When Should You Pay For a Review?


A lot of small press, Print-on-Demand, and self-published authors want to know where is the best place to get their books reviewed.  The answers range from the biggies (USA TODAY, PW, KIRKUS, FOREWORD, PEOPLE, and major newspapers such as NY TIMES) to the not so big (reader blogs, online retail sites such as Amazon, Midwest Book review, local papers).


My first question is: “Do reviews help sales?”

YES!  Yes they do.

My  next question is: “When should an author pay for a review?”

Never. Ever. Nope. Nada. Don’t. Just stop there.

If you truly want to be taken seriously by the major names in book reviews, then print some Advance Copies 4 months before the publication date of your book and send them out under your publisher name with a well-written cover letter, a press release, a marketing plan and a fully fleshed out list of sales and PR activities scheduled.  This will give you the bare minimum introduction to the reviewers and give you a CHANCE at a review from one of the biggies.

If you cannot see yourself giving the book the three to four month window that the major reviewers require, then you are choosing to forgo the chance of those reviews.  As a small press owner, be aware that getting reviewed by these folks is about as likely as winning the lottery.  If you choose to skip them, it is very similar to deciding not to buy that $400 Million Powerball ticket.

In the last year, I have had self-published, single-title authors reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, the Wall-Street Journal and Fast Company.  These are HUGE names and the reviews drove sales.  (even the negative ones…)  But these author/publishers were in the teeeeeeeeny minority. They won the lottery.

Where does the money come in?  Foreword, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly all offer small press/Print on Demand authors a chance to get a review by paying for a listing or review in their “small press” divisions.  These are valid and worthy divisions of good companies.

A reviewer’s time is valuable.  It is coin and worth a great deal.  I am not saying that they SHOULD NOT charge for their time… I am saying that you should not PAY for it.

If your book is worthy of a reviewer’s time, they will offer it.  If you follow a reviewer’s submission guidelines and respect their process, you will have a chance at getting some of their valuable time in the form of a review.

I can understand why some companies would charge for a review, but I am here to tell you that the bookstores, retail buyers and librarians who use reviews to make decisions KNOW WHICH REVIEWS WERE PAID FOR. (and they disregard those reviews almost entirely)

AND, none of these “pay for consideration” divisions offer a GOOD review for money, just a chance to be reviewed.

Kirkus gives straightforward reviews to both paid and non paid submissions.  (They are known for being honest to the point of brutal…)

Publisher’s Weekly does not guarantee a review for their small-press listing fee, they just offer a better chance at a review in their small press quarterly.

This business model is not like the “fast pass” on the highway or at an amusement park.  You are not paying to get bumped to the head of the line.  You are exchanging your money for a review you would not likely get otherwise.  Buyers and Librarians know this.

Get the review the proper way, or don’t bother.

As a former book buyer and as a current soldier on the front lines of the retail battlefield, I can tell you that numerous, positive, proper reviews from smaller venues help more than a paid for consideration from a bigger name.

Those that know the Kirkus name will know if you paid for the review and those that don’t know the Kirkus name won’t be impressed by the review. SO WHY pay for it?




One Comment to When Should You Pay For a Review?

  1. Thank you for a straight-forward review of the review situation. I have two books published by Upper Hand Press, one more at the printer and two more written. Building a reputation is hard going. I have great reviews from other writers, Gail Godwin and Susan Shreve, for instance, and a very fine one from Foreword, but no newspapers yet. I’ll take your advice and push on.

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