5 Reasons NOT to Pay for Book Reviews / Promotion


Well, “good news” fellow writers… you too can have a New York Times Bestseller and it doesn’t really have to be that good of a book – IF you have enough cash.  This according to an article I came across on Forbes (click here to read).  Just a little mind boggling, don’t you think?  I mean, it’s highly unrealistic to think most of us authors would have the kind of capital to buy our way onto that particular well-known list – but it’s the principle of the thing.  I had hoped some things were a little sacred, but I guess all is fair in love, war, and publishing?

And yet it’s not just the good folks over at the Times looking to make a buck by putting their good name on your book. Apparently there are a lot of services on the web to ‘help’ self-publishing & new authors make a name for themselves.  They’ll make up some graphics for you and share a free copy of your book with every blogger and their best dog Mel to review – all for a nominal fee, of course.

That might sound pretty fair on the surface – paying someone for their help in promotion is a fair trade after all – but are you really getting what they’re selling?

Let’s be clear from the get.  I’m not talking about those services which will only read your book if they’re paid to do so.  Many bloggers have started to do these because their reputation is so good with readers that they can’t possibly review all the free books they get sent from day to day.  They’d never have time to blog!  What follows is brought on by finding a site that offered to (for a fee) send out an author’s book to a bunch of affiliate blog sites asking them to review the book and promote it.

Now, from an SEO standpoint it can’t hurt to have your book’s name and your pen name showing up all over the net during a given week.  Ideally the more websites you’re on, the more people are talking about you, the better chances are that the mysterious machines that run search engines like Google will think you’re important enough to show up higher in their results.

The back links (assuming the bloggers provide them, many only link back to the blog/service which is paid to promote your book … which means they’ve effectively promoted their services in place of your book) or links back to your author’s page is a solid thing too.  There are a lot of places on the net which tell us that Google places a higher priority on pages which are updated often and that have a lot of links going back to them.

AND I’ll even be generous in admitting that any place your book is mentioned, where people might surf through (even if it’s only other authors looking to see if the blogger ACTUALLY reviewed their book or not), MIGHT catch you a potential reader’s eye.

If this is what you feel you’re paying for … then you may be getting exactly what you want.  More power to you.  Myself, I’ve got a few other things I’d be thinking about if I were in your shoes.

  1. NO ONE VISITS LINK SITES – And let’s face it, if the blogger doesn’t really review your book, that’s all it is.  As a reader I don’t subscribe to the RSS of a site that doesn’t actually provide content I’m interested in for some reason.  If a blogger isn’t really providing reviews of books I might like … what good is it?  Real readers aren’t stopping in and discovering your book and isn’t that why you’re giving it away for free in the first place?  You want real readers to see reviewers singing your praises…
  2. NON-GENRE SPECIFIC REVIEWERS WON’T REACH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE – If I’m a fan of romance books, I’m probably going to seek out those bloggers who review books I enjoy … romances!  Paying someone to give your book out to ANYONE who will put your link on their page and write a “review” (term used loosely) doesn’t really guarantee that anyone who might like to read your book will actually come across it.
  3. RESPECTED REVIEWERS BRING CUSTOMERS – If I take the time to follow a book blogger it’s because they have a similar taste in books as I do.  I will almost always take their high praise of a book to heart – in other words, I’ll probably buy something they suggest.  I have a harder time doing that with anonymous reviews I find on Amazon or other sites because there have been lots of times where something that was popular with a lot of people (even among friends and family) hasn’t been a hit with me.  *cough*Twilight*cough*
  4. I WANT TO KNOW WHO HAS MY BOOK:  And this is a risk anyone takes now-a-days with .pdf and e-versions of books… how many books did you give away for free – really?  Do you know the person you’re sending your payment to?  How ethical are they with who they give your free books away to?  Do they even KNOW the people who they send your .pdf books off to?  Sure not everyone is going to torrent your book, I’m sure some people are honest, but some won’t be.  When you’re the one doing your own marketing you have a far more say in who gets a copy of your book.  In this day when you can go to google and type in the name of just about any book + it’s author + “.pdf” to find a copy of the book online – do you REALLY want to let some unknown person deciding who will be getting copies of your book for free?  Surly it won’t stop piracy to do your own marketing, your book will no doubt be traded, shared, etc … but maybe it will happen a little less (or maybe you’ll sell a copy for every 10 pirated) if you’re the one deciding who has it for free.  One can only hope.
  5. THEY AREN’T DOING ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO FOR FREE: MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR FANS – Believe it or not there are bloggers out there who have a great reputation with a core group of loyal followers.  They are people who love reading books they get for free, and who are willing to write a review of your book FOR FREE!  AND if you’re willing to take a little time, chances are GREAT you can establish a relationship with these amazing people.After all, they’re not just machines put into the world to promote your books… THEY’RE YOUR FAN BASE!  Speaking as a reader and fan of many books, what an honor it would be to be contacted by an author.  I’d be thrilled!  If you’re good enough, they’re gonna be stoked to say they knew you “back when.”Look for sites where books like yours are being reviewed.  Spend time on those sites.  Get to know their writers and the fans of the blog.  Offer to guest blog on their site – bloggers get busy with life too and they adore having help in creating new and interesting content.  AND after all that – don’t be shocked when THEY come to YOU asking to review that new book you just released.

So, am I wrong?  Have YOU tried a paid promotion service such as paid blog tours? Was your experience a good or bad one?  Let me know.  I honestly would love to hear back from some of you self-publishing types as well as folks from the blogging community.  Are you getting paid to write reviews and I’m totally off the mark?  Let me know!

14 comments on “5 Reasons NOT to Pay for Book Reviews / Promotion

  1. I don’t have a published book yet, so I’ve never tried to promote anything and never asked for a review. But I hope one day I’ll be in the position to need some reviews and I’ll keep what you said in mind.

    I too think the blogosphere is a fantastic place where you can meet people who really share your interests and will help you promote, especially if you do the same for them. I don’t think we really need to pay for reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I take part in book tour programmes, but for three reasons, 1) I get to read books I wouldn’t otherwise come across so broadens my reading 2) I can write an honest opinion 3) the book tour company requires the books are professionally edited (although that can mean anything).

    I also take part in author’s book tours (free).

    And I review on request. If people want a deadline met for a review and any editorial notes, then that incurs a charge, otherwise it’s free.

    It depends what authors want from reviews. Glowing five star praise? Ask your friends and family.

    Objectivity and coverage, but who knows what the quality is like? Pay for a book tour.

    Wide coverage for free? Organise your own book tour, but objectivity is less likely.

    Objectivity for free/paid for? Submit to a site such as BRAG or Awesome Indies.

    Self publishing comes in for a lot of criticism, and some of the ‘reviews’ out there actually don’t help because they don’t establish credibility. If I can’t give an indie book three stars I don’t review it, although I will crit mainstream authors.

    I think when authors seek reviews, they need to ask themselves what they are asking for. Horses for courses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Promoting and marketing your book is something publishers – the small ones – don’t do, and it’s hard! I finally hired a marketing group for a somewhat modest cost, What a conundrum,especially if you don’t have the money to do this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s why it bothers me so much. So many writers are living paycheck to paycheck and are far from the dream of being Nora Roberts or Stephen King. The more I talk with self-published authors the more value I see in building a community of authors who will help each other promote (or joining one.)

      No man is an island, as they say, and it’s hard to market when you’re busy writing (and sometimes it’s just hard in general if you don’t know where to start!) However, having a support group & people who will help you spread the word is a good start.

      Wishing you all the best!


      • Thank you DeAnna. For my second book I am going to use every possible route – groups, blogs, twitters, kind blogger-reviewers, pinterest, etc. When I have gone through all that I will sit down and blog about it – see if it gets me more book sales than the first book. That one looked good on Amazon – 32 reviews, 4.5 stars. But I really had to push for sales and didn’t have much interest in the events I had. I’ll be calling all followers for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Shoot me a link to it on amazon when it’s done. I’ll pick up a copy and help spread the word. Sounds like you did well on your first one though… 32 reviews, 4.5 stars – impressive stuff there. Good for you!


      • Thanks so much. I need to get readers hooked on the series so the marketing will get earlier. Will shoot you info in January!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, DeAnna. Thanks for following my blog. I’m following yours now,too! Great post. As for me, I’ve tried quite a few paid promos that don’t pay off. However, I highly recommend RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB as “The Best Book on the Planet” for authors/especially Indies and for readers too. Since joining, my reviews, sales, contacts and fans continue to increase. Here’s a link to their site. Check them out and tell them that Bette sent you! Have a great day! 🙂 Bette

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that community building is inherently better than paying for reviews of dubious origin. It’s harder to get going on that for those of us whose writing does not fit into a well-defined genre, but is “sort of literary, sort of supernatural but not exactly paranormal.” I’m coming to realize I have only myself to blame for the kind of stuff I write, since the indie publishing milieu seems to be organized around recognized genres. (Not a complaint, just an observation). 🙂


  6. Valuable post. And, nice to meet you. Paulette


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