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There is apparently a stigma surrounding paid reviews. I was unaware of this until a few months ago. Some people believe that when reviews are paid for, they are untrustworthy. Therefore, those reviews are discounted, and the reviewers—or the review services—themselves are often shamed for even charging for reviews. Even many authors who pay for reviews are shamed and called “unethical.” I’ve seen these derogatory posts on Goodreads, independent blogs, and other similar sites and I can link back to them for anyone who is interested. They range from a few years to a few months old. I have not directly been shamed yet, but I’d still like to share my opinion on the topic of paid book reviews and confront the stigma attached to them. This is the first of three blog posts I will use to address this subject because I want to explore this argument from the angle of a book reviewer, an author, and a reader, respectively.

First off, I’d like to confront the idea that it’s wrong to request payment for review services. For those of you who don’t know, I am a book reviewer, and I request payment for my reviews because I am trying to support myself by doing something I love. I love reading books, I love discussing my opinions about them, and I love having the opportunity to give an author feedback on their work and help potential buyers get a better idea of the book they’re interested in. However, the time I spend doing this is substantial. I must read the book and mark errors I find as I read, collect and jot down my thoughts about it, weave those thoughts into a review that is actually entertaining to read, edit that review until I can’t find any errors, and then create a list of errors for the author to review and fix (if the author wants such a list, and they usually do). Just the process of writing the review and error list took me eight hours to complete until I found ways to become more efficient, and even now it takes quite a bit of time (typically four hours, including all the editing).

 I value my time. There are many things I could be doing with that time, including polishing my own work-in-progress. I’m still doing something I love and even something that benefits me (writing reviews has helped me build a larger portfolio and hone my craft), but there are still other important things that I have to put off to complete those reviews. In fact, I would rather be working with my own manuscript or creating more art; however, I need the money and book reviews are the most appealing way for me to make money at this time. In return for the money, I write quality reviews and I even provide light editorial services simultaneously by composing a list of errors. Furthermore, I usually finish the entire process, including reading the book, within the span of two weeks, if that. I'm not saying that those who labor for free don't value their time or do good, timely work, but as I said, I am trying to support myself and writing book reviews is one way I've personally chosen to do that. 

Writers and other creatives as a whole have often been shamed for requesting payment for their work. So many people need a service but feel they shouldn’t have to pay for it. What such people need to remember is that other people’s time and effort are valuable, too. If someone doesn’t want to pay for a service, that’s fine, but it isn’t okay to turn around and persecute others for trying to make a living. I don’t force authors to request reviews from me. I feel my rates are reasonable based on the amount of work I put into my reviews, but if an author doesn’t like my rates, they can decline my services. I won’t even take offense so long as they’re respectful about it. In fact, I make sure authors know there are free review opportunities elsewhere, such as at Readers’ Favorite. I review through Readers’ Favorite because I want to help authors who can’t afford reviews. It’s important to note, however, that some of the free review services I’ve reviewed through and looked into have left authors waiting weeks or months for a reviewer to just select their book and then even longer for them to review it because there are so many books for the reviewers to choose from.

I want to emphasize that this isn’t true for all free review services, and most of the free reviews I’ve seen completed on sites such as Readers’ Favorite are of very good quality. And with that said, I'm sure it’s also true that many authors have paid for review services and wound up being dissatisfied because they had to wait too long or because the review was of poor quality or otherwise wasn’t good for publicity. It’s important for authors to be wary of paying for any service, but it’s also important for authors to be open to the possibility of paid reviews, especially if other review services they’ve tried have met them with below average assistance. Also, it’s extremely important that authors ensure their work is edited and polished as much as possible before requesting a review if they want a shot at getting a great rating, especially if the reviewer who selects their story is as bothered by errors as I am.

Whether free or paid, good reviews often help encourage sales, boost publicity, and, when necessary, point out things that an author could improve upon for future works. Good reviews also help readers decide whether to invest their time and money in a book, and they help writers with market research. I don’t know if other authors do this, but I read reviews to help me learn what audiences enjoy or dislike reading. A reviewer is obviously a reader, after all, and the reviews they write and the comments from their fans can offer a lot of insight into what’s in and what isn’t in specific genres. I’ll discuss more of how reviewers can help authors and readers in my following posts, but my point is that reviewers work hard and are very useful. If a reviewer wants to charge a fee for their labor, I look at it as no different than anyone else who works and wants paid for it. If people don't want to pay for reviews, they still have that choice. So long as reviewers are up front about the fact they expect to receive compensation, are honest about the amount an author will owe them, and add a disclaimer letting their readers know that authors paid for their reviews, I don’t see anything unethical about reviewers striving to receive an income for their services.