Monday, February 3, 2014

On The Consideration Of A Paid Review

Yesterday - being Monday here in Australia - I submitted my 2012 novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" to, arguably, two of the most recognized book journals in the United States - Kirkus Reviews and the San Francisco Book Review.

Both these journals offer, respectively, a paid service whereby I as an author can submit a published work to them, pay a fee and have my book reviewed by a professional reviewer which can then be published in their respective publications and used as promotional material by myself going forward. 

The catch with these service is that there is no guarantee that the review I receive for "Gifts of the Peramangk" will be a positive one, though I can choose - as a part of the conditions of each program - not to have the review published at all. 

Last year, I took the step of starting a crowd funding campaign via Pozible in order to raise funds to submit my novel to both publications. People could pledge to the campaign for a reward (of which I offered quite a few) or they could simply invest in the campaign. The campaign was successful and I did raise the funds fairly quickly. 

The programs offered by both Kirkus and SFBR have, as I have already mentioned, a fee attached to them and, in the case of Kirkus at least, the fee is considerable. To receive a review of my novel by Kirkus, with an 8 week turn around, costs $425(USD), while SFBR charges $125(USD). In the case of SFBR - if the review is negative, I can opt to take up an offer of advertising in their journal rather than the publication of the review. 

As part of crowd funding campaign, I made the commitment that I would proceed with the publication of the reviews in both journals regardless of the outcome - which is a significant commitment to make, given that the reviews in both cases could well be negative. What I am banking on, I guess, is the body of opinion that is already out there around "Gifts of the Peramangk" which is widely positive. 

So you may be asking - why then, submit to Kirkus and SFBR at all?

Both journals are considered to be major sources of learned opinion by all sorts of people involved in the publishing and book industry. Careers have been made (and in some cases broken) on the strength of opinion provided by these two journals alone. While I don't believe that their opinions about "Gifts of the Peramangk" will necessarily propel it into the publishing stratosphere, their stated commitment to providing a professional, industry recognized review makes me believe that they are both worth a shot. Garnering reviews from reputable sources is becoming harder and harder for authors like myself. Mainstream publications here in Australia avoid pretty much anything that hasn't been produced by a major publishing house. Believe me, months and months of working the phone, writing (yes writing) letters, physically visiting newspapers and magazines here in Australia have taught me that. Kirkus and SFBR at the very least, offer an alternative. 

Of course, I regard "Gifts of the Peramangk" as a significant literary achievement on my part. I believe in the novel and the work I poured into it. So, I'm approaching this with a certain amount of self belief. I don't want to sit by and pass on a chance for success if I can do something to help it succeed. 

The other question you may be asking is - is it unethical to pay for a review?

Believe me, I have mulled over this particular question a lot have looked through the body of opinion regarding the ethics of paying for a review. I opened up a veritable hornets nest over at Kindle Boards last year by posting about my intentions in order to see what the mood was. Though I won't get into the details here - you can click over and view the shit storm that I created subsequently. It wasn't very encouraging. 

Seeking a more level headed opinion, I had a number of conversations last year with best selling author and social media consultant Rachel Thompson - an extremely level head - who distilled the argument down for me succinctly by pointing out that both journals carry considerable weight in terms of the reviews they provide, that you as the author cannot influence the outcome of the review despite paying the required fee and both journals are required to review based on a set of guidelines that are regarded as industry standard. In my mind, the ethics here are clear. 

So, the submissions being in, all I can do now is patiently wait. Both journals have provided me with a tentative date of April 7th when the reviews will be available. At that time, I'll assess them both and plan for their release. 

Am I nervous? Of course I am. 

Am I committed to them? Yes. 


Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson - Available Now.


  1. You could have submitted your book for review to Kirkus without paying. My Alicewinks was reviewed for free and earned a Kirkus Star. That said, you are not guaranteed a review. And even a star review is no guarantee of any commercial success. We went on to get a best of 2013 from Kirkus in two categories. But our sales are still abysmal.

    1. As I say, I'm under no illusions that this will magically produce some sort of blistering success - or even some minor form. But I've wrestled with the idea for so long that I feel obligated - for my own personal sanity - to see this through to its conclusion.

      And the twinkle of a chance is just too irresistible to ignore.

    2. Which is not to say I haven't paid for reviews. I paid 40 mom bloggers to write sponsored posts. And I gave away an iPad to get reviews on the I Bookstore. Plus I got a nice free review on huff post. It's a tough market out there!

    3. Wow - an iPad! Wish I had a known about that one :)

      I've lost count of the number of book bloggers I've approached seeking reviews of my titles. In many cases, I think my emails disappeared down a black hole. There were a lot of "thanks but no thanks" and only a handful of "Yes - I'll review" .

      I blame Twilight.

    4. This is all US based, by the way. Offer them $100 and they will probably do it. They will need to say that it is a "sponsored" post to stay clean in FCC regulations. This is silly, but that is how it is. Look for bloggers who are already publishing post that say they are sponsored. they are probably looking for the money. You should ask for an independent assessment, not try to influence them. If you ask for a favorable review they will probably turn you down. You can also go to a blog aggregator, such as Tap Influence but that will cost a lot.

    5. This is all US based info, by the way. Offer a Blogger $100 and they will probably do it. They must mark it as a "sponsored" post to stay in FCC rules. You should not try to influence them or they will decline. Look for bloggers that already have "sponsored" posts on their sites. They are looking for $. You can use a blog aggregator like TapInfluence but it will cost you big $$$. That said, not sure how much good all the blogs have done for Alicewinks. We gave away 200 copies to "first commenters" (actually everybody who commented got a free copy.) But sales are still slow and were even over Christmas.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Dean. Your rationale is interesting and well considered. I look forward to reading the reviews and seeing how successful the process is for you.

    1. Thank you Catherine. It's good to know that others think I've put forward a well considered rationale for embarking on this process. I shall (most likely) be sharing the reviews here and elsewhere when they become available to me so I hope you can stop by again to read them.

  3. I look forward to the results. Best wishes.

    1. Thank you Norah. It will be say the least.