21.7.11

Should indie authors pay for book reviews?

In the words of Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility." Indie authors are getting a taste of freedom, a taste of what it's like to call the shots, and (not quite as tasty) a taste of what it feels like to pay our own way. We're shelling out for editing, copy editing, cover design, trailer production and PR.

Now BlueInk Review invites self-pubbed authors to submit their books for review for a mere (brace yourself) $395 for a 7-9 week response or $495 if you want the review in 4-5 weeks (wryly observing that PW and Kirkus pay less than fifty bucks). You are promised an extremely well-qualified reviewer from a pool of folks who've written reviews for mainstream media outlets. What you are not promised is that the review will be favorable, and a glance at the first ten reviews listed today on the BlueInk site breaks down thusly:
Positive: 3
Negative: 5
Mixed (reviewer managed to hold nose): 2
A lot of word count was devoted to 6th grade book report synopsis type stuff. One included a lengthy quote from the book being unhappily parsed. Virtually every review complained of poor copy editing, and I do wish indie authors would take note and not scrimp on that. It's important. That said, I recently read a book from a Big 6 publisher that featured very shoddy copy editing, and I didn't see a complaint about it in any of the mainstream reviews.

Here's what the BlueInk site says about their philosophy:
When it comes to judging book quality and understanding the intricacies of the traditional book publishing and book review industries--well, we’ve walked those walks for an awfully long time.

...Our reviewers are fine writers and well-qualified because we know how to judge these skills. Our reviews are taken seriously by publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians because we understand their professional needs and constraints. We respect their time and they respect our opinions.
Respect for authors has never been a prerequisite for reviewers in the mainstream, and it doesn't appear BlueInk will be breaking with that tradition. I saw no mention of an attempt to match books with reviewers knowledgeable about or interested in a particular genre, nothing about reviewers respectful of or in touch with a specific (or mass audience) readership.

It's always struck me as impractical that book reviewers are predisposed to dislike books that the majority of readers love. Open-mindedness, a positive attitude toward books outside an extremely narrow mindset -- toward books and authors in general -- has never been valued in that arena, and I think that's why book reviews of this ilk have become less and less relevant.

Patti Thorn has more to say in "Making a Case for Fee-based Reviews of Self-published Books" on Publishing Perspectives, and indie authors should definitely check it out. She makes some good points. There's a lot to think about here.

I'm really loathe to talk smack about anyone in this space, and indie authors will have to decide for themselves if the risk of a negative review is worth $495. That's the great thing about going indie. You call the shots.

For me, this feels like I finally broke up with my abusive boyfriend, who's now inviting me to take him out on an expensive date. I'm supposed to hope for a kiss but be grateful for a punch in the face if he decides I deserve one.

Thanks, but no thanks.

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