Review Upgrade for $45 (you can pay more if you want a marketing package as well), or IP Book Reviewers, which charges between $50 and $90 depending on length.

Other paid review services are associated with a review publication that mainly does non-paid reviews. The "sponsored reviews programs" from San Francisco Book Review and the Sacramento Book Review cost $99 to $299, depending on how fast you want your review (if you're a writer, you may have been spammed by one or both of these magazines). ForeWord Magazine offers Digital Reviews for "worthy" books that can't be covered in the magazine ($99), and Clarion Reviews for authors "experiencing trouble getting your titles reviewed through traditional outlets" ($305). And of course there's Kirkus Discoveries ($425 to $575, depending on turnaround time). To preserve the appearance of impartiality, none of these services promises a positive review (and indeed I've seen some pretty negative ones from Discoveries)--and all of them segregate the paid reviews from the rest, publishing them only online or burying them in a special newsletter.

Is it ever worthwhile to buy a review? Not in my opinion. With independent paid review services, quality can be a problem; plus, there are plenty of non-professional book review venues out there that will review for free. With services like Discoveries, you may actually get a professional-quality review--but it will be a second-class review, stuck in some backwater on the service's website. Plus, no matter what altruistic motive the service offers to justify its fees, paid reviews are less an effort to expand review coverage to worthy books than an opportunity to make some extra cash by exploiting self- and small press-published authors' hunger for credibility and exposure