THE BLOG
07/30/2015 05:09 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2016

Book Reviews: Should You Pay for Them?

Every author wants his or her book reviewed in a positive manner. Realistically, a book by an unknown author starts out with a small chance of success while that same book and author can gain excellent momentum toward success with a number of positive reviews. Most writers ask fellow authors with a good track record of their own to write "book blurbs" which appear on the book's cover, as well as reviews on sites where their books are sold. Some authors use friends and family to write reviews. I personally God bless each and every reader who takes the time to write reviews for my books.

But the more reviews the better, so we are told. Why not go to the big boys and girls for a review? Writing to the New York Times or USA Today book reviewers is a good idea but you have to keep in mind that they receive, and this is no exaggeration, over 3,000 books a year. So now what? Should you consider paying to have someone review your book? Many authors do.

Speaking of the New York Times brings to mind an article by David Streitfeld which was published in 2012 about the topic of paid book reviews. The article told the story of The Publishing Guru, Todd Rutherford and the highly profitable business he began by writing and selling reviews to authors. Using social media, a healthy Twitter following, and a nicely designed, user-friendly website touting his "much-needed author service," he created what his target audience, new writers, wanted: good reviews.

The business took off like a rocket. Three years ago, Mr. Rutherford was grossing about $28,000 a month from writing reviews for authors. The man was so swamped with "orders" that he had to hire a cadre of bloggers just to keep up with the demand. Thousands of authors paid for these reviews for the simple reason that reviews helped sell their books. The biggest obstacle any author faces is getting attention for his or her book and paying for reviews will pretty much help deal with that. Mr. Rutherford is still plying his trade even though Amazon, tipped off to his overabundance of reviews, has since taken them down and blocked him.

Now paying for reviews is a commonplace practice. ForeWord, ($295), Kirkus, ( standard service $425, express service $575), and Publishers Weekly, (various guidelines), offer programs where you "pay to play."

Does it work? Well, apparently it did for indie author, John Locke, a New York Times best-selling author who bought over 300 reviews to help push his popularity when it looked like blogging and social media alone wouldn't sell enough books. Locke was the eighth author, and first self-published one, to sell over one million eBooks on Amazon.com.

Online reviews seem to hold the most promise. Almost every print newspaper in the country has done away with its book review section. Fewer people read traditional, print book reviews but will read online blogs and websites that feature book reviews.

The question still remains; should you pay for a review of your book? A five star review from a top book reviewing site carries a good deal of weight. They hire only the best writers and you are paying for their professional expertise. This is what you will get for a paid review. You will be sure that a qualified reviewer will read your entire book, give you feedback, and follow professional guidelines for the review. However, even though you have paid for this service, you may not always get a glowing review. A professional reviewer may love or hate your book, and if the review is not to your liking, most companies will give you the option of publishing the review or not. You did pay the money and if you're dissatisfied you cannot recoup it but you can decide not to have the review made public.

Avid readers, bloggers and book reviewers with a large following are a good bet for reviews. They don't charge a cent. The good thing is if they like your book, they will oft-times feature the book, along with their review of it, on their popular blog. Keep in mind that many of these reviewers carry a lot of influence in the industry and with readers. A good review on a well-read blog will boost sales.

There is no right or wrong way to get reviews for your books. If you have the money to pay for a review, and feel comfortable doing it, then do so. It pays to remember that getting reviews for your book is akin to getting publicity for it. Time, effort, some money spent, and being tenacious are needed.

Ah, and we all thought that after the book was finished, our job was done! We're learning that there's a lot more to this profession. Happy writing!

a href="http://www.amazon.com/Grave-Misgivings-Kristen-Houghton-ebook/dp/B010GQST8C/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8" target="_hplink"> the second book in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.
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