August 27th, 2012

Every other week it seems like something is exploding within publishing, especially when it comes to Indie publishing. This week the explosion centers around authors PURCHASING reviews. It’s a VERY gray area. Some people are adamantly against purchasing reviews and others have done so with great success. It’s easy to attack Indie authors for participating in this practice because they’re so visible.

Purchasing reviews definitely has an air of ‘stink’ to it. No doubt about it. But, and this is a big BUT, this practice has been going on in New York for YEARS. This is NOT an Indie only issue, though I’m sure it’s much more fun to think so.

New York publishing has paid for reviews for years by purchasing ads in various publications. Have they all been five star reviews? No, but my guess is there are far more positive reviews than negative ones. After all, the publications are making MONEY from those ads. They don’t want to anger the people who are buying them. Romantic Times Magazine, which I love, has always been known to dangle ads in front of publishers/writers’ faces in order to give reviews. This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re an Indie author or a small press author. If you want your book reviewed (a guaranteed review/not necessarily positive), then you must purchase an ad in the magazine. To me there’s not really a difference between buying an ad for a review or paying somebody directly. Either way, you’re paying for a review.

One way just ‘appears‘ a little bit more legitimate than the other.

Though I consider the prospect of purchasing a review to be firmly planted in a HUGE gray field, I have to admit that I’ve been tempted. Not to buy five star reviews (though that would be lovely…and oh so WRONG), but to buy reviews in general. Here’s why: My readers overall are fairly quiet. To my knowledge, I don’t have the type of readership that runs around all over the internet shouting about my books. I don’t have a street team and wouldn’t know the first thing about building one. My readers purchase my books, for which I am eternally grateful, but they rarely leave reviews. That’s okay. They don’t have to, and are not obligated to review my books. I’m just happy if they enjoy them.

The problem is that these days reviews hold a lot of weight. Actually, let me correct that, it’s not the content of the reviews, but the AMOUNT of reviews that seem to make a HUGE difference for a writer. This started with the ebook explosion and I don’t foresee it stopping anytime soon. When I was writing for New York, I had to do most of my promotion myself. I got a little help from a few of the publishers, but mainly it was left up to me.

Like most authors, I don’t have a degree in marketing. Although I was social years ago (had to be, I was a flight attendant), I’m a hermit now. Actually, thinking about it, I’m pretty sure hermits are more social than me. I don’t feel comfortable pushing my books on people. It doesn’t matter how much I love the books. I am sure a lot of this comes from the fact that I don’t like people trying to sell me stuff. (Doesn’t matter what the stuff is, I just don’t like it.) When the world revolves around social networking, that is a problem.

I am sure there are reviewers out there yelling at my post and saying, “Well, just write a good book and people will review it.” Thanks Mr. Obvious!

If only that were true…

I write the best books I can EVERY TIME I write a book. Are they all equal? Of course not. Some are going to be better than others, but even the ones I consider some of the best work I’ve ever done, don’t have a lot of reviews. So that brings us back to ‘What Do You Do?’ Do you buy an ad to ease your conscience? Do you pay for a blogging/promoting service? Or do you just allow yourself to slip into obscurity?

A lot of tough choices. No easy answers.

Do you have an opinion on the subject? Even better, do you have a solution? Loved to hear it.

4 comments to “THE NEXT BIG EXPLOSION”

  1. Guilty! I just bought what is called a book review tour from Book Trailers Showcase. I didn’t even consider it a gray area, because authors send out books free to reviewers, and literally beg for one line blurbs from other New York Times best selling authors. 🙂 It’s all marketing, and with half a million new offerings every few months, it’s like swimming up the falls on a salmon run.

    It is a new ploy that has taken off in the indie world, and I don’t know if it will work, but I’m sure of one thing, as you stated, New York’s been doing it forever. It seems now that indies are using the strategy, it’s some kind of sin. 🙂 After I finish my last book in the YA trilogy I’m doing, I’ll have five new full length novels to release over the next year. I’m using the time to write a full length screenplay of my novel HARD CASE and see if I can get any bites in that venue.

    I’ll blog how the review tour comes out. It just started. To repeat an old cliche – any port in a storm. 🙂

  2. Bernard, It’s definitely like a salmon run that’s for sure.

    Let me know how it does for you.

    That’s a great amount of releases, especially if you space them right. Fingers crossed with the screenplay. That’s a REALLY tough business to break into, but I have no doubt you’re up to the challenge. 🙂

    I hear you.

  3. I had to think about the paid review thing about but basically: paying for a review and not disclosing that fact is like the bloggers who were paid to promote/endorse products and didn’t disclose. Which is why blogs now have those disclosure bits. Paid promotion masquerading as unpaid consumer review is not ethical. Yes, when I buy an ad in RT I’m paying to have my book reviewed, but they are free to give it 1 star and say anything they want to about it. This is not the same as paying to guarantee a five star rating. And now it’s going to be hard for readers to know what to trust.

  4. Charli, I’m not talking about paying for five star reviews. I am talking about paying to get reviews. I mentioned in the above blog that buying five star reviews is bad. I agree that doing that would be unethical.