book-reviewers-value-to-authorsOur thanks to Michael Norton for this guest contribution!

If more writers realized that there is a difference between writing a book and selling one, they’d have a far greater appreciation for the book reviewers who actually take the risk of investing the time and energy it takes to sit down and read one’s work, then write a review for it on their websites and social media channels.

Reviewers represent the authorities of your target audience, the threshold guardians granting you passage and announcing your work’s arrival to the world. Without them, a writer who doesn’t first seek the blessing of critics presents their work to the free-market without any social proof—thus making it virtually impossible for them to make sales versus competitors in their respective genres who do.

Readers are Investors

The average reader may not view himself as an investor, but that is exactly what each reader is.  Money, time, energy, attention…these are all finite resources that readers invest into your work. When they get a bad return on their investment, they develop a negative opinion of your work; when they get a good or great return on their investment, they develop a positive opinion of your work.

It’s actually rather simple; however, even if they can get a refund for the money they spent buying your book from the bookstore, they will not be able to get a refund on the time and life-force they spent, which is what entitles them to their opinion.

When these opinions are vented, expressed to their peers in person via word-of-mouth, or online in the form of social media status updates, blog posts, and (even more critically) as reviews on your actual sales page, it directly affects the overall conventional opinion of your work, and whether or not a new buyer will make the decision to buy your work.

Book Reviewers Ensure Investors a Good Return

Each person online, even if they don’t consciously realize it, has an audience that they influence—even you. The average person on Facebook has between 200 to 300 friends (Smith, 2014), but even if the audience is only one other person, that’s still someone who imbibes the memetics of their words and is thus somehow moved by what they say or write.

books-1015594_640This is what social media is about, and why it’s so powerful.

Book reviewers, in contrast, are the people who take the time to set up a website and cultivate a dedicated audience of sometimes tens of thousands of people. They are under-appreciated by most independent authors,  because most writers have no idea how to effectively market their work, and thus fail to see book reviewers as what they are: hubs, trusted by pre-established audiences, that directly influence awareness and conventional opinion of a writer’s work.

Few understand just how important they are for a social media marketing campaign; they’re vital. They can make or break you. One positive review written from a reviewer that supports you can get you thousands of sales from what they post online about you and your work, from their following.

Book Reviewers Lead the Herd Mentality

Lance Roberts of the STA Wealth Management compares the market to a natural phenomenon called “murmuration” that occurs in flocks of starlings.

When threatened by a predator or some kind of environmental disturbance, the movement of one individual starling affects the entire flock in mid air. Thousands of these birds will move in unison to form what appears to be, to the naked eye witnessing them from a distance, a singular formless intelligent organism hovering in the air.

How these birds interact with one another is called “scale-free correlation” and every shift in the murmuration is called a “critical transition” (Smith, 2014).

“The change in the behavioral state of one animal affects and is affected by that of all other animals in the group, no matter how large the group is. Scale-free correlations provide each animal with an effective perception range much larger than the direct inter-individual interaction range, thus enhancing global response to perturbations.” — powerpoint presentation rubric o que uma viagra apa format citation essay example thesis action verbs violence in sports essay propecia quanto costa que precio tiene la viagra en mexico generic viagra pills to buy in usa journal phd thesis shipping cialis to canada cymbalta and benadryl does aricept make you sleepy www shodhganga phd thesis in tamil literature essay about yourself sample rubric for a reflective essay watch advair diskus wiki see url pay for my geology blog it was a dream essay viagra royal mail viagra drops for women source url oxerutina generico do viagra generic viagra faq essay no school uniform pfizer viagra in china Giorgio Parisi, a theoretical physicist from the University of Rome.

The market of any industry acts like a murmuration of starlings; when any small group of consumers, or a largely respected market leader (such as a book reviewer), posts an excellent review of your work, the entire flock, or herd, of consumers that are connected to them are directly affected by that opinion.

Readers who are followers of the flock (which is, sadly, the vast majority of consumers who aren’t the risk takers that free-thinking leaders are) want to know that birds of their feather approve of your book before they invest their money and time into reading it. When this approval is given, when the leader of a community takes the risk and returns to their flock to say that your book made for a great return on that investment and that they should buy it, market murmuration occurs and all those who follow that leader are exponentially more likely to follow suit.

Book Reviewers are Threshold Guardians

Drawing a comparison from the genius and agelessly influential work of Joseph Campbell, the writer of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, it is only natural for the journey of a writer’s ascension to prominence to be bathed with a torrent of criticism, testing the writer’s ego.

library-1021724_640Threshold guardians test whether or not the hero is worthy to embark upon the path to attain what they desire (Campbell, 1972). For writers, that would mean money, fame, respect, etc. as an author—the benefits of notability to a certain demographic audience. Therein, book reviewers have a duty to protect their flock from harmful trash that will serve their followers no good. Unworthy writers shall get a negative review and thus have their work deflected from the eyes of the consumers who rely on that book reviewer to protect them.

A worthy writer, after being tested and determined as worthy by the guardian, is declared so by  having surrendered their ego in their work in order to present the target audience with literature that will truly benefit the readers’ lives in some way.

Many reviewers read and write for free, under the insecure belief that admitting that they’re professional critics detracts from their credibility—but I think this is the wrong mentality. As written: time and energy are resources that reviewers deserve to be paid for, especially if that reviewer is going to be a critical factor in determining whether or not a writer’s work sinks or swims in the market. It is up to the reviewer to make sure that they are simply transparent and have a fair grading system for what they determine to be great work, being able to logically explain why they love a work for what it is, as an informed opinion—one of the five types of criticism.

If they’re able to do that, then there’s no reason why they should feel ashamed to charge a reasonable price for their services, based upon the size of their following and how active that following is; it’s a perfectly respectable profession.

At that point, if a writer has any qualms about paying money for a fair review, then that writer is not looking at their book like a product to be invested in. He/she may already have the wrong mentality and a lack of understanding of how to succeed as an independent author within the free-market.

This does not mean paying for slanted and biased reviews; however, in a world free from the discrimination of traditional publishers, there are bound to be reviewers who are fake, who will say anything (even for a bad book) just to make money. To counter this, writers looking for what will be effective reviews should look for what reviewers should be able to present as the size of their following and their rating system for how they can empirically judge the quality of a writer’s work, with examples explaining why they feel that way.

So, Should You Pay for Reviews?

Book reviewers are the unsung heroes of the industry that directly influence the ebb and flow of the market. They’re vital aspects of any social media marketing plan, and independent authors should heed their importance—for a book reviewer can mean the difference whether or not an independent author’s work becomes a best seller…or if it’s ever even noticed at all.

online-942403_640Just to be clear: It’s not the review, or how many reviews, an author should focus on. It’s the blogger blasting their opinion out to their many followers that raises awareness and shapes the tribe’s conventional opinion of your work. Critics of paid reviews will say that paid reviews aren’t accepted by the industry; therefore, writers would be wasting their money. To them I give this rebuttal:

There’s absolutely nothing wrong or ineffective about a person who has a blog, gets several thousand active followers, and then says: “Hey, if you’d like a review of your work that I can blast to my followers, pay xxx amount of dollars.”

Did the reviewer say anything beyond making a post on their own blog? No? Then they’re honest about what they do.

Did the reviewer promise a certain amount of sales? No? Then, they’re honest about what they do.

It’s virtually the same thing as advertisement, because that’s what professional critics do: provide their opinion that raises awareness. What’s a waste of money about that? It isn’t. It’s no different than paying for PPC or PPM ads on reputable websites. Some websites will scam you; some won’t. Some reviewers will really give an honest opinion; some won’t. The market will decide who deserves to stay and who doesn’t.

Nothing is guaranteed in any industry, especially if writers stop thinking like writers and start thinking like entrepreneurs. If writers view their work as products; they’ll understand there are risks in any entrepreneurial venture.

NOTE: The review itself isn’t what writers should realize they’re paying for; the review being blasted to other people who may be influenced by that opinion is what they’re paying for. If a reviewer owns their own blog, and has their own followers…who’s to stop them?

Understand that as writers we’re in changing times, and there are many old heads who still follow the traditional ways of selling books, too heavily indoctrinated by the prestige effect. They may be highly experienced in the old way, but technology is changing the times, and they have a lot to learn about these changing times.

Some of us are behind the curve…and some aren’t.

Bloggers are virtually micro-celebrities, and using them is virtually no different than a company using a mainstream celebrity to endorse their product.

That is, if the writer is good enough to deserve a good review by an honest reviewer/critic. Some bloggers will just post positive reviews because they’re paid to, sure. But not all will, and they’ll differentiate themselves naturally over time.

As an author, what would you be willing to pay for a book review? What do you think is fair? Please share with your comments below!


  1. Campbell, J. (1972). The hero with a thousand faces (Second ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  2. Roberts, L. (2015, December 15). A Birds-Eye View Of Market “Herd Mentality” Retrieved November 11, 2015, from
  3. Smith, A. (2014, February 3). 6 new facts about Facebook. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from

michaelMike Norton is the CEO of Tenka International, empowering individuals with the marketing knowledge they need make a realistic attainable living online with their work, because there’s a difference between writing a book and selling one.

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18 thoughts on “Do Book Reviewers Charge Too Much? What Do You Really Get for Your Review?

  • November 24, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Interesting article, Michael. Thanks for sharing.
    And even more interesting comments! What a generous and intelligent community.

  • November 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    We need more pieces like this–thanks Michael. I hope we are moving towards a time when blogger/reviewers are seen as credible journalists and we look to sites other than Amazon for good reviews. Until Amazon closes the gap to keep out the fake, reviews there are a bust in my mind. I would like us all, as authors, to be more vocal about supporting good book blogs–in our social media and everywhere. I think we might be embarrassed to say we bought a review on a blog but we’re all giving away free ARCs already–form of payment. I agree with Flora. We just have to be okay with the fact that every blogger won’t like our book.

    • November 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      I’m honored by how you appreciate my work. I’ll be sure to continue writing precisely about this kind of thing, marketing for writers in the future. One thing I learned in the military though, is that the thing about respect is that it’s earned, never given; therefore, if we wish to be respected as individual publishers, we first need to hold ourselves to professional quality. Thankfully, an increasing amount of us do every day, and that’s a big reason why I blog: to raise awareness of this issue and eradicate it.

  • November 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Surprised that I’m the only voice of dissent here. Mike makes a few interesting points, but let’s agree on a few things. Paying for a review is buying a review. It doesn’t mean that you’re buying a “good” review, but you are buying it.

    Mike can rationalize this practice by saying you’re paying for bloggers to “blast their opinion” but that’s not correct. Bloggers do that anyway. It’s their job.

    That’s like saying “I’m not paying the person on Fiverr to (fake) review my novel, I’m paying for their time to post it on Amazon.” It’s misguided and it’s trying to rationalize and validate a shady practice.

    And no, it’s not the same thing as buying an ad. When a consumer sees an ad they knew it’s been bought and paid for. They know what they are seeing is biased. When they read an article or anything else that passes itself as an editorial, they expect it to not be a paid-endorsement. That’s why “advertorials” in magazines have to be marked as “special advertising section.”

    And do you really think that a paid reviewer is going to be unbiased? It’s easy to say “not all reviews will be positive reviews” but I highly doubt if you pay anyone for a review that you’ll get an unbiased (or negative) review. Why? Because that blogger views you as a customer (you’re paying them, after all) so they would rather not lose you as a return customer for ripping your work to shreds.

    Here’s a simple litmus test. If you’re an author, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable with a blogger adding this statement to the end of your review “I’ve accepted compensation in exchange for this review.” Sounds pretty shady huh?

    It’s simply folks. If you ask someone to review your book and you give them money, you’re buying a review.

    There are plenty of credible, well-followed blogs out there who will review your work at no cost, and I’d advise any author to spend time researching what blogs are most relevant to their audience and cultivate a relationship with those bloggers and readers.

    Send them your work and asks for reviews. They won’t charge you and in my opinion they’ll be more effective since they are actually legitimate.

    • November 20, 2015 at 12:00 am

      Well, you’re welcome to disagree, but thank you for your input. If I’m incorrect, I, as well as other authors, will find out the hard way. Seems to be working fine so far.

  • November 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    As an owner of BlueInk Review, a paid book review service, I was happy to see your explanation about credible reviewers not promising good results. That’s why those bloggers, review services…are taken seriously. If one promised good reviews, who could trust them.

    • November 17, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      Absolutely, Patricia – The reputations of serious reviewers depends on their credibility in the marketplace and thank you for weighing in on the reviewer’s side – Professional reviewers are (and should be) gatekeepers for quality literature!

    • November 20, 2015 at 12:03 am

      Exactly. That’s what a lot of authors need to realize. Kirkus Reviews is known for that. One can pay several hundred dollars to get their book reviewed, yet still get a bad review.

      I think it’s imperative that a book reviewer, who wants to be a respected professional, state precisely what their objective rating system/criteria is/are and not hesitate to show bad reviews too.

  • November 15, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you for a profitable post.
    As writers we crave for reviews, whether positive or negative. Reviewers are service providers who also need to be considered as providing value to both the author and the reader. The mammoth question is, obviously, how they can be remunerated for their services. Bear in mind they are providing a service to both the author and the reader. Being paid by the author is tantamount to bribery, just as would be the case if the reader were to pay them.

    I suppose it should be the facilitators, like the Amazon and the media, who should find ways of paying these value adding people, without necessarily soliciting the author’s input.

    • November 20, 2015 at 12:06 am

      “Being paid by the author is tantamount to bribery, just as would be the case if the reader were to pay them.”

      I think that’s an -EXCELLENT- way to describe it. We’re all paying or being paid for something; that’s how economics works, which is what I tried my best to explain in the article. Some of us are on a high-horse though, thinking that they’re above such methods, and would argue with you all day about this statement you’ve made. But you’re right.

      • November 20, 2015 at 12:18 am

        Understand though that I say this counter-intuitively that the reader -is- paying the writer for their work. That’s how writers make a living.

  • November 15, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you for the post.

    Reviewers are highly valued by both writers and readers. However, my own opinion is that paying for reviews by authors is tantamount to bribery. I suppose the consideration to pay these important people should come from facilitators like the media and Amazon. It just doesn’t sound right for an author to pay a reviewer. It is quite understandable to pay an editor, but certainly not a reviewer who is expected to give his/her independent opinion of the book. The reviewer is obviously in quandary after being paid handsomely by an author who desperately wants his/her book to reach wider audience. Let Amazon, or the appropriate media, find ways of remunerating these people. I am quite positive that something can be worked out from their business methods of calculating remunerations. Reviewers need to be paid for their commendable service to all stake holders, but not by authors whose interest is to obtain positive reviews.

  • November 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for this insightful and informative view of the importance of reviews. It comes at just the right time since reviews are currently a hot topic.

    On one hand, Amazon has filed a lawsuit against fraudulent positive reviews from some Fiverr providers, while on the other hand, a group of biased reviewers have flooded one author’s book on Amazon with one-star reviews because they believe the Sandy Hook shootings she wrote about are a hoax.

    There is no doubt that reviews are important. Even negative ones don’t always hurt sales. Many reviewers of the first 50 Shades of Grey, for example, for example, condemned the book for being poorly written, but ended by saying they couldn’t put it down.

    The most important thing for indie authors in particular is to think like entrepreneurs, as you’ve pointed out. In that way we’ll see reviews as just one tool in our marketing plan. In that case, there’s nothing wrong with paying for a review from an ethical review source or paying for blog tours or blasts, as long as we’re braced to accept those honest reviews won’t all be 5 stars.

    Thanks for introducing us to Mike. Loved his comparison to murmuration and reviewers as threshold guardians and his fresh view of this important part of the publishing experience.

    • November 15, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Totally agree, Flora — was a great fresh perspective on the importance of reviewers and the influence they can have on an author’s sales. We love, love, love great book bloggers 🙂

    • November 20, 2015 at 12:21 am

      Thank you very much for your comment! And I’m glad that you and I are able to agree. I’ve addressed some other people on this thread who think that I’m incorrect. So far, I’ve counted only three or four people on the internet so far who disapprove of what I’ve written here, and the common denominator was their morals. They think themselves above reviewers, and to them I say: that’s fine, but I’m not. And as an entrepreneur who’s got to put food on the table for his family, I have to write something both beneficial to mankind yet be pragmatic about selling my work and actually bringing something home.

  • November 15, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Traditionally, reviews were always a form of journalism that appeared in literary magazines, mass magazines, and newspapers. The reviewers were, of course, paid by the publications in which their reviews appeared. This created a boundary between author and reviewer. There were abuses: I remember years ago when the “New York Review of Books” was cynically referred to as ‘The New York Review of Each Other’s Books” because well-known authors were reviewing each other.

    There are still a lot of journalistic reviews out there even though most indie authors have little or no expectation of ever seeing their books mentioned in them. This is too bad because professional reviewers understand genres and styles and would never stoop to writing a “review” on Amazon or another site that gave a book one-star because the story was in a genre the “reviewer” didn’t understand or appreciate.

    I hope that most review sites strive to be better than the worst reader reviews and are hosted by reviewers who understand that reviews are still journalism, opinions backed up by facts and a solid knowledge of the books under consideration. Paying for a review will always be suspect just as paying for a newspaper feature story or an editorial is the antithesis of what a newspaper is. Book review blogs aren’t newspapers, but they should attempt to meet the same standards. I will pay for advertising, news releases and promotional pieces, but never for a review.

    • November 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Excellent input, Malcolm, but also have to recognize amongst us that times are changing and those great reviewers aren’t getting paid by newspapers anymore — If they don’t/can’t make a living, then who do the gatekeepers become? Even the big guns, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, have paid options for indie authors as there are so many… No easy answer, obviously, and we usually suggest authors BEGIN with the free reviewers (we identify who’s who in the Winner Circle, and vet reviewers by traffic, free vs. paid, which genres, etc.)

      There’s also the matter of editorial reviewers — folks for whom there’s a more comprehensive review and process and whose reviews are coveted for book blurbs – Obviously these sorts of reviews, from folks like Kirkus and Chanticleer and PW are valuable cover/back cover copy options… Write on!

      • November 20, 2015 at 12:23 am

        Thanks, Shari. Which is the point I made in the post.

        Times are changing. Some people are behind the curve, and some aren’t.

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