readingAfter reading this article recently about Amazon book reviews being paid for by giving free books to bloggers, I started to do a little deeper research. What I was looking for was information regarding the background of reviewers. In other words, how many people wrote their review after buying and reading the book they bought from Amazon? Or any other online book retailer for that matter.

Then I thought about the people I know who buy books from Amazon. Did they return to Amazon after having read the books they purchased and complete a review? I couldn’t find an affirmative answer.

Now I can’t say that I found all the answers that I was looking for, but I stumbled across enough to start thinking. Large publishers use reviews to drive sales. No surprises here. But what if a portion of these reviews are paid for by whatever means? At least in an attempt to make a book look a little more popular.

As a self-publisher, I don’t have anywhere near the resources to compete with the marketing strategies and campaigns of large publishers. But, with the increasing number of self-publishers now, there may be a possibility of gaining strength in numbers.

If I was to suggest to another self-publishing author that I would write a review for them in exchange for writing a review from me, would that be ethical? Or is it the same deal as I referred to at the beginning of this blog post?

I would be very interested to hear the views of other self-published authors on this topic.

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Self-Publishers Unite?
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15 thoughts on “Self-Publishers Unite?

  • 01/02/2010 at 7:14 pm

    I think Publetariat suggested a similar thing a couple of months ago. Apologies to them if I'm wrong.

    Ethics of it? No real opinion, people gotta do whatever it takes that sits comfortably with them.

    Me, I just want an honest response – even if it's an agreed 'swap' of reviews, if they didn't like mine, then say so.

    marc nash

  • 01/02/2010 at 7:40 pm

    You know I do think it would be ethical. Credibility of the reviewer is a selling point of their review. By writing reviews, the reviewer's cred. increases. I say go for it.

    This is one self-publishing social network I'm aware of. I've signed up on it as birdify (same as my twitter name)

    Thanks for writing (sharing), Derek! : )


  • 01/02/2010 at 8:09 pm

    I write reviews for no charge. Why would I do that? Because I'm crazy? No, it's because I want to write a honest review for a book. I started my book review blog because I was sick of every 'review' being fabulous! Most aren't truthful, especially if they are paid for. I'm happy to review all fictional books (house or self published) but I always note that I do not guarantee a high star review. I always list 'gems' and 'flaws' in hopes of giving an informed review that allows the reader the 'choice' to go forth and purchase.

    I've found that some writer's are very nervous if a 'good' review is not guaranteed. No one wants something said that could hurt sales. That is why I do the gems and flaws for every book. They all have them — some you have to dig deeper for, but I think in the end it is the most constructive.

    Anyhoo…here's my book review blog. Check it out — see what you think. I'd love to link up with other author's and other bloggers interesting in an exchange ect.

  • 01/02/2010 at 8:12 pm

    I think it is ethical. I"ve had publishers and authors ask me to write a review for their books. When I've told authors that I liked their books, I've been asked to rate it on Amazon. I don't get paid for it and I wouldn't do it unless I liked the product.
    There is no reason self publishers can't do the same thing.

  • 01/02/2010 at 8:29 pm

    Let's face it, half the reviews in the national newspapers are by well-known mates/peers of the authors, so no, it probably would be no less ethical than those.

    I've had a couple of online reviews where the reviewer has contacted me by e-mail saying the review of my book isn't very favourable, did I still want it to be published? Now while that is very sweet of them to do so, I couldn't really understand why they sounded out my opinion. I told them to please publish the reviews. One of them got 'syndicated' to my Amazon page, but I'm happy with that as well. I just don't see the problem. What's the point in trying to snow people?

    marc nash

  • 01/02/2010 at 11:29 pm

    Today there's a real opportunity for self-publishing as an alternative to the crisis of the old publishing bizz system. It's something that will benefit both authors and readers. But I can't see it happening without the authors coming together and supporting each other.

    Internet is a wonderfu tool for self marketing and self distribution but to reach the audience it's very important that alike artists get together and share the same audience. It's a common goal and a common experience.

  • 02/02/2010 at 12:42 am

    As an accidental book publisher for local authors and also invlolved in local business networks, the easier way to get honest reviews is to ask people what they think of a piece of work. Then ask their permission to use their quotes. A good way to do this is to write back to them reminding them of their review word and asking if you can post their quote. In many instances people are pleased and agre – because you in turn have shown that you appreciate their opinion.
    By the way, here is my unsolicited review of this article:
    "Derek's article on book reviews for others being paid for and the debate on how a self publisher could ethically gain valid reviews really made me think, what is more important to me as an indivdual, having reviews at any cost or reviews that mean something. An article like Derek's that makes one think is surely something we should all aspire to on the web!"

  • 02/02/2010 at 4:37 am

    But also be aware that Kindle owners have gotten into the habit of giving one-star ratings to books that are experiencing delayed release (currently a one-month delay for hardcovers from the big name authors) from the publishers. They will not start giving one-star reviews to books priced over $9.99. So self-published might be the way to go for the time being.

  • 02/02/2010 at 4:40 am

    Being paid for reviews is now against the law which was enacted on Oct 1 2009. You can leave any review you want, but be honest about it. As a consumer, I can tell you see through it and have learned to pick out the phonies. The other day, I read 5 reviews that were obviously set up and they were the only ones on Amazon for that book. I figured they were the writer's friends or family… and I bit windy, I might add.

  • 02/02/2010 at 4:44 am

    I meant *we* see through it, left out a word there… cute kitty. :) It also doesn't matter to me who publishes a book, but fiction can get lost in the crowd, there is so much of it and topics are often hard to search for. In that instance, I might look at what other books people are buying who bought the one I'm looking at.

  • 02/02/2010 at 5:35 am

    I am constantly receiving emails from the self-help gurus with rave reviews for books that are not out yet so that they make the best sellers list on release day. I can't imagine they have read everyone of those books that they are promoting.

    I would assume this is pretty much the same when you exchange reviews. Go for it.

  • 02/02/2010 at 5:48 am

    I've been posting book reviews for free on my blog, The Book Grrl, for a while now. Currently, I'm posting excerpts there with a link to the whole review on Suite101, which means I'm still doing them for free. (If there's money to be made on Suite101, let me tell you, it's not writing book reviews.)

    Anyhow, I asked an author to review my book and she asked me to review hers in exchange. I was nervous about the arrangement at first, fearful that 1) it might compromise my honest opinion and 2) I might hate the book. Happily, however, I didn't have to worry about #1, because I really enjoyed the book (mooting issue #2).

    I think the arrangement can be handled ethically, if you're honest with yourself and the other author. However, I'd be lying if I said there were no potential pitfalls.

  • 02/02/2010 at 2:42 pm

    It makes good marketing sense to encourage others to review your book. I would say it is perfectly ethical, providing both parties are honest.

  • 02/02/2010 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you all for you comments. They are most appreciated. I suppose the one common thread is that as self-publishing authors, we are on our own. So clearly, cooperating in some manner would assist us all.

    I've seen some sites that are trying to help, but in my mind it is the first 1 or 2 short reviews that can be posted to online bookstores that would seem to give the greatest boost. Not a full, long and detailed review. To keep costs down, maybe an exchange of pdf files of a book? And then reciprocal reviews?

    What do you think?


  • 04/02/2010 at 8:24 am

    I think that an agreement between self published authors to each other is fine as long as there are no promises that both reviews must be favourable ones.

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