Authors attempting to pay for reviews…

I am a very angry and nasty person whose opinion counts for nothing. You might not have heard that unless you read the comments by self-published author Karen S. Bell on my blog in response to a review of her hastily written book Sunspots.

Admittedly, the review was a bit of a hack job, and while I would argue that the book was as well, I can see why Karen might be a bit pissed. After all, she paid good money for my review. Wait a minute…she what?!

You see, as a reader, I am strongly opposed to sockpuppetry and paid for reviews. I believe that they are totally immoral, that they mislead readers and that they create an environment in which dishonest authors and publishers thrive because of the amount of money that they are willing to throw at promoting their book. The implications of this are obvious. Readers have inferior writing forced upon them while better authors who promote their work honestly are overlooked. I would never endorse this in my professional life and I sure as hell wouldn’t accept payment for a review in my private life. Call me a naïve idealist if you will, but it is pretty high up on my “goes against everything I stand for” list. And I’m not alone in feeling that way as you can read here, here and here.

So you can imagine my shock when Karen commented:

“Most bloggers have a policy to just not review a book they hate. After all, the tour host and paying client are not happy to have a book trashed so harshly. As far as one of your quotes, I guess you didn’t realize the character had a speech impediment. Anyway, lucky for me your low opinion of this book is not the majority. I know I can’t please everyone but you seem angry, livid about this book. Perhaps you should have bowed out as soon as you realized you hated it since you were asked as part of a blog tour that I paid for.”

I would like to clarify that while I don’t accept payment for reviewing books, I don’t have a policy of not reviewing books I hate. Neither do most other decent book bloggers that I read. After all, if you don’t have a range of opinions and express them, it is less a review and more a list of books you like and why. While I admire Karen’s bravery and honesty in admitting that she has paid for reviews,  I am outraged at learning that I was asked to review a book and not told that it was part of a paid blog tour in which the author expected only positive reviews posted. The blog host has told me on twitter that only the organisation of the blog tour was paid for (though they didn’t include my negative review) and that they didn’t think it was relevant to inform reviewers that they are paid, but I think Karen’s comments make her expectations pretty clear. And the arrogance of the author to suggest a personal failure “I guess you didn’t realize…” because I hadn’t enjoyed the book like her four and five starred reviewers… well I think I just blew a gasket.

So what have I learned from this?

Always check with a blog tour host to check that they haven’t been paid by the author. I can’t believe I’m even having to write that when I think of all the lovely book bloggers I know, but there you go. Maybe I am just naïve.

And since I was asked to post my review on Amazon as well as my blog, continue to suspect the integrity of five-star reviews with no criticism on there as well.

Have any other readers and reviewers encountered this problem before? Would anyone like to take on the challenge of reading Sunspots (available on Amazon) and give their honest (and unpaid) opinion of the book?

2 thoughts on “Authors attempting to pay for reviews…

  1. Rosie

    She’s obviously just one of the hoardes of people on the Internet who cannot take criticism and if you don’t like what she’s done, you’re wrong. I had a look at her FB and blog since she’d linked to them when she commented (I’m too lazy to google-stalk but thought I’d at least have a look before sealing an already formed opinion). She says herself her sales are disappointing and whilst I appreciate that it must sting like crazy to put so much effort into writing a book and not have the success you had hoped for, it doesn’t magically remedy poor writing to purchase 100 fake good reviews. I remember your review clearly and you said it had a good premise but then indicated its weaknesses; this is constructive criticism and the author would do well to keep it in mind when she goes back to writing. I get the impression no-one has given her proper helpful feedback on the book before it was published — her reaction reminds me a little of Amy in that Gordon Ramsey show (google Amy’s Baking Company if you haven’t heard of it).

    1. Siobhan Post author

      I hadn’t heard of it but I will be sure to google it now. Yeah, I see what you mean about the author’s FB and blog, I hadn’t read them before. There’s very much an emphasis on commercial success but little about the quality of writing or revision process. The fact of the matter is, if you want your writing to be commercially successful, you need to work with an agent, a decent editor and a publisher with the networks in place to promote your book. There’s so much brilliant, witty and intelligent chick lit about that anything at all lackluster is going to get lost.


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