Will You Pay to Have Your Indie Book Professionally Reviewed?

I would love to hear some opinions on this question because I really struggle with whether or not to pony up the 400 smackers to have my book professionally reviewed. Let’s face it, a reputable book review source, especially for an Indie author, can be a great way to attach credibility and the promise of quality to your book that doesn’t come from your own self-serving mouth or  your less-than-famous name.

A positive book review is something you can slap on all your collateral and sales material, even on the book itself.

A positive book review makes the prospective reader’s job that much easier. It allows everyone to relax because a higher power has deemed that the book you’re about to read is fine…maybe even, Saints be praised, good! And if you, as an unknown Indie author, had to pay for that review, not unlike how you had to pay to get your prose line-edited and your cover designed, well, isn’t that just the cost of doing business as an Indie? If you’re like me, I can just see you fantasizing about the 14-point bold type tripping across your book cover above the title: “Storytelling that tingles the spine and enchants the soul…” Kirkus Review. It’s a lovely dream. Except for two teeny tiny little points:

Point Number One. Kirkus Review is not a paid review service and they don’t review Indies. Kirkus Indie, on the other hand, does. The good news, is that you get the name “Kirkus” one way or the other. The bad news is that you’ll pay $425 for a review in 7-9 week and $575 for 3-4 week turnaround.

Oh, yeah. Point Number Two. There’s no guarantee the review will be positive.

If you don’t contest the benefits of positive reviews and being able to use them to promote your book, then you probably know you need to be spending more time asking for them. Whether you pay for that review and take the chance on it being favorable or not (a bad review is a painful way to spend $400) depends on the state of your checking account and how strongly you believe in your book. There are, of course, studies out there that will support the belief that even a bad review is better than no review when it comes to creating visibility for your book.

Well? Anybody who paid for a review and was happy or not happy?

Here are a few more links to check out on the subject. (BTW: When I checked out BlueInk Review, they wanted $395 for a 7-9 week response or $495 for the review in 4-5 weeks. (I don’t know about you, but if I’m paying $400, I want to be able to use the name Kirkus on my sales materials.))





21 thoughts on “Will You Pay to Have Your Indie Book Professionally Reviewed?

  1. Interesting subject. I’ve stumbled across paid reviews, but I woudln’t really think of having one done at this stage. It does feel rather as if paying for the review in the first place would compromise the whole process, even though I know they are not necessarily positive.
    Perahps it makes a difference that while I hope that people to find and enjoy my book when it comes out soon, I’m not trying to make a living out of being an author?
    I’ll be very interested to hear what others think on this subject.

      • It seems that some are mad that traditionally published novels get reviews without paying and think that paid-for reviewers are taking advantage of self-publishers. Kirkus responded on the thread that they only charge to weed through serious self-publishers, but that didn’t jibe with many of the self-publishers on the thread. They said everything much better than I could, but it showed me that the Kirkus Indie stamp might not be worth so much after all.

      • I admit, it does look like one more instance where service providers are finding an opportunity to screw the indie author. I agree, the Kirkus’ response on the thread doesn’t make sense! Thanks for including this link; really helped put flesh on the bones of this argument.

  2. I had a professional review on my first two short stories. Not sure if I would do it again, but it was helpful because it made me look at things I had not thought of. I was told the stories were enjoyable and fun, but the reviews were also very critical of other things. I learned from them, it made made me a better writer, but I don’t think I need to ‘pony up’ the money again. Get it done once to point out where you need to improve. Hope this helps.

  3. Do you mean pay for a review before or after you publish the indie book? If you got it professionally reviewed by a reputable source before, then that would allow you to make corrections and improve the quality of your work.
    I’m not keen on the idea of paying someone to review your published book.

    • No, I believe in paying good money for a decent editor to help you sort out problems in your manuscript before publication. That’s all a part of the creation/revision process. But once you’ve finished it, polished it, had it professionally copy-edited and then released it into the world, a review on the finished novel can often be helpful in helping to sell the book. I don’t have a problem with the idea of paying for a review, if it’s an honest review. I’m just not 100% sure, as “Prue” and “Shay” both mention here in the comments, whether or not reviews are really the thing prospective readers look at to determine whether or not to purchase a book! Honestly, I don’t think I pay much attention to them. I’m much more interested in checking out the free sample chapter!

      • Yes, the sample at the start is very important. I tend to buy based on word of mouth, the blurb and the cover artwork. I’m terribly for buying books simply because I love the cover design 🙂

  4. Seems like it’s a who you are and where you’re going thing, you’re in a hurry and just can’t wait to catch that morning train and you just gotta have another cigarette. you pay your money and go for the review. of course the other thing is you have to have the money. My course would be to ask a different question. maybe a couple of questions. Does it matter? Why am I doing this writing thing anyway? What in the heck do I want, or need, to get out of this urge to write, to be noticed, to be loved, to have my name in lights bigger than the Hollywood Sign? And this one’s GOING TO SELL DANG-IT or I’ll never come out of the closet. In the grand scheme of things $400 dollars isn’t really that much. One or two months of groceries. Although, taking a calmer stance, good or bad. Will it change things that much? Will it change who you are, your love of writing, your love of coupling words and phrases, telling stories, walking through those woods, arranging the pieces of the puzzle just so, standing on the edge of that cliff a mile high and can’t wait to fly. I think the question you have to ask yourself is, do you have to know now. Do you have to fly today. This minute. Do you have fly like a rocket strait to the stairs. Or can you wait, for your wings to unfold naturally in their own time, for the warm breezes to fill them and lift you to where ever you’re special angels will take you? Why the hurry your day will come, because it’s already inside you and you’re you, and you have no choice.

  5. Bottom line, I just can’t afford it at this point. I have beta readers who read and critique for free, an editor with a sharp eye and my trust, so when she says she doesn’t like something, I listen. Now, I would pay to have say, Oprah give it a once over, lol…but otherwise, I’ll keep that $400 to spend on some other marketing. At least for now ;-).

  6. I wouldn’t spend $400 for a review even if I had the money. As a reader (who has been one since birth LOL), I have never once bought a book based on a review, professional or otherwise. I go based on blurb, cover, and sample. And recommendations from friends and family. I’ve yet to have someone tell me they bought my books because of a review. They bought based on cover, blurb, and recommendations 😉 There are plenty of bloggers and places like TCM Book Reviews, Kindle Book Review, etc that review Indie/self-published authors. For TCM Reviews, the payment is to have them place the review on various sites (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, plus others). But the review itself is free. They send it to you to use as you please. Just some time spent on Google will yield many reviewers that are willing to take Indie books. So why spend just for a name that most readers most likely won’t care about anyway??

  7. Dear me. How could I justify that much money for something I don’t believe in — although a lot of other people do.
    I don’t read reviews ever since missing a few films rated ‘poor’ and which, when I eventually caught up with them, were enjoyable. I reckoned book reviews would be the same. I make up my own mind.

    This seems the tip of an iceberg which has recently come into being — and I’m not sure I can explain easily what I mean. Something about publishing changing and Indie/self-pub looking asi if it’s trying to work in the same way as traditional publishing.

    It seems to me that Indie publishing would be better finding its own way. Rather than paying for reviews, wouldn’t it be better for Indies to use the Internet and networking (thinking about the idea of six degrees of separation) and develop a ‘word of (electronic) mouth’ system — which surely must be happening already — which bypasses traditional, and expensive, systems?

    While I’m only just getting into this area, it seems from what I’ve seen so far that things are muddled. Although that could just be me 🙂

  8. I’m with some of the commenters in that I don’t have the money to plunk out on a review. I don’t even have the money to plunk out on a professional editor (which is around $800-2000, definitely don’t have that kind of cash), so I use beta readers who are also editors or seasoned teachers or writers themselves. It might sound like I’m skimping, but I put my money towards the cover and other things that were vital. While good editing is vital, as with good reviews, I just can’t afford it.

    All of this to say I don’t think, if your wallet is a little small at the moment, that you should do it. But if you do have it, are you confident enough in your story to put out that money and know you’ll get at least a few decent snippets worth for quotes on the back cover (or in the description section)?

  9. Wow, thank you to all the commenters and Susan for writing this blog as I have gained more knowledge as to the publishing process myself and I can definitely share this with other aspiring writers. Thanks so much! Excellent discussion! 😀


  10. Susan, I’m sure it’s a case of different strokes for different folks, but personally I would never pay for a review. Having said that, I suppose it really depends a lot on your genre and your perception of your target audience. I write action/adventure, thriller type books, and I’m pretty sure my average reader could care less if a review comes from Kirkus or PW or where ever. Writers with a literary focus might get more mileage out of a ‘name brand’ review. However, I’m still a bit skeptical about that.

    I’ve done quite well with reader reviews on both Amazon and B&N (+100 on both sites since September) and in my opinion, a heap of 4 & 5 star reader reviews trumps a few brand name reviews, at least in my market. I worked like hell to get the first 50, but after that they kind of hit critical mass. I’m getting 4 or 5 a week now, without doing too much. Obtaining reviews is a grind, but it’s not rocket science. My experience is you just have to ask for them, by:

    1. Making sure there’s a closing note in your book, asking readers to post a review and also inviting them to email you.

    2. Answer every single reader email, and always include a polite request for a review and links to both Amazon and B&N to make it easy for the reader.

    3. Do a Library Thing giveaway. You will get a list of folks to email copies of your book. Look at each recipient’s profile on Library Thing, and those for those that are active reviewers, make a special effort to send them a personal email based on your review of their profile. These reviewers are gold, because they’ll likely review on LT, and also Amazon, B&N, and maybe Smashwords and GoodReads as well.

    4. Which brings me to GoodReads. You need a physical book to do a GR Giveaway, but if you have one DO IT! I ran my GR Giveaway for 2 weeks (most run much longer) and had 700 people sign up for an opportunity to win one of 3 autographed paperbacks. I sent the books off to the 3 winners, and then started reviewing the profiles of the other 697. It they looked like active reviewers with ereaders, I sent them a polite message offering them a free copy of DEADLY STRAITS. Some declined. Most accepted, and it yielded several reviews.

    There are other things you can do, but those are the most productive, at least in my experience. They don’t cost much money, but they do require a lot of time, but nothing in life is free.

    • Robert-awesome comment post and thank you. Personally, I intend to print it out and post it near my computer to use as a how-to for gathering more reviews. (PLUS, I figure you just saved me $400.) Great comment with real meat to help all of us raise up our visibility on our books. BTW: loved your post on the vet and the little boy!

  11. Excellent post, Susan.

    I would be inclined not to do it; it feels like a service provider screwing over an indie. I think, as you say, it’s more important to have beta readers and editors on hand to go over the manuscript before publishing to check things over and help the polishing along. Word of mouth can take it from there. This, on the other hand, comes across as somewhat unethical, at least to me.

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