I've been seeing a lot of articles by some rather loud mouthed bloggers about self-published authors paying for book reviews. Most of these articles have been sparked by this NYT article, where it states that self-published authors are paying huge sums of money for book reviews.
Before I get into this, I'll state up front the majority of my fiction has been published through traditional publishers. In the last five years, a lot of my fiction has been published by e-presses like Ravenous Romance, who also own Hollan Publishing. Up until last spring, I'd always worked with a publisher. But this past year I self-published three novels through the Amazon's KDP program. I did this alone, without the help of a literary agent's e-publishing service. And I have never once paid for a book review, and won't start now. In fact I rarely solicit book reviewers for reviews. Ask them if you don't believe me. I like getting book reviews the old fashioned way: from my readers.
I have heard cases where more than a few authors are now paying for book reviews. I'm not disputing this fact in this post. But I'm wondering if they are all self-published authors. Couldn't there be a few trad published authors doing the same thing? Heaven forbid! Doesn't Kirkus charge something like $575.00 for book reviews? I know for a fact traditionally published authors are paying for reviews and no one seems to think there's anything wrong with this.
In this post from The Digital Reader it sounds like ALL self-published authors are paying to get reviews.
If you’re a self-published author who is still struggling to get noticed, now might be the time to swallow the rest of your pride, jettison your code of ethics, and start buying reviews. (Hey, everyone is doing it.)
The gist of this post on The Digital Reader isn't bad. I agree with it. But the part about "swallow the rest of your pride," pisses me off royally. Though I've never paid for a review...or even solicited a review for my self-pubbed books...I've taken great pride in my self-published works on Amazon and I resent the fact some blogger is insinuating I should have less pride because I self-published. Maybe I'm misreading this comment, but I'm not swallowing anything other than the self-satisfaction I received from writing three full length novels and publishing them on my own, without a literary agent's e-publishing service, from concept to final product. And if I am misreading this comment it was either worded this way on purpose to be misread, or it's just poorly written to begin with. Either way, I don't appreciate it.
Self-published authors are getting a bad rap these days, and for good reasons. In this article the entire Amazon self-publishing program is questioned:
If you were trying to discredit Amazon's new self-publishing model aimed at eliminating conventional publishers as obsolete "gatekeepers," relying instead on crowdsourced reviews, what would you do?
I'm not disagreeing with anything in this article. But once again the attack is on self-published authors and I don't find this to be completely true. I've seen authors with publishers and agents who are desperate to get their names out there do similar things more than once. So this concept that ALL self-published authors are doing things like paying for great reviews is not only a misconception, it's insulting to those self-published authors like me who are NOT doing these things to get attention.
I completely agree with this, in the same article I linked to above:
Policing reviews could take time and alienate some customers, both self-published authors and reviewers, but to let reviews continue unregulated might alienate far more of them. Mr. Rutherford may unintentionally turn out to be a more powerful advocate of the despised gatekeepers and their authors than even Senator Schumer.
But once again, where are they getting this information that it's all self-published authors? There are just as many struggling new authors with traditional publishers and agents out there who are willing to do anything humanly possible to sell their books. These people are ruthless in their quest. I know for a fact that one traditionally pubbed author's agent told him not to bother paying for a Kirkus review because it wouldn't help sell his book and the author went ahead and did it anyway.
In this post by The Indie Reader someone else is saying the same thing I'm saying right now:
The other point that gets lost in “The Best Book Reviews” piece is that paying for book reviews is not just the pervue of indie authors. Professional reviews for all published books—whether trad or indie—are, directly or indirectly, paid for.
In other words, it's not just self-pubbed authors...a lot of THEM are doing it and all self-pubbed authors are taking the hits even if they never paid for a review in their lives. Hell, most self-pubbed authors don't have the money to pay for a fucking review in the first place. And yet their books are still selling better than a lot of trad pubbed books nowadays. So go figure!
This comment on The Indie Reader's blog post from Sue Grafton blew me away:
As bestselling trad pubbed author Sue Grafton recently said, “Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work” and “…it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research.”
Assuming this quote is accurate, Sue Grafton doesn't know what she's talking about. I'm trad pubbed and self-pubbed and I can tell you all one thing for certain: nothing...NOTHING...is harder than self-pubbing a book on your own. It's the reason why I just signed to do ten more novels with ravenous romance this month. I found that self-pubbing was so intense it was taking time away from writing. And this Sue Grafton really needs to get out more before she makes comments like that, seriously. But more important, I would LOVE to see Sue Grafton figure out the language of HTML and try formatting a book on her own. It would make me smile.
The point of this post is to show readers and consumers that not all self-published authors are paying for reviews and clawing their way through the Amazon ranks by doing anything they can to get attention. For most of us self-publishing is a humble experience. In my case, I am ten times more connected to my self-published books than I am to my trad pubbed books. And that's because I put more time, energy, and work into the self-pubbed books. And I don't know one single self-pubbed author who would not agree with me on this.
I've posted about many authors who have been trad pubbed and self-pubbed on this blog. I'll continue to do so. But I've also made it clear that readers have to vet their books and compare reviews nowadays before making a purchase. Because it's not just self-pubbed authors out to scam you with paid reviews.