Paid Book Reviews

Nancy J. Cohen

There’s a disturbing trend toward paid reviews. Indie authors may have a difficult time getting their books reviewed, so this is an option for them. But it’s an issue for any traditionally published author who wishes to get more critical reviews for their new release, aside from the places where their publisher has sent advance reading copies. Here are some sites I’ve heard of but am by no means recommending. Do the research on your own.


Kirkus Indie Reviews: costs $425. You can submit 2 print copies or a digital submission.

Publishers Weekly: At a site called Book Life, you can register your title and decide what services you want, i.e. getting your book reviewed or help with marketing. It appears to be free, but marketing services are available.

RT Book Reviews: This magazine offers a paid service for $425 through RT Review Source:

Net Galley: $399 for a six month title listing, or $599 for a listing along with a spot in their newsletter. . Here your book might attract the attention of librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers.

Edelweiss: If you’re traditionally published, ask if your book is listed at Edelweiss. This is where booksellers and librarians go to browse and place orders. Reviewers can request digital ARCs there too. Publishers pay for listings. The pricing for the catalog is based on the number of titles the publisher plans to feature in a year. An administrative fee is also charged annually for this service. In addition, there’s a digital review service that publishers can participate in either separately or along with the catalog listing.

Choosy Bookworm: . For $99, they hint you might get 30 interested readers who will post reviews but no guarantees.

Nerdy Girls Book Reviews: Their basic package is $49 for 30-35 reader reviews.

Chanticleer Book Reviews cost $325:

Of course, you have many other options. Go on a blog tour where the hosts offer reviews. Do giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing and hope that the winners post their consumer reviews. Or buy inexpensive ads where a review might be part of the package. It’s not easy to attract the big guns but you can still get bloggers on your side.

How do you feel about paid reviews?

22 thoughts on “Paid Book Reviews

  1. Nancy, the face of publishing has changed so much over the past few years that I find it hard to keep up. I don’t know if yearning for the “good old days” is a function of my generation or a disagreement with the way things are now–probably both. I’m not a fan of paid reviews, but maybe that’s what it will come to. I had no idea of the cost of some of these listings. Having just dipped my pen (metaphorically) into self-publishing while still working with a traditional publisher, I’m holding my breath as I await further changes. Chances are I won’t like them. Thanks for the post, and for getting this discussion started.

    • Bloggers and customer reviews have become more important as readers check out our books at places like Amazon. It’s what matters to readers–critical reviews or reader reviews–that really should count for us.

  2. You’re really talking apples and oranges here. Places like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and RT Reviews are selling a single professional critic’s review. The question here becomes, how much are the buying public swayed by those reviews compared to say 20-30 reviews by real customers?

    When you list with a service like Choosy, you aren’t paying for reviews (and may never see either a single review or your money back). You’re paying for a way to continue listing your book on Amazon at a set price while accessing the opportunity to distribute free copies to grow your readership, with the hope that some of the people who grab your books will provide a review.

    For me, the better route has been to participate in review groups at GoodReads. They’re round-robin affairs arranged so that no author reviews an author who has reviewed them, thereby circumventing Amazon’s prohibition against reciprocal reviews. It doesn’t cost anything except your time to read and review another author’s work. If you don’t already have a fan following and your books are languishing with no reviews to convince buyers to give them a try, the review groups are a good, cheap, and relatively painless way to get off the ground.


    • Kathy,
      What you said about the power of reviews is backed up by research and common wisdom at my new publisher Thomas and Mercer. My editor told me not to sweat reviews, that they are nice but that their research shows they don’t sway the buying public. What does, she said, is customer reviews on any sites and Good Reads. Reviews are wonderful, if you get them — they look great in your book and on the website, but you just can’t count on them anymore since there are so few traditional reviewing outlets left.

      I don’t think I’d pay for them. It’s not cheap. And I don’t think they really help.

      • I recall when one of my Blackthorne, Inc. books got a starred review from PW, and the publisher wanted to replace my author quote on the cover with that one. I don’t think the typical reader knows (or cares) about PW reviews. We ended up sticking with the quote from a NYT best-selling author on the front cover, and then PW quote on the back. There was a modest uptick of library sales (the publisher’s target market), but I know they wasted a lot of money upping the print run based on that review. Other authors know it’s a ‘coup’, but that’s about it.

      • Thanks for sharing this, Kathy. I’m aware of review groups elsewhere too, like yahoo groups and Facebook. This time around, I requested reviews on Goodreads and enough readers responded to give me some advance notice. I also put out a call on my Facebook author page for bloggers. It’s important to vet the people who respond. I ask where they post reviews and look them up to verify it’s not just a person looking for a freebie.

      • Kris, the only problem with customer reviews is you can’t really pull quotes from them. My publisher, for example, uses quotes on the back cover of my books.These need to be from an established review source.

        • Yup, you’re right there. And I agree that a nice review has some real currency! But I’m thinking that most folks buy books mainly thru word of mouth and recommendations from friends.

  3. I’ve never paid for the big reviews but have done blog tours where some reviews are done. The reviews were few and those that were done made it clear the blogger had not read the book (example: a comment on how my book was a fun shoot’em up when the premise of the story is my team can’t carry weapons). And I went that route after a chunk of my reviews were lost when I took control of the book and republished it with a new ISBN (and Zon promised they could move them all over). Nope. Not sure worth the effort. Just need to write more.

    • I’ve had better luck with bloggers giving reviews. Here’s hoping I get some next week when my new book launches! You can follow my blog tour on my website.

  4. As a reader, I pay no attention to positive online reviews (I do scan the negative ones, I admit), but I have bought several books via one of the “bargain e-books” newsletters I subscribe to (BookBub). Evidently those newsletters are partly responsible for the current trend of authors paying for reviews (reportedly, they require a large number of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon in order to accept a book for promotion. Indie authors who rely on these newsletters for promotion wind up buying reviews to qualify for acceptance.) I read an interesting blog post on this subject:
    I do wish the bargain newsletters would find a different way to “vet” the books they promote. Amazon customer reviews have become meaningless, in general–it’s unfortunate that some authors feel a need to pay for something like that.

    • I get BookBub and The Fussy Librarian. If a book interests me, then I look it up on Amazon to see what the customer reviews say. I have found new authors I like this way. And yes, those ads for bargain books are paid for and reviews are required for acceptance. Thanks for that link. I’ll check it out.

  5. Hi. I first started blogging when I decided to seriously get back to writing, and I made my blog a review blog, but for debut indies only, with 3 or less published books. I got so overwhelmed with requests, that my queue became terribly overextended. I should have cut it off much sooner than I did, but it was hard for me to say no, understanding how important reviews are, especially for newbies.
    The reason I mention this is that I’ve discussed this on many writer’s blogs, and many other writer’s feel that they can only review another author’s book if they can give a 4 or 5 star rating. I will never be mean or tear down another author, but I am honest. I won’t review a book unless I’ve read it from cover to cover. So, many aren’t honest in their reviews, not wanting to hurt the other author. But is not being honest really helping the author? If you are paying that much money for a paid review, will it be honest any more than those other author’s reviews are? It is a tough question. I was asked if I was ever trolled or attacked for a bad review. I haven’t been so far. I’ve only told one author that I couldn’t get into his book and why, and because I couldn’t finish it, I wouldn’t review it. He wrote back and thanked me for my honesty, very graciously. As a reader, I don’t pay much attention to the reviews. If it sounds good, I will get a sample, or look inside and get it based on my own opinion.

  6. It’s a tough call when you’re reviewing another author’s book, especially if it’s someone you know. Then I do feel obligated to give a good review. If it’s someone I don’t know, all bets are off. But if a book is so terrible that I can’t give it a decent rating, I wouldn’t post a review at all. Generally I review every book I read and post it on Goodreads and Amazon. Periodically on my blog, I will list all of my latest reads but I don’t rate them with stars. I don’t solicit books to review or accept offers for free books in exchange for a review. I prefer to read my own choice. Life is short. I want to read the books on my personal TBR list. Here’s a sample:

    • I had an influx of publishers wanting me to read their authors’ books. At first, I was honored to do it. But then, I hit a terrible book and had to struggle through it. I couldn’t in good conscience give it an excellent rating, but I couldn’t give it a terrible one, either. Since then, I say no. It’s just not worth ruining your reputation over. My pals on Goodreads know I’m honest in my reviews. Nothing’s worth ruining that relationship, especially being an author myself.

Comments are closed.