Friday, December 22, 2017

Should authors (especially self-published) pay for book reviews? Is it legal? Ethical? Widespread?


Recently I’ve gotten emails offering deals for paid reviews for my books. 
  
Is it ethical for authors to pay for reviews?  I'll lay aside my own moral inclinations and try to survey industry opinions with some journalistic objectivity. Unfortunately, pundits are all over the place on this one. The question sounds more sensitive for self-published "newbies" than for established family-supporting writers. 
     
I checked a couple of stories.  Here is one by Kristem Houghton from July 2016 in Huffington Post. 
    
Jane Friedman weighs in on the topic, suggesting that paid reviews are more appropriate for trade books in certain industries or in children’s., but probably not for the overly personalized narratives I have offered.  As for whether they are “tainted”, the answer is, maybe.


But another site warns that buying paid reviews can get you kicked off Amazon.  It’s not clear if that means buying any paid reviews, or just buying Amazon reviews (and that reminds me of Twitter’s spying on “affiliations” of users for violence, just as I ponder this now).  But it seems to be legal.  I don’t think the FTC has ever said anything about it (thank you, Ajit Pai). 

Publisher’s Weekly offers an “Indie’s Guide to Paid Reviews”   and one can see that many regard this as an acceptable industry practice.

I'll add that my own book and movie reviews, both on Blogger and now Wordpress, are indeed "free".  Like in Reid Ewing's public library (in his 2012 short film). 


One problem with the offer I got recently:  the books in question are old (2000, 2002 and the latest is 2014 – even three-plus years is old for non-fiction).  With a novel being planned, I can consider the idea prospectively for 2018 for the novel. 

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