Friday, August 27, 2010

Should Writers Pay for Book Reviews?

By Jason Boog on GalleyCat Aug 26, 2010

Over at Writer Beware, publishing industry expert Victoria Strauss critiqued the new $149 PW Select program for self-published authors--generating a healthy debate about paid book reviews.

Strauss' informative essay explored "sponsored review programs" at other book review outlets, including San Francisco Book Review, ForeWord's Clarion Reviews, and Kirkus Discoveries. Her article concluded: "Is it ever worthwhile to buy a review? Not in my opinion. With independent paid review services, quality can be a problem; plus, there are plenty of non-professional book review venues out there that will review for free."

In the comments section, ForeWord Reviews publisher Victoria Sutherland mounted a spirited defense: "What the three of us (PW, Kirkus, ForeWord) have to offer that we are asking you to support now is: our brand, which still actually means something to librarians and booksellers who want a robust, quality 400 word critical review of your books curated by a team of experts we have spent years culling. These reviews are valuable enough to be licensed by the top wholesaler databases serving the book trade including Bowker, Baker & Taylor, Ingram and more. This kind of exposure ALONE is worth the fee to any publishers."

She continued: "ForeWord was the original fee for review service, introduced in 2003 to the outrage of the entire publishing community. In fact we were lampooned in a cartoon on the cover of Kirkus who shortly thereafter fell into similar economic challenges and had a change of heart about providing reviews for cash. PW seems to be taking baby steps into the process, but it won't be long before they commit fully to the concept."

This GalleyCat Reviews editor called Sutherland to confirm her comments, and she added these thoughts: "In the literary world, free (poverty) seems to have been the only criteria for integrity. Yet, people happily pay doctors and lawyers for a diagnosis--plenty of conflict there to enourage clients to come back for more. What critics of our pay for service miss is what they accept about lawyers and doctors - namely that reputation means a lot to a professional--and the path to your door will grow weeds fast when you prove to be a sellout." (Via Self Publishing Review)

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