The Indie Author's Guide to Paid Reviews
For indie authors who have some room in their marketing budgets, paid book review services can be an appealing option.Reviews are a crucial part of a book's marketing strategy. Whether they appear on the book’s jacket or on bookselling sites, reviews make a book seem more professional while giving potential buyers an idea of what it’s about (and whether or not they’ll like it). But, even as self-published books continue to grow in popularity and prestige, it can be difficult for indie authors to get noticed by reviewers at traditional publications and book blogs. So, for indie authors with a budget, paid review services can be appealing.
Pros and Cons
The biggest benefit of purchasing a book review through a service is that indie authors know exactly what they're getting. Review word counts, turnaround time, and any additional features—i.e., links on the review site, options for posting the review to bookselling sites, etc.—are all built into the package. Paying for reviews, in other words, removes a lot of the guesswork that comes with pitching book bloggers.
On the other hand, most review services don’t guarantee positive reviews. It’s a factor worth considering before shelling out the hundreds of dollars that some review services charge.
How to PrepareMost review sites require a completed manuscript of your book. Turnaround time for reviews is typically seven to nine weeks, although indie authors can sometimes pay extra for a faster turnaround.
When deciding which review service to hire, be sure to read each site’s policies carefully and consider any additional perks. IndieReader’s “IR Approved” stickers and Discovery Awards program may appeal to some authors, while the name-recognition of Kirkus will attract others. Weighing the specific benefits of each site will also help indie authors determine how much to pay. In general, review prices range from $100 to $595.
A great way to choose a review service is by reading each publication’s past reviews. This is the best way to get an idea of the quality, detail, and depth of critical attention indie authors can expect.
The following are only a few examples of the paid reviews services indie authors can find online.
IndieReader: IndieReader is an established online resource for indie authors featuring news and editorials on the world of self-publishing as well as an indie-only bestseller list. The site also offers a review service. For a fee of $100, authors can receive a review of at least 300 words on a zero-to-five-star scale (positive reviews are not guaranteed). The typical turnaround time for a review is eight to ten weeks, but authors can pay an extra $50 to get their review in four to six weeks. Reviews, once completed, are posted on IndieReader’s website, and authors can post them to other websites, such as Amazon, as well. There are additional perks for well-reviewed books: Titles that earn four or five stars receive an “IR Approved” sticker, and the site occasionally publishes reviews of its favorite books on USA Today and The Huffington Post.
Kirkus Indie Reviews: Kirkus Reviews is a well-established trade book review publication. The standard price for a review is $425, with a turnaround time of seven to nine weeks; an express review, which takes four to six weeks, costs $575. Kirkus’s reviewers include “librarians, business executives, journalists from national publications, PhDs in religion and literature, creative executives in entertainment and publishing industries as well as other professional reviewers.” And, while the magazine doesn’t guarantee positive reviews, authors can, upon receiving their review, decide whether or not they want it published. Should they decide to have it published (at no extra charge), Kirkus will distribute it to partner sites including Google and BN.com. Editors will also consider indie reviews for inclusion in the bimonthly magazine and weekly newsletter.
Self-Publishing Review: Self-Publishing Review, an online magazine that features coverage of the indie book world as well as editing services, offers a number of options for paid reviews. The most basic option, priced at $109, gets authors a review of at least 500 words (quite lengthy, by industry standards), a spot in the site’s bookstore, a link in the monthly newsletter, and other small perks, including the option to have the review posted on Amazon and BN.com. The site’s turnaround—one month—is also shorter than that of most services. For $249, the site will post a review as a lead story and conduct a ten-question interview with the author. The most expensive option, priced at $595, combines the the Lead Story package with a fast-tracked book review from BlueInk Review, a popular indie review website.
BlueInk Review: BlueInk Review also offers three options for authors, all of them fairly pricey. For $395 indie authors get a Standard Review within seven to nine weeks; $495, the same review within four to six weeks; and $595, the BlueInk Review/Self-Publishing Review joint package mentioned above. BlueInk claims that its reviewers are “carefully vetted, professional writers and critics from mainstream media publications or notable online websites; editors from respected publishing houses; or professionals who have a demonstrated expertise in the subject matter of the book reviewed.” It also boasts relationships with librarians, agents, and publishing professionals, as well as with publishing databases and outlets such as Ingram, Oasis, Publishing Perspectives, and idreambooks.com, a book review aggregator. The site also provides instructions for posting reviews on Amazon and BN.com.