Thursday, June 23, 2016

Should Bloggers Charge for Reviews

It's Confessions day on Indie Authors & Book Blogs, and once again, I find myself with something long winded to say. Before I get started, the above confession does not reflect the views of the folks at IABB (well it might, but it was submitted anonymously and they are just gracious enough to provide the platform for the airing). It also does not reflect the views of the graphics artist that created the graphic. They have just donated their time to put the graphics together so we can view them each week. Again, the confession is anonymous, and only reflects the views of the anonymous confessor. 

So this confession doesn't have me ranty, but it does make me feel like edification is called for. A little bit of background, a couple of common themes on confessions are authors complaining about bloggers not being professional and not reading and reviewing in a timely fashion; and bloggers complaining about how we don't really make much money doing this and doing it in our free time. I went into detail on that score in The Business of Blogging. This semi-consistent back and forth between authors and bloggers led to the above confession.

On the surface, this actually seems like a good idea. I can honestly say that I have thought about how I could make it work to actually get paid by authors to read and review their books. But I immediately run into problems. First, how much do you charge for a book review? It takes me on average 8 hours to read a book, and then another 1-2 hours to write the review and build the blog post. So do I charge $70 for one review so that I'm making almost minimum wage? That seems a bit steep for a little blog like myself. I doubt many indie authors could even think about shelling out that kind of money for one review, let alone the dozens they need to really get some traction for their books. Maybe $5 per review sounds reasonable though, right? Surely that's feasible. But then I'd be making less than $1 per hour of "work" and at that rate, I might as well not charge at all, really. So I've weighed both sides of the rates, and I still don't even know where to begin with pricing my reviews. I imagine demand for reviews would plummet simply because most indie authors just can't afford to be paying for dozens of reviews from blogs.

Second, if I'm being paid to review books, I can't post them on Amazon. That's a violation of Amazon's terms of service and could get me barred from even being able to shop on Amazon, and since I currently live in Germany where I don't have access to all the American amenities that I love, I NEED Amazon. Additionally (and this doesn't actually affect me), if Amazon believes that an author is paying for reviews that are posted on Amazon, that author can lose their publishing privileges through Amazon. This is why Kirkus reviews (which are paid for) are always seen as Editorial Reviews on Amazon rather than in the customer review section. This is also why I don't post reviews for the books that I'm hired to proofread on Amazon. Even though I wasn't paid for a review, I did receive financial compensation in connection with those books.

Third, if I'm being paid to review books, I would expect my readers to question the integrity of my reviews. I would question the integrity of reviews written by other bloggers who were being paid to review the books they're reviewing. In fact, I suspect that you question the integrity of the reviews I write for the books that I've been paid to proofread. I will tell you that I'm actually more critical of the storyline in my reviews of books I've proofread, and while that's the honest truth, I don't expect you to believe me (because would the average person really tell you if they were less than honest in reviews for books they've worked on for money?) But this is also why I start my reviews with a disclosure about my connection with the books. I want you to know right off the bat why I had the book I was reviewing in the first place, so you can make your own informed decisions about how much stock to put into my review.

So you see, I'm not hiding behind doing this for free simply as an excuse to be rude (and I probably do come across as rude on occasion. I have a tendency towards snark, I don't sugarcoat my thoughts just to make them more palatable, and I have very little tolerance for people I feel to be inconsiderate.) I do this for free, because there is really no other way it can be done while maintaining my integrity as a reviewer, and for the most part, I am happy doing it, but I'm going to do it on my terms and my terms only. Do I feel undervalued? Yep...but as I mentioned before, I also don't really know how much I'd be worth and that is problematic in itself. And as far as the back and forth being a waste of time, I have to disagree. No one makes me engage with those confessions. I do that of my own free will. I make the choice to devote my time to commenting on them, just like I made the choice to devote some time to writing this post. Please don't blame others because of how you've chosen to spend your time. - Katie 

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