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.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.
[Note: this article was originally published in December 2014 and was updated on March 10 2017.]
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—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 Prepare
Most 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.
Major PlayersThe 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 $225, authors can receive a review from what the site describes as its professional team that "includes journalists, teachers and librarians, as well as published writers." The review is at least 300 words on a zero-to-five-star scale (positive reviews are not guaranteed). The typical turnaround time for a review is five to nine weeks, but authors can pay an extra $75 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” according to its website. 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, 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 Classic option, priced at $149, gets authors a review from the site's teams of professionals which it describes as having "been reviewing books for almost a decade." The review is at least 500 words, a link in the monthly newsletter, and the option to have the review posted on Amazon. For $299, the site will post a review as a Lead Story, include it on the SPR bookshelf, and conduct a 10-question interview with the author that is shared on social media. The turnaround for these services—30 working days—is also shorter than that of most services. But for those in even more of a hurry, SPR’s Jump Start package offers a 200-word review in 14 working days (which also includes posting the review to Amazon and a listing on the SPR bookshelf, but not the newsletter link).
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 five weeks; and $695, for a 2-Review Package, which includes a review on BlueInk as well as a Foreword Clarion Review. 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, and Publishing Perspectives.