Think about this:
The general perception is that as soon as money comes into play between a reviewer and an author that review is tainted, no longer trustworthy. The assumption is that it would be difficult for the reviewer not to give a good review. Wouldn’t you be nicer in that situation? Probably, and we all know that some people pay for five star reviews or swop them with friends. But you aren’t a professional reviewer.
But what if?
- As with the Awesome Indies, the reviewer has no personal contact with the author at all. The contact is done via an intermediary.
- The review policy states quite clearly that an honest review will be given and all-star ratings posted regardless of payment.
- The name of the reviewer isn’t published, so they have no fear of backlash.
- The author does not pay the reviewer. Their money goes into a fund out of which the reviewers are paid by the organisation.
- The reviewer is a professional, not just meaning that they get paid for it, but that they adhere to a code of ethics.
- Why, in this situation, would they not write an honest review? I see absolutely no reason for any bias when it is handled this way.
Code of ethics?
Is there one? Of course. Do you think the reviews in your big newspapers are written by people who write nice reviews just because they get paid? No, they write honest reviews because that is what a professional reviewer does.
Think about this:
- Before the proliferation of book blogs, all published reviewers were written by reviewers who were paid for it. The reviews that still carry the most weight when quoted on a book cover come from reviewers who are paid, like The New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and so on.
- But very few authors get their books read and reviewed by a big newspaper reviewer. How do some books get read and others don’t? Do you really think there isn’t money involved between publishers and newspapers to get their book on the review list? Publishers pay book stores for their books to be given prominent places; that’s how it’s always worked.
- If you were an author and could pay to get a review on The New York Times, I bet you’d be happy to do so, just to make sure it happened. And you wouldn’t expect them to write a nice review, would you?
- And yet, you think there is something wrong with paying a professional reviewer with the same qualifications as those employed by newspapers and magazines, just because they publish on a blog, now a newspaper. Duh! We aren’t talking about your general blogger here, we’re talking about qualified professionals in all sense of the word.
Now consider this:
The Awesome Indies is a volunteer organisation.
- We require reviewers with formal qualifications (take a look at their Reviewers’ list).
- Most qualified reviewers want to be paid.
- We have a free submission option, so we cannot pay our reviewers.
- Therefore, we don’t have many reviewers;
- Therefore, it takes a hell of a lot of time to get your review.
- How long it takes to:
- read a book,
- analyse it and
- write a review.
- How many books they would like to put down, but read anyway, just because you expect a review. Poor quality books—and we get them—take the joy out of reading.
- How long they studied to gain the qualifications we require of our reviewers.
- How far a $20 or $30 fee goes towards compensating a reviewer for their time.
Do you really begrudge them a little payment?
For so long as you insist that a reviewer who is paid is somehow less honest than one that is not, you will find it very hard to get reviews from the people you most need them from—those who know what they’re talking about.
Are you scared that you’ll pay and get a poor review? That’s a good reason not to pay, but don’t use accusing professional reviewers of unethical behaviour just to cover your real fears. If they were unethical, you wouldn’t have to worry, would you?
Are you simply too poor to pay? Fine, I am too. I won’t pay for a review, because I can’t afford to, but the Awesome Indies has a free system for people like me—proof we’re not out to make money.
We’re squashed between the proverbial rock and hard place. If more authors paid an administration fee, we would have more money in our reviewers’ fund, we could then afford to pay them and we would have more of them. As it is, be prepared for your submission to take a very long time—six months or more in some cases.
For your information, we presently have many reviewers who refuse to receive any payment for their reviews even when we offer it, our difficulty is in attracting more reviewers to work for us.