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Should Book Reviewers Be Paid to Review?

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Books, stacks of books waiting to be read, are piled high in my office. Most of these books were sent to me by publicists or the attributed authors, all with the expectation that I'd review their works. Unfortunately, many of these books are dusty with age and any review I'd now write would seem like an afterthought.

There's a feeling of guilt on my part that I've let someone down because I didn't follow through, so I've gotten to the point where I usually demur when I'm queried if I'd be willing to "take a look" at such and such a title by such and such an author, even though some of these pitches are tempting and I think I could manage to fit in some time to read and review the work. Yet, it seems that when I do agree, by the time I get the thick, padded envelope in the mail, I realize that I'll quite likely be unable to get to it in any reasonable time, and it's certainly not because I don't enjoy reading or reviewing. The thing is, since I carry a mortgage, I must first put my energy into the paying gigs.

See, I'm in front of my computer all day critiquing manuscripts, publicizing and marketing other authors, and doing my own writing. By the time early evening rolls around, an hour when many others make time to read, my eyes and brain need a break. The shame of it is that there are fewer places to have one's book reviewed, thanks to so many publications eliminating the position or having folded altogether. So when I first began writing about books that I'd read from my own library, I was surprised, not to mention honored and willing, when the queries for reviews began to come across my desk. Well, I'm still honored and willing, but simply find that I need to put my energy into working for my clients, since that is what pays the bills, which leads me to wonder, is paying someone to review a book still considered unethical, as it had been in the past? Meaning, it would be easier to make the time during the day if I knew I'd be yielding something in return beyond a free book, not to mention the possibility of discovering a delightful story.

There are places that do require payment for reviews, but, overall, there is still a stigma about the practice. To make it clear, however, I'm not suggesting paying someone to give a book a good review, but rather paying someone for their time to read and review a book. The question is, who pays? The publisher? The author? Or should the system remain as is, and have it be a matter of crossing one's fingers and hoping that the reviewer finds the time to follow through.

That said, the next blog you'll see from me will quite likely be a review for a novel I'm very much looking forward to reading. I just hope I can get to it in a timely manner. You know the saying, so many books, so little time.