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Sell Out to Stand Out?

Hugs and Chocolate has been around for a little while now. We’ve all gotten to know each other and have been through some wonderful things, like Tonia’s marriage and the birth of Jamie’s baby. We’ve been through some not so good things too. Our little community has grown and there are a few faces I see who comment on every post. It’s truly appreciated.

The point is, we know each other pretty well. We’ve commiserated about the difficulties of writing on a personal level. So, I’d like to try something new. I’m going to try and focus on the things happening in the literary world. I’d like to broaden the horizon a bit and maybe create some discussion.

A few days ago on Facebook, Anne Rice posted a link to an article about book reviews. The interesting thing about this article was that it wasn’t about people writing book reviews because of their love and appreciation of the story. No, it was because they were paid to write it. The kicker was, most of the time, they hadn’t bothered to read the book. The person on whom this article was based asked $99.00 for a single review, $499.00 for twenty or $999.00 for fifty. Not a bad haul. At the top of his game, he was making over 28k a month. Here’s the link to the original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Of course, this resulted in a ton of responses on Rice’s page. Most people condemned the practice, while more than a few defended it. To those who know me well, it won’t come as a surprise that I had to comment.

Before I go any further, let me say this – paying for reviews happens with both traditional and self-published books. This is not meant as an attack on either.

The need to get good reviews and get your name out there is a tremendous responsibility. I understand that. However, my personal feelings are that if your writing is good enough, people will notice, though it may take some time. On the other hand, if the writing is poor and I’ve spent money because of the reviews. Not only will I never buy anything from that “author” again, but I’ll tell my friends (not in a vindictive way, just in a “don’t waste your money” way) and I’ll write a review.

I put author in quotes above, because I don’t think any real author would ever want someone to lie about their work. That’s why critiques are so helpful and yet so hard. They’re blatantly honest (if you’ve got a good partner), which makes better writing. Authors want their work to be the absolute best they can make it. I’ve known some people who’ve spent years working on their precious baby, while others I’ve known are proud that they can crank out an 80k novel in three days.

The argument that came from those who supported the idea of buying book reviews was that every product, particularly those sold online, needs reviews to get noticed and purchased. Consumers want the confidence of knowing someone else has used and liked a certain product. If buying reviews would get their book in the top percent, then they had no problem with this method.

In this Forbes article, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellerfaygroup/2012/08/30/reviews-can-work-wonders-but-they-cant-be-faked/, it discusses not only the ethical standpoint, but the legal. It’s definitely something to think about.

One of the things brought up repeatedly in the discussion on Rice’s page was that there needs to be some sort of accountability for authors and book reviewers. The problem seemed to be what group could hold independent bloggers, large book review sites, self-published authors and traditional authors among others to some sort of standard.

All of this brings up something else. I have a large “friend” base on Facebook. The majority are writers. I get invitations to events where everyone who signs up “likes” everyone page in exchange for a like. I get requests to “like” book and author pages, though I’ve never read the book or any of that author’s work.

How much of a difference is this than buying reviews? By saying I like someone’s book, I’m giving the impression that I’ve read and actually like the contents and am encouraging others to read it also. Where’s the line between being supportive of your friends and selling yourself out from an ethical standpoint?

I know we’ve got a smart and varied community on here and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/celeste343/2416547575/

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Book Reviews, Ethics, Paid Reviews

 

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