Most of the time, the amount you pay for something is roughly commensurate with its value—or its perceived value.
A few very valuable things, however, you can’t pay for (hence the aphorism, “The best things in life are free”). Into that category I now place book reviews.
I would love nothing more than to have Dance of Souls reviewed by Janet Maslin of The New York Times or in The New Yorker. But who am I kidding? The chances that either of those publications, or a similar a venue like The New York Review of Books or Publishers Weekly, would consider reviewing my book, are about nil.
At the same time, I have found no shortage of places that will review self-published or print-on-demand books. Feathered Quill Reviews, Get Book Reviews, and Review the Book are more than happy to review my book—for a price. So, by the way, is Publishers Weekly, via Publishers Weekly Select, a pay site begun in response to the increasing popularity of print-on-demand books.
And herein lies the rub. What is the worth of a paid review?
To be honest, the payment is not explicitly for the review; it’s to cover the costs of the web site so it can solicit and manage reviewers and post the reviews. But in my mind, at least, the value is diminished by the payment. If I have to pay—if any old body can pay—to get a review, then the review ceases to be about who has written a review-worthy book and becomes instead about who is willing to shell out some cash to get their book into the hands of a person who will write about it.
I’m painfully aware that this may be the only way I ever get my book reviewed. There simply isn’t a formal channel for self-published authors to reach the major media outlets, though it sometimes it happens by luck and pure happenstance. I also realize that I have no right to complain. I chose to go outside the system and now I’m stuck here.
I haven’t yet ruled out paying for reviews, but I’m doing my homework first, trying to figure out exactly where to put my energy. When I decide, I’ll let you know.
P.S. The subject of reviews on Amazon.com is a topic for another blog. In the meantime, if you have read Dance of Souls and want to post a customer review on Amazon, please do!