The Lure of Paid Reviewing

Money

Money rules the world, whether you like it or not.  You need money to survive and you definitely need it to live a comfortable life in 99.9% of the world.  That’s pretty much an acknowledged fact.  In order to get money and by extension survive, we sometimes work jobs that we hate because they’re the only ones around.

But what if you could get paid for doing what you love?  What if the thing you love most is reading and writing about reading?  What if you’re an avid reader like me and could get paid for doing what you love the same way writers get paid to do what they love?

Tempting, isn’t it?

money-rolling

Okay, sorry, I’m done with the rhetorical questions for now.  But seriously, it has tempted me on more than one occasion to charge for reviews.  It’s tempting to ask for a $5 fee for every book review you do, even though considering the amount of time I put into reading and reviewing that’s not even a living wage.  It’s tempting to charge a fee but still review honestly (because even I won’t sink that low for money).  Part of the temptation is the fact that getting paid to do what I love would be awesome, but another part shows my more practical side.  I’ve done some calculations.

The average Young Adult book is about 300-400 pages long.  Some are significantly more, some are significantly less, but that seems to be the most common range I come across.  I read approximately 100 pages per hour, which is apparently considered pretty fast.  Therefore, for every book I review for authors I need to spend 3-4 hours of pure reading.  Writing a book review takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on whether I really liked a book or had mixed feelings or just loathed it.  Okay, so for an average book that means I’m spending anywhere from 3.5 hours to 5 hours.

Now, in Saskatchewan the minimum wage is $10 an hour.  If I were to charge minimum wage for the average book, authors could end up paying $35-$50 for a review that’s not necessarily flattering.  On my end, it would be awesome to be paid for reading, but if I were to give in to the lure of paid reviewing it wouldn’t just affect me.  It would mean there is one less free reviewer out there when there aren’t exactly a whole bunch of scrupulous, but free reviewers out there currently accepting reviews.  It would also mean that you guys, my readers, might not trust my honesty as much because there is the chance that the fact I’m getting paid makes me more likely to give a good review.

Honesty-2

I put in a minimum of 20 hours per week into this blog.  That includes reading, reviewing and publicizing.  Essentially, all of the things necessary to keep this blog running and to make sure I’m reaching a wider audience.  Even when you love something, from my perspective it’s hard not to think of a way to monetize it.  Yet there’s still the honesty factor and honesty is incredibly important to me.

There are some people out there that make money from ads and promoting works and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they’re open about it.  A couple times I’ve thought of doing that myself.  But then I examined the reasons why I started book blogging in the first place:

1.  I love talking about books with like-minded readers.

2.  I like supporting my favourite authors.

3.  The occasional free book.

Just writing that down brings home the reality: when I started out I definitely wasn’t in it for the money.  In all honesty, I’m still not.  If I got into blogging because I wanted to make money, I’d be in the wrong profession.  That’s why I won’t be charging for reviews now or ever.  There are other ways for me to make money without making me feel like I’m betraying myself and my readers.

So what do you guys think?  If you’re a reviewer, would you ever consider paid reviewing?  What about running ads?  If you’re a reader of book blogs, would you trust a reviewer who is charging authors to review their books?  Why or why not?

19 comments

  1. Matthew Wright

    Paying reviewers to read books and write reviews is normal professional practise for major newspapers and magazines. I used to do this for magazines and newspapers in New Zealand. It didn’t work out financially – the amount they paid for the review was desultory compared to the time needed to read the book and then write intelligently about it. When I got dropped from the main literary magazine here for daring to follow up their failure to pay me (they’d made a mistake about the amount to invoice), I was dumped thereafter and their editor disconnected himself from all my social networks, presumably as a punishment for pointing out his error over paying me. Not a great experience…

    Blogging is a different field, of course…And hopefully a happier one. 🙂

    • Iscah

      I don’t think it’s a question of should a reviewer get paid, but how and by who. In the case of newspapers and magazine, they are paying the reviewer to provide content. It makes little difference to the magazine if the review is good or bad as long as the readers find value in it. However when a writer pays, then you have financial pressure to give favorable reviews.

      I ended up not doing much with it, but for a brief time, I had my financial blog set up so that it generated posts on a bigger website. In theory I was supposed to get a slice of the advertising revenue. That didn’t work so well (I’m not great blogger, and I was given confused information about how the arrangement works). Point I’m trying to get to is you might be able to find a way to syndicate your reviews, so they show up on other websites, and make money through the ad sales or some other arrangement with that site. Just a thought.

  2. cav12

    A very thoughtful post Carrie and to be honest, I understand why. However from this grateful writer, I’m glad you are reviewing books/stories because you love reading. 🙂

  3. Jack Flacco

    Great seeing our Canadian Money in a post. Also, you’re going to have to write a post about “How to Read 100 Pages an Hour” because even to me that’s an incredible amount of words!

    • Carrie Slager

      Well, it was hard finding a picture of it in a sea of American greenbacks, but I am Canadian. As for the speed-reading, I’m not sure you can teach that. I’m just a fast reader.

  4. Author Unpublished

    I don’t have a problem with reviewers earning money for their reviews – more power to them… but like you, I don’t know if I’ll ever charge. Most of the time, I get the book free anyway, and that feels payment enough. I also wouldn’t want to feel pressure to “fudge” my review to something more pleasant. I’m about as honest as I can get… and sometimes that’s too honest for some authors 🙂
    As for running ads etc… that I can get behind, because no one’s going to click on an ad if they aren’t interested, and it doesn’t devaule my opinion on a book. Right now I do run a referral program with my links to amazon. I was linking to amazon anyway (because that’s where I buy my books, and it’s a big site to work with), so now when someone buys something there with one of my links, I get a very small percentage of payment from it. It doesn’t hurt the customer, and it’s a reward for me for driving traffic to the site. nothing wrong with that ^^

    • Carrie Slager

      I’m less likely than others to succumb to the pressure if I charged every author for reviews, but there’s still that conflict of interest angle. As for ads, they’d be a handy way to make money but I hate how they clutter up blogs. I don’t like blogs with ads, so why should I subject my readers to them? Something like the Amazon referral program would be nice but I don’t think I’ll try it anytime soon.

      • Author Unpublished

        yah that’s understandable. i’m the same way with visual ads.. it’s just more clutter than I need. I’m still waiting to see if the referral program does much for me, but the thing i do like about it is it’s just a link.. where i was already going to put a link. XD so it doesn’t effect anything from the customer’s viewpoint 🙂

  5. adtrosper

    I wouldn’t want to be paid for the review because I would feel people would think my reviews weren’t completely honest. However, making paid advertising on your blog for books is something you could do. It would help both you and authors. You can also do the Amazon Affiliates program where you get paid a certain percentage if someone uses your link to go to Amazon and buys something.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s definitely one of my reasons for deciding not to charge a fee: the honesty factor. I’d love to get paid on a salary basis, but that’s not going to happen in blogging. As for advertising, I don’t think I’ll do that either because I hate ads.

  6. Carla J. Hanna

    All New York Times reviewers and major magazine reviewers are paid. Traditional publishers pay for every professional review their books get – either to a blogger who gets $35-$55 USD per review plus the hardcopy or to the salaried reviewer. And keep in mind, that for each month, a publisher chooses which new release it is going to push. That release gets the best ARC reviews or is the best situated for current trends and then the novel becomes a bestseller because the publisher orders the quantity of copies to make it a bestseller as it sends out those books to retail stores. “Bestseller” means most books ordered – not most read or most popular or even “best.” That’s why bestsellers hit that mark in their first month of release – not because people actually bought them. (Popular books are going to be the ones on the bestseller list months after their release – like Shades – in which consumption is reflected in the Kindle sales numbers.)

    You bloggers are the only ones doing it for free. And I don’t want to be a buzz kill, but the publishers and movie studios are scanning your reviews for key words and trends in everything you blog about and then creating lists about what is hot and popular based on what you say you like or dislike in the books you read. Market researchers are getting paid quite well because of your words. The “hotness” of trends like teen porn in the “new adult romance” market was from key word analysis on your “free” blogs, like WordPress, Twitter comments, and Goodreads reviews. As a blogging community, you are providing “free, honest” data for all your hard work and also affirming that teens want to read hot, steamy soft porn with happy endings.

    Now, I appreciate you as a blogger because indie pubs are looked down on if we authors pay for reviews. Remember the scandal in the fall 2012 when Amazon yanked thousands of paid reviews from indie books but didn’t yank any of the paid reviews from traditionally published books? I haven’t paid for my reviews but it has been so very hard to get anyone to agree to review my books. The free RforR platform on Goodreads is accessible to indies but many of the reviews are unprofessional and a 5-star review has no impact on sales.

    Do I think you should review for free? Please. Do I think you should be paid for your hard work. Yes. So as an indie author I don’t know what to propose. I have recently decided to ignore getting reviews and just finish writing my final book. If people like it, great. If they don’t, oh well. It is what it is, no?

    • Carrie Slager

      You hit the mark once again, Carla. That’s why I chose not to charge for reviews: 1) I said I wouldn’t when I started this blog, 2) there’s the honesty factor on my side, and 3) it makes the author look bad as well if they pay. As for Goodreads reviews, I know what you mean. Some of them are amazing, but some are less than a paragraph about the actual book.

      As for getting paid, it would be nice to, but since I’m not desperate for money I’m not going to charge authors who are.

  7. Rachel Rueben

    It’s been alleged that money does exchange hands in the traditional publishing industry. According to rumor (from an editor), if you wanted to get a review from the New York Times you had to buy advertising in their paper. Don’t know if it’s really true but it makes sense.

    I think professional reviewers should be paid but by a independent party like website, magazine, newspaper etc., and not directly by the authors. However, should authors buy these reviews? I don’t believe so, I have yet to meet an indie author who says paid reviews helped with their sales.

    • Carrie Slager

      I heard that rumour as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. As for the paid reviews, I don’t think they help either and they just put authors at risk of being ruined if someone finds out. Reviews can be great, but what pulls readers in is a good cover, a good blurb or lots of good reviews that seem to be written by honest people.

  8. James Kennedy

    It’s really difficult to be honest when you’re being paid. I think you also have to think about the author: if the author’s really young or it’s their first novel, should you give a more lenient review?

    Honestly, I don’t know…

    • Carrie Slager

      Yeah, it’s a tough issue, especially around the honesty factor. As for being more lenient, I usually am with first time authors anyway, but not because of their age. Age is just a number and young adults can be just as capable as adults, so I don’t see any reason to be more lenient because of age.

  9. Jemima Pett

    I think your picture – be true to yourself – is what matters. I review what I read, but I don’t set out to be a reviewer – I want to be seen as an author not a reviewer. But authors need reviews, and paying back by reviewing what I read is what I think helps the indie world go round.

    I’m just glad you’re reviewing, Carrie – I enjoy reading them and learning more about the world outside my own little circle!

Leave a Reply