Just as flowers make storefronts more friendly and inviting, good reviews make authors' pages more credible and eye-catching.

For the second part of this little series of blog posts, I’d like to focus on the author side of paid reviews. There are a lot of reasons an author would decide to pay for a review, and not all of those reasons are unethical, contrary to the seemingly popular belief that authors pay for reviews to bribe reviewers in an attempt to receive only five star ratings.

As an author myself, I know I would consider paying for reviews for a multitude of reasons, including wanting a shot at getting reviewed more quickly (over free review services), wanting to help support a paid reviewer, or if readers weren’t voluntarily leaving reviews after buying my book. I'd also consider a paid review because I've seen some free reviewers put a hold on their services because they found a paid gig somewhere and needed to focus on it. Not that paid reviewers wouldn't put a hold on their services if something better or more important came up, but I feel that reviewers would at least take reviewing my work more seriously if I was paying them. Other authors pay for reviews when they know the service can provide them with exceptional publicity, or when they want to more quickly accumulate a decent number of reviews for their manuscript to help them get published. I'm sure there are authors out there who do try to pay reviewers to give them only five star reviews even when their novels haven’t earned them (and reviewers who are willing to oblige), but of all the authors I've connected with, I haven't known any to do this.

Now for the question of whether authors should pay for reviews. If you are an author and you have the money to pay for reviews, I would say go ahead if you want to, but do some research first to at least compare prices. Figure out what you’re wanting from the review. This will help you decide what reviewer to go with. I’d advise you to read some of the reviews already posted by the reviewer you’re interested in hiring. Are they of good quality? If the review does criticize the book, was the reviewer respectful and constructive about that criticism? Be wary of free and paid reviews alike, because if a reviewer writes poorly or doesn’t focus on relevant points, it often hinders the credibility of their review to certain readers. If you want a reviewer with a large following to help the review (and your book) reach even more people, you might want to check out the reviewer's social media pages, but know there are good reviewers who don't have a large following yet, usually because they are just starting out. Such reviewers can still help you with publicity in other ways while they grow their own following. If publicity is your main concern, you could also supplement the review with other options such as book signings or interviews through podcasts, digital or print magazines, or YouTube channels.

If you’re looking just for someone to give you their opinion of your story more than publicity, you might want to look into private critique and beta reading services. Some of those are free, too, while others are paid. Shop around to see all your options before making your decision because you might not be after a review service after all. I know that I would rather have someone do their research and take their business elsewhere than go with me and complain that I didn’t give them the service they were hoping to receive—especially since this might further erode the reputation of paid reviewers as a whole. I have very clear guidelines posted on my review site and I encourage clients to read them before proceeding. Figure out what you need or want, and then take the time to understand what each reviewer is actually offering so there’s less confusion and conflict.

I do want to say, however, that I think your money may be better spent on reputable editing and cover design services. Emphasis on “reputable.” The reason I think this is because there’s a chance that readers will leave reviews voluntarily after buying your book. If they loved your book, those reviews will be positive, and editing your book well and getting an engaging cover improves readers’ experiences and encourages such reviews. It is true, however, that too many readers simply don’t take the time to leave reviews even if they loved the book (enter paid review services). But know that paying for a review won’t guarantee a positive one, especially if your book isn’t edited well. Reviewers like me will briefly mention the presence of profuse errors in the text if they detracted from the story. We’ll also mention whether a work struggled with consistency, inorganic dialogue, or other issues that hindered our enjoyment of the work and that readers would want to know about before making a purchase.

It might seem harmful for reviewers to mention the negatives, but really, it helps add credibility to our reviews and shows we’re not trying to pander to authors because we’re being paid or because we received a free book. This in turn lets readers know that the positives we mention in our reviews are more than likely genuine, and if the reader feels those positives outweigh the negatives, they’ll still buy the book. I’ve decided to read many books based on mixed reviews. (It’s also possible that some reviewers give bad reviews based on personal reasons rather than on the book itself. I think this is petty, but it can happen and some readers, like me, factor this into consideration.) And if you do receive a lot of criticism, don’t be disheartened. I know it can be discouraging, but try to turn it into a positive by improving your work (if, of course, the criticism you received was reasonable and respectful).

In conclusion, if you’re an author, no one can really tell you whether you should or shouldn’t pay for a review. Ultimately, you have to do your own research and make an educated decision on whether paid reviews are right for you and fit into your budget. I hope this post helps people better understand some of the reasoning behind authors’ decisions to pay for review services. I also hope this post helps authors make more informed decisions about where they get their reviews. Feel free to share your own thoughts on the topic down below. Are you for or against paid or free reviews? What are your own experiences with paid or unpaid reviewers? Did you regret your experiences or were you happy with them? I’m interested to know! Come back next week for the third and final part of this series: Can readers trust paid reviews?