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Monday, 16 July 2012

Should bloggers charge for reviews?

A book review blog offered me a "favorable/good or even excellent review" in exchange for $95. I said no, thanks, and when I exposed their practices, they threatened to sue me and ruin my reputation amongst reviewers.

© Feverpitched | Stock Free Images
This is the original post that appeared on July 16th. The name of the blog has been redacted, at their "request".  More details about that request are included at the end of the article.


*Original Post*
Readers and bloggers, where do you stand on bloggers charging writers for favourable reviews?

Yesterday I received an email from [NAME DELETED], prompted by my emailed request for them to consider reviewing my book, Misfortune Cookie. Here is their response to my review request in full. All formatting (i.e. underline, italics) is theirs, not mine.


On Sun, Jul 15, 2012 at 3:08 AM, [NAME DELETED]> wrote
Hello Michele,
Thank you for contacting us concerning your new book, "Misfortune Cookie," it looks very good. And I actually think tha I, personally, have it listed on my "to read" section on goodeads.
However, we are very selective with the books we choose to review. So, we won't review books that we feel won't get a minimum of (4-) out of a total of (5+) stars from us. We want to keep up the quality of our site, and also be as honest as possible with our reviews; and this is one of the ways that we accomplish that.
The other way that we accomplish our desired goal for our site, is to research you, your new book and previous writings, as well as, your ratings and previous reviews, if you have any. We will also read the synopsis of the book in question and snippets, etc.
It must be noted that we do turn many requests down. Actually, only one out of seven or eight make it this far in the process. You may want to review some of our reviews and their subsequent comments, to get an idea of why people love our site so much!
With that in mind, this letter has been sent to you because after our preliminary research of you, your book and previous writings/ratings, we have determined that you and your book, Misfortune Cookie, will qualify for our site, and that we will be able to give you a favorable/good or even an excellent review.
We are a featured book site on the [NAME DELETED] website as a daily & permanent contributor to their book section. All of our reviews are posted on their site as well as our website. Together we currently have over 2.5 million readers per “month.“ We are excited to be a part of this very popular news and entertainment site because it means that our authors, you, will get a huge amount of exposure for yourself and your much greatly deserved novels. 
We want to help you, the author, obtain a favorable and likeable online presence, so we work hard on your behalf..
So, let’s get to the gist of it,
Currently, we have so many requests for book reviews and promotion help, that we do have about a 3-4 week wait list. Because we have such a large amount of book review requests, we have had to start charging for them . So now we are now charging a fee of $95.00 per review and subsequent postings. That includes a nice review with the short synopsis that comes with your book, a picture of the book with a link to purchase it from Amazon.
We post the review on the following sites: the [NAME DELETED] website, [NAME DELETED] website, 4 different Twitter profile pages and accounts, 6 different Facebook profile pages and fan pages, 3 different Google+ profiles on the G+ site, 2 different stumbleupon profile pages, Diggs news site, and several blogging groups, and anywhere else that you would like to request for us to post it.
And of course, it will automatically be posted on
[NAME DELETED] under their book section. Everyone of our posts will be posted by them.
Also, we have a few more “sister-websites” where we post our reviews too, along with their prospective twitter and facebook profiles.
Also, we post to some book clubs and book stores, but we will discuss that more later if you decide to proceed,
All of this posting on our part results in good exposure-promotion for you and your book.
We do work hard to create a positive online presence for you and your work. But, it must be noted that although an increase in sales of your book is likely, it is not guaranteed.
No matter what you decide, we would like to stay in contact and be connected online-and we look forward to seeing you on and around the World Wide Web!
Thank you your interest in the [NAME DELETED] .
[name excluded]
[position excluded]

[NAME DELETED]

To say I was surprised was actually an understatement, for several emotions ran through me. I’d never heard of bloggers charging for reviews and the idea left a bad taste in my mouth.

Yesterday I tweeted my feelings about receiving this email and this morning I received an email from [NAME DELETED] again. It was less friendly this time, headed “Concerning your recent harassment and threat”. In fact I received two, nearly identical emails, so keen were they to be in touch:

On Mon, Jul 16, 2012 at 5:35 AM, [NAME DELETED] wrote
Have you ever heard of kirkus, they charge $425.00 -$575.00 per review. There are a lot of companies that charge for reviews. Educate yourself before harrassing us next time. We have the ability to track IP addresses, so I would think twice before you begin to defame our name...That is illegal, and we will take action. Our attorney has been notified!
And before you go accusing us of anything, open your eyes, our disclosure link is right there on our home page.

They’re right, the disclosure policy is indeed on their website (go have a look for it from the home page).They're also right in that Kirkus charge $425-$575. More about them below.

I would like to apologize for saying that [NAME DELETED] doesn’t disclose their policy. They do, and I have deleted the twitter comment saying otherwise. It’s there for all to see if you look much more closely than I did. Kirkus’ policy is also there for all to see, when you click on Author Services, at tab at the top of their home page. It is straightforward, offering writers “services” for which there is a price:

The Kirkus Indie program gives independent authors a chance to obtain an unbiased, professional review of their work, written in the same format as a traditional Kirkus review with the same chance of earning the coveted Kirkus Star. After receiving the review, authors may choose to keep it private or publish it at no extra charge on our website. If published on our site, the review will also be included in our content feed to licensees, such as Google, BN.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor and more, and considered by our editors for publication in our magazine and email newsletter.

Now, I don’t believe that expressing my opinion about book bloggers charging for reviews is defamation or harassment. It is my opinion as a writer who wants readers to have a good idea about whether they will like my book. Bloggers serve an invaluable purpose, and their honest opinions are critical to both readers and writers. I hope that charging for a “favorable/good or even an excellent review ([NAME DELETED]'s words, not mine) doesn’t become more common. Because that would make me sad.

Finally, I’d like to say an enormous thank you to all the bloggers out there who take the time to share their honest opinions with readers for no compensation aside from a free book and our heartfelt thanks.

Update 17th July: The bloggers that are charging writers $95 for favourable reviews have contacted me to tell me that my comments are unethical and illegal. They asked that I remove their "website name from [my] twitter account and [my] article and anywhere else that [I] have posted it." They said that they are nice girls, and then threatened that if I did not "please do as we ask, you will be hearing from our attorney, and will take the next step and action for defamation of character and business". Further, they kindly offered that "instead, of smearing your name and books we choose to go the legal way, because we don't like to hurt people and their reputations." And they offered me some advice too: "You are young and need to learn a lot about life still, especially when it comes to business practices. What you are doing is causing others (especially the people that matter) to see you as a trouble maker, and then they won't want to work with you."

They went to some length in their email to justify when and why they are charging for reviews. I hope that they will provide this justification in public, to the readers and bloggers who are questioning the motives, impartiality and ethics of bloggers that charge for reviews. 

The names of the blogs charging for reviews isn't really important. The fact that they exist is what we should be talking about. I hope that we will continue to do so. So I'd love for our discussion to move away from the individual blogs that are charging for reviews, because they are a symptom.

** Popehat and DearAuthor have published interesting posts on the legality of the website's practices and communications.
http://www.popehat.com/2012/07/18/girls-just-wanna-have-lawsuits/
http://www.dearauthor.com ("Chicklitgirls charge $95 for Reviews")

And you can see the website's response in the Comments below by searching "Paula"

163 comments:

  1. OMG!!!! and yet the profess to give an honest review...what a crock of shite...sorry but that is what gets bloggers a bad name and nearly a grand to read 1 book....obviously the rest of us have mug on our foreheads for reading a book and just giving a honest view.... with no cost what so ever! x

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  2. HAHAHAHA! Charging for reviews? That is laughable! Absolutely ridiculous I tell you! And they contacted their lawyer? Oh. Oh my god that is hilarious. Freaking weirdos.

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  3. That is astounding. It makes me feel sad and sick at the same time that there are authors willing to pay such crazy amounts to ensure a good review. People should have review sites because they love books, not to try and extort authors.

    They say in their "disclosure policy" that they ARE compensated for reviews/posts/whatever but they are also honest. That's bull.

    I suppose it's a growing problem. Who knows what review sites are genuine and which aren't? Chick Lit Girls so clearly is not, and a growing number of other review sites aren't either. I hate it, personally. As an honest reviewer and an avid, avid book fan I hate that most review sites nowadays pander to publishers/authors and never have a negative word to say, ever.

    I now find it HILARIOUS authors get so excited about a Kirkus review, when they have paid extortionate amounts for said review. Makes the whole thing just so pointless.

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    1. I completely agree, Leah. Writers should write the very best books that they can, release them into the world and let the readers judge them honestly. I've certainly had my fair share of bad or so-so reviews, and am a better writer because of those comments. How do you hone your craft if always told you're the best?

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    2. Please don't confuse Kirkus reviews with Kirkus Indie reviews.

      Kirkus reviews are unpaid. They're distributed to bookstores and libraries.

      Kirkus Indie reviews are paid, and only go to a segregated part of their website that everyone ignores.

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    3. Reviewers are already compensated, they get the book for free. Charging for a review is totally unethical, period.

      Their threats are just that, threats. You aren't defaming anything by stating the truth, they charge fees. If you didn't sign a non-disclosure form before they told you their rates they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Please note they even state they charge on their website.

      "We will get back to you asap and then we can discuss more about your writing and book(s) and our services and our rates."

      The fact that Chic Lit Girls charge a fee--though not how much--is right there for everyone to see. Also, I'm sure the real Goodreads would be interested in how they're using 'Goodreads for Women' in their title bar to try and snag more search engine traffic from people looking for the actual Goodreads site.

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    4. Yes, the blogger gets to keep your book for free, but they also have to claim the price of your book as part of their income for the year for tax purposes. So reviewing books ends up actually costing them, especially if it was not a book they were seeking to read. I don't currently charge for reviews, but many, many bloggers do. I know it seems a little fishy, but the cost as I see it (as a blogger) is for the time it takes to actually read and write the review.

      Just another thing to think about...

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  4. What?! That is absurd! How awful!
    They get a book for free to read and then behave like that?!
    Reviewers can be bad and reluctant to give out stars despite writing great reviews - but to have to pay too!! Very very bad!

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  5. I was really shocked when I read that. I run a book forum and a review blog, and I have a great relationship with a number of publishers. I'm always very grateful for free books, and I get especially excited about ARCs.

    If I'm not so keen on a book, I will try to write an honest balanced review, keeping in mind that other people have different tastes to me; if I enjoy a book, I'm very happy to help out with promoting it to others.

    How can they decide in advance that they will like a book, take money for it, and then give an honest review?

    Michelle
    @bookclubforum

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    1. "How can they decide in advance that they will like a book, take money for it, and then give an honest review?"

      LOL - I guess they know it's going to pass because they "research" the previous books and reviews on other work. Which, to me sounds a little suspect. Shouldn't any review be based on the book you're reading to review, not on ALL the previous books and reviews for the author? Sounds like they're going to use the previous reviews - whether that's their intent or not, that's how it comes across to me.

      What about all of us bloggers who review books that we buy ourselves? Man. When I really feel like promoting a book, I'll post on Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads, The Library Thing and Shelfari - along with on my blog. And I usually buy my own book AND do all this for free. I also post links to excerpts when I can find them, and links to the author's websites....for FREE. I figure if someone wants to buy the book, they can find the amazon or other bookstore links on the author website. And again, For Free - the authors usually don't even have to send me a free book. Of course, this means I review books when I feel like it and as I read them...Once again...For FREE. :)

      I guess if you feel the need for publicity - but still. To have to pay $575 for a review? wow. Even $95 for me would be a lot of money to have to pay.

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  6. I'd never pay for a review. It would be demonstrating a lack of confidence in my work and if that was the case, I shouldn't be sending it out into the book reading world to begin with x

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  7. If you read Kirkus' disclosure policy (http://www.kirkusreviews.com/indie/about/), it offers an honest review for the payment - that review may be great, or it may be stinky. They send the review to the writer, who can do whatever she likes with it, including having it posted on the Kirkus website. So it doesn't appear that Kirkus is offering biased reviews for payment. They are simply charging for their reviews. I just wanted to point that out to everyone.

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    1. It still seems to be a LOT of money for a review!

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    2. It's also ONLY for their indie reviews, which are in a separate section of their journal. The regular portion of the journal is still (afaik) unpaid reviews.

      And as far as it being a lot of money, I'd call Kirkus one of the top 5 review journals in the business. They've got a strong reputation and an enormous amount of exposure. Offering reviews at ALL of indie titles is a new thing for them.

      They recently recognized that there's some really good self-published stuff out there now, but there is a LOT of self-published stuff, and the quality is a lot more hit-or-miss than in traditional publishing, and their staff can only read so much in a given month. The fee is basically their selection aid.

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    3. The Chick Lit Girls always return the authors money, if the requested and paid for review is not going to be too good. WE RETURN THEIR MONEY!Then we don't post it to our blog or anywhere else online. We keep it just between us and the author. We don't want to destroy anyones hard work and efforts.
      Kirkus on the other hand, charges up front, then if the reviews is not good, they still keep the money that the author paid them, but agree to "bury the review", for the author.
      We want to help writers not harm them. We make it clear to the authors that have requested reviews, that, although we expect the review to be good(because of the extensive research we do regarding the author's writings, books, other reviews and ratings, and some have the first chapter avaiable for us to read, but there is no guareentee that the review will end up being good. If it is not good, then it is our mistake for choosing them and we return their money immediatly with no hard feelings. Only about one out of 15 or more author requests for a review from us will actually be accepted by us. we get at least 20 or more requests a week. We work hard to keep our reviews honest and fair and that takes alot of time sifting through rquests. So, on the contrary to what some of you believe, we are definetly not giving good reviews to less than good books. I, personally can't even finish a bad book and would be very convicted amd uneasy, if I gave a less than good book a good review. We just wont do it! It is against our moral, ethical. and personal values to do so. And for the record, one of us did, or still does have, Michele's book on her "to read" shelf and the when she requested a review, our reviewer was actually excited, and after looking at Micheles other book, reviews, ratings, her website, etc. so we felt she could use a little help and we decided tp chech her out a little more and read a little more about her and her synopsis, her website writings, etc. and thought we would give her a chance to up her ratings and get a little promotion help. We thought we could at least give her 4 stars because from what we saw, it looked like she was a very good writer. We voted to take the risk, as we do on all the books we choose to do.
      So, I guess the saying is true, "no good deed goes unpunished". Believe us when we say, "we are here to help, not harm", and are committed doing that in a honest forthcoming manner. Please everyone, get all the facts(like reading our disclosure page and maybe contacting us to question us how we go about and proceed with the whole process. It's all there as you proceed with us,asking us questions, etc. before you decide to go ahead with us. the next step and following letters we send and so on end up explaining everything before they make their final descion. Even our invoices state that "there are no expressed or implied guarentees. If you have further complaints , questions, concerns, please feel free to contact us via our contact page. We are happy to explain our methods and practices to anyone that wants to know. I think that the real controversy here is about whether or not an author should pay for a review or not. Many of the bigger news sites do charge and more and more websites are starting to charge, because it takes a lot of time, work and money to run a website like these. Everyone else pays for marketing and promotion help, even product reviewers get paid.
      And lastly, I do want to commend all of you great book bloggers out there that do it for free. It is very nice and commendable. But, times are changing. My partner and I had so many requests for promotion help and reviews, that we decided to quit our regular jobs and do this fulltime,but we can't do it for free. It costs us money to do it and we have to eat to. I wish the best for everyone, and please no hard feelings, let's just all get along and help one another. Life is hard enough than to go around attacking eachother-especially before we know all the facts.

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    4. Learn to spell properly. English is not my first language, but even I could point out hundreds of errors in that text. Who are you to judge someone´s book if you´re not even able to spell basic words such as immediately, available and definitely correctly? Very professional... NOT!

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    5. That was aimed at Paula, who seems to work for the site in question. Not sure why a reply ends up directly underneath and not indented...

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    6. I read your disclosure policy on your blog Paula and apart from that it didn't make much sense and contradicted itself, it didn't actually come right out and say, in as many words, "we charge authors $95 for our reviews".

      As to your comment that bigger news sites charge for reviews, I'd like to know which ones they are. For me, the biggest sites I visit for (romance) book reviews/news do not charge - Dear Author, Smart Bitches Trashy Books and AAR for example, just to name a few.

      In any event, this kerfuffle is only in part because your site charges for reviews. The threats of legal action to Ms. Gorman are what pushed the issue over the top I believe. If you want this to "go away" then an apology to Ms. Gorman would be a good way to start.

      If authors want to pay you for reviews I guess they will do so and you might get traffic which appreciates those reviews. It won't be from me, because I prefer the "free" sites for my book recommendations.

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  8. Oh dear *hugs* You sound as though you've had a slightly difficult time of late!

    Don't worry! As nice as the prospect of earning money from our book blogs might be, it is a hobby that we enjoy and I can't even imagine charging for reviews.. Bloggers get the joy of reading great books for free and communicating with the authors we love. And charging for reviews for the majority is frowned upon. The fact is, if a blogger charges for a positive review, how do the rest of us know that we can trust that review?

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  9. Yuck, yuck and triple yuck. The trouble is people who read the reviews should be warned that the author paid the site for it, I wonder if they advertise this fact (I bet they don't). It sounds to me that they are saying "We'll give you a good review if you pay us for it". HORRIBLE. I love reviewing books and would HATE a site that does this. YUCK. Well raised Michele.
    Cesca (Novelicious reviewer)
    Twitter: CescaReviews

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  10. Oh dear. Where to start with this? Actually, on second thoughts, I won't. Too depressing! My thanks to anyone who reviews mine though. I realise it all takes up an enormous amount of time and these days, to get reviews at all is a huge bonus in this hugely competitive market. So a round of applause and virtual flowers (not a bribe!) to you all.
    Judy Astley
    Twitter: @judyastley

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  11. Wow, even I am surprised. I write reviews on my blog, and while my website doesn't get amazing hits, I often feel privileged if I have been sent a free copy of the book or item I am reviewing!

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  12. Oh and may I add, thank you so much for not having Captcha! Finally a blog (apart from mine) that does not require it!

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    1. My IT skills are up there with my driving skills (i.e. best left to someone else) ... I wouldn't even know how to put it on the blog :-)

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    2. I believe Blogger puts it there by default, so you must have done something to disable it :)

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  13. That's absolutely ridiculous. I review books all the time on my blog, and while I know I don't get tons of hits, I like to think my genuine review means more than one from a site that charges to write one.

    Lyndsay

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    1. And that's why blogs like yours are worth their weight in chocolate!

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    2. Chocolate! Now there's an idea.. I could start charging in chocolate!

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    3. I'd never be opposed to getting paid in chocolate! Yum! :)

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  14. Great work. How can they anyway review a book after only reading the synopsis. And then to threaten you by saying they can trace your IP address. This is appalling behaviour. Well done for exposing it.

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    1. Thx Mark, I think they do read the whole book. The IP address comment was confusing, given that I said it on twitter (with profile links to my website, which has email address). I'm hardly a shadowy figure who needs to be tracked via my computer.

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  15. Their email sounded very unprofessional and dodgy. It was a clumsily-written hard sell. In spite of their assurances that the review will be honest because they like the book, they can't explain away the obvious financial incentive to like a lot of books.

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  16. As a book review blogger, I was really shocked to read this. Surely this turns a legitimate review site into just a collection of advertorials?

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  17. Yikes. I'm not a writer nor a blogger but I like reading review sites/blogs and I would not follow a site that charged for reviews! I wish I knew who else was doing this so I could avoid them.

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  18. So are they saying that every author who has submitted a book to these ladies has paid? If that is the case, I don't trust the review. You can think that you'll enjoy a book after looking into it and reading excerpts and such but it's never a guarantee. If the author has paid for a favorable review and they end up not enjoying what they read, do these ladies still write a positive review? Too many questions for me and, as I said, I don't think I could trust any review they write. I

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  19. Wow... how can anyone decide whether the book will be worth four stars by a synopsis? What annoys me is that these people are charging but by blogging they save a lot of money per book anyway. i know that I personally used to spend about £100 per month on books and not I only spend about £14 per month because of all the books I get for free, so how can they ask for money?!

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  20. I am not surprised at all by this. Once upon a time, dear readers, bookshops had literate managers who made books that they had enjoyed or which they thought had significant merit into their "manager's choice" or "book of the month". Now these coveted spots are sold to the publishers who are prepared to pay to promote the authors who by their celebrity have secured the largest advances (note - these are not usually the best books. When record companies did this sort of thing with records on radio in the UK it was described as payola and was a nasty, underhand bad thing.....It's depressing but not unexpected - thank you for highlighting it, Michelle.

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  21. It's a conflict of interest, the way I see it. People who review for print publications are often paid but by the magazine or newspaper, not by the publisher or author. The money comes from advertisers.

    I have to say that I would love to make even a partial living from my blog. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I would never do it by charging for reviews. I have Adsense on my blog and some of the ads have been for books, but they're clearly separate from the reviews.

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  22. As much as these people do sound fruity-loops, it does cost money to run a site, and reviewing takes some time. While reviewing as a hobby is fine, fun, and can produce some VERY well-written reviews, semi-professional or freelance reviews can sometimes be (though by no means always!) better organized on a site (due to the work of professional, paid designers), written to more professional/critical standards (due to paid editors and paid-for training/education), and backed by a reputable site/publication. Disclaiming that we'd never want to be paid!!, etc., sort of classes reviewing as non-valuable woman's work (it's interesting that a TON of genre reviewers are ladies--though not as many lady-reviewers show up in SFF publications: http://www.strangehorizons.com/blog/2012/04/the_2011_sf_count.shtml). As someone who's reviewed on a personal blog and for publications (newspapers, etc.) that paid me, as a journalist, I'm kind of uncomfortable with this disavowal of monetary interest.

    While in this specific case the author is clearly right to back away, because INTERNET LAWYERS!! ffs, in general I'm not sure that reviews should never be monetized. Many publications pay their writers through subscription fees and ad revenues. The fee's often a labor-of-love pittance, compared to the hours it takes to read and write about a book, because that's what the publication can afford (or, if you've found a nasty one--and given the publishing industry's huuuge, gross reliance on underpaid women who love books and believe the constant Buzz of Self-Pitying Austerity the industry generates to protect itself, that's sadly likely--because that's what they can get away with paying).

    But collusion between publishers and curatorial bodies is by no means unknown. Publishers pay to put titles up for prizes. Their fees form the actual award, and go towards overhead. Things that look ambiguously like marketing and/or curatorial gestures are often paid for. Certain titles become Waterstones' Books of the Week, etc., as the result of payments. And reviews, good or bad, *are* a form of marketing. I've been asked to alter the tone of a negative review (though not my verdict, which I wouldn't have been comfortable changing) because an editor thought I stood a chance of making the publication I was writing for (affiliated, as many publications are, with a larger media company) sound too biased against its competitors, and making it sound like a mouthpiece for promoting its own works and denigrating others' titles. This was done for a reasonable purpose, but again, commercial considerations and critical evaluations of work can't always be disassociated from one another.

    So while it's exploitative to charge a writer for a positive review, I think it might also be exploitative to expect a reviewer, who is giving of her time and skillset, to always work for free, or to say they're better as people or reviewers if they do. That would feel like the 'purity' debates surrounding DIY culture and fandom, which are often classist and sexist. Some people write to pad out their income, and need to, and there's nothing wrong with that--we need the skills and voices of people who can't necessarily review at a professional level recreationally, who can only really afford to do it if they can class the time as 'value-generating'. And those people should be compensated fairly for their labor. The sexism point's a bit sneakier--but I do think it's awkward and meaningful, in a Betty Friedan kind of way, that DIY, fandom and publishing often tend towards an Etsy Ghetto effect (http://www.thefrisky.com/2009-06-11/etsy-a-female-ghetto-for-the-creative-crafty/).

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    1. I think the issue is more that they're asking for money to write a *positive* review. So, basically, that's making their reviews sound dishonest (even though they claim otherwise). It wouldn't have been so bad if they were charging for reviews but made it clear that their review would be entirely honest, whether that meant a negative review or a glowing one.

      Plus, the thing I love about book blogs (although there'll be exceptions to this) is that the reviews are written by regular readers - people who review books, purely because they love to read and then talk about what they read and they don't have any ulterior motive in doing what they do (like, for example, being paid per review). If a blogger wants to make a little money out of it, they could have adsense on their blog.

      I don't read "professional" reviews because they often come across as very fake to me. I know that the person has been paid to read the book and review them and then the review they write, it's not just them spilling their thoughts onto a page in a genuine way, it's written to sound professional and well written and it just seems very impersonal. I like the rawness and heart that goes into reviews of people who are doing it purely for fun.

      Book bloggers charging money for reviews - it doesn't sit well with me, because it takes away the thing I love about book blogs from their blog and I don't trust their reviews and also, they're not being the same as professional reviewers either because at least with professionals, it's actually their job and the money they get paid isn't usually coming straight out of the authors pocket and they don't promise it'll be positive.

      Book bloggers don't HAVE to blog about books, it's not our job, it's a choice that we make. I'd never charge an author money for a review, especially if they only want a positive one instead of honest (I've been offered money and Amazon vouchers in the past and it's been an instant no from me because of that, I don't like to be bought or feel like I have to censor my reviews - it's a personal choice and I like to read blogs that have that same attitude towards blogging).

      Basically, the issue isn't so much that they want to make money from their blog, more the way they've gone about it.

      Delete
    2. I am glad to see someone defending a reviewer's ability to be paid for their work. I am NOT a professional book reviewer; nor do I have a blog on which I review books. I am a Youth Services Librarian, and I rely heavily upon professional reviews when I do my ordering. If a reviewer is reviewing on a professional level, we should be willing to pay that person--it validates that their services do, indeed, provide us with a valuable service. I do read amateur reviews as well, but I RELY upon the professional ones.

      Amateur means "to love." I do many things on an amateur level--stargaze, play guitar, garden, etc. I do not expect to be paid for these things. However, if I made it my career, I would hope to be paid (although I assume it would not be huge compensation).

      For me, the problem with Chick Lit Girls & Michelle's interaction was NOT that Chick Lit Girls wanted to charge for a review. It was that they immediately threatened Michelle with legal action. To me, that suggests that they are indeed asking authors to pay for a good review--that is unethical. I do NOT believe it is unethical to pay for a reputable entity to tell whether my work is up to snuff (such as Kirkus). Just this morning I paid my dentist to tell me if I don't floss better, my beautiful teeth will be sitting in my sink. It made me feel lousy, but thank goodness. I DO believe it is unethical to ask someone to pay so that I will tell others their work is good. Shame on Chick Lit Girls!

      Delete
  23. Hi Michelle,

    Exactly the same thing happened to me. I was contacted via Goodreads. It does leave a nasty taste in the mouth, particularly the very unpleasant threats you received. I would NEVER pay for a review of my book, and I would advise any other authors out there to ignore people like this. They are parasites, basically. It's dishonest and wrong - end of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous, was it the same blog that contacted you? In any case, solicitation through goodreads is against the goodreads policy. Suggest you report the blog that did that - they are probably doing it to many writers. Thanks for letting us know.

      Delete
    2. Jennifer (Librarian)21 July 2012 at 07:18

      I think the issue is where the money is coming from. It's fine to get money from a website, newspaper or reviewing journal, because they are paying for an unbiased review (hopefully), but the problem comes in when you're accepting money from the author, who, of course, wants it to be a good review. I think it's a conflict of interest. Reviews are supposed to be as unbiased as possible. That's the value in them.

      Delete
  24. Erin, I just think that most feel they can't trust a review if it's been paid for - myself included. There are lots of people willing to run blogs, forums etc as a hobby, and most will use adverts if they want to raise a little income. I just don't feel comfortable with the idea.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Rebecca Needes16 July 2012 at 07:11

    Without wanting to get into a huge debate, I think it's important to draw a distinction between reviewers paid by the publication they are writing for ie. a newspaper or an online community - in which case they are being paid to provide content for that publication, whatever that content may be (positive or negative), and the money for this presumably comes from ad revenues or similar - and reviewers who are charging the author specifically. That, I think, is where the line is between a paid review that can be trusted and a paid review that can't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point Rebecca, and one that Erin and a couple of others have made as well.

      Delete
  26. Where's the credibility? You're paying for a "favorable/good or even excellent review"? Forgive me, but what if the book is terrible (not saying yours is, Michele)? I'm appalled! When I started my blog almost three years ago, I had no idea that authors would start asking me to review their books. It was a pleasant surprise. It never entered my head to charge for a review. I started my blog to blog about books. Being privileged enough to review for authors is just an added bonus.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Um, before you "defame" them!?

    Definition of defame : To damage the reputation, character, or good name of by slander or libel.

    Okay, so from there, definition of slander and libel...

    Slander : Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation.
    2. A false and malicious statement or report about someone.

    Libel : A false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that damages a person's reputation.


    But...they do charge $95. That's not false. So how exactly are you defaming them? And how, exactly, are you harrassing them? By saying "shame on you" on twitter? Oy.

    Sorry you're going through this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing stated was false so I am wondering the same thing how they are being harassed...

      Delete
  28. Ick. I can't believe anyone would pay for a review! there are plenty of book blogs that WILL write an honest review for no charge.

    Ick ick ick. I'm not a reader of their blog, but this means I won't be ever. I'm sorry, but I prefer honest reviews over those who seem to have enjoyed a book but are being paid to write a good review! No thank you.

    And I am so sorry this happened to you, Michele! their lawyer must be really bad or wishes he never took them on because you did nothing wrong. O___o (says the paralegal student.)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Unbelievable! I would never charge for reviews and as such I don't think I could trust that a paid review would be completely honest.

    I get my book recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers and I trust their opinions. I firmly believe that being sent a book by a publisher or author is more than payment enough for an honest review.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I think that is just stupid. I review books and I dont think that I would ever accept money for a book review because I would feel like I HAVE to write a good review. Anyone who has read my reviews know that I am completely honest is a constructive way and I dont think that I could do otherwise. Just recently I turned down a review for a promotional book tour because I wasnt allowed to write a bad review and after reading the first half of the book I knew it wasnt going to be good so I just stopped. Honesty.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wow... I had no idea...Seems like a whole lot of crazy to me to charge for something that most other folks are giving away for free, but what do I know?

    ReplyDelete
  32. WTF? I can't with this.... Charging for reviews, with a straight face is laughable and so discouraging. The rest of us are reviewing for FUN, because we want to talk about the books we read.

    ReplyDelete
  33. My first thought after finishing her original email. Are you kidding me. [Which, obviously, you are not.]
    Her second response was more extreme - and much more in the vein of harassment. Granted I don't know what you said - but I could imagine your surprise. (And threat? Really?)

    I'm actually curious if the site has an attorney or not.
    I don't know much about ChickLitGirl but... I don't know. It wouldn't be the first site I'd think of to compare to Kirkus.

    Also - charging for *favorable* reviews especially seems disingenuous.
    ...
    Just me thoughts here.

    ReplyDelete
  34. As a book blogger, I'm really disturbed by this. I don't think their disclosure policy really justifies asking for payment in return for a review (or even suggests that is what they do), nor does it seem easy to find if you're perusing the site. And their response seems far more nasty than necessary. It's really too bad...

    ReplyDelete
  35. As someone who reviews books on a personal book blog, this completely turns my stomach. This is the first I've ever heard of it... it almost sounds like they are trying to be a one-stop blog tour or publicist site or something. I certainly hope this isn't a trend... but even if it is, I could never participate in charging for reviews. I don't even know you, but as a blogger to an author - I'm sorry that this has happened.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sarah, I hope it isn't a trend either. Apparently it does happen more than we realise in the US, but so far not in the UK. I hope that the debate continues around the topic so that we can decide together what we want our community of writers, readers and bloggers to look like going forward. Personally, I want my books to be judged on their merits, not my wallet.

      Delete
  36. Seriously? This is the kind of thing that really hurts the book blogging world. Charging money for a review?? I love reading books. It's why I started my own blog. And I usually trust the opinions of the blogs that I frequent. But someone charging money for a good review is positively disgusting to me. It just muddies the waters for all the good blogs out there that are doing it all for the love of books.

    Sorry you had such a bad experience Michele!!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Aloha, Michele! Thanks for sharing your experience. I should be surprise ... but I am not. I sent you an email - I'd love to review your book!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I just... O.O

    As both an author and a reviewer, this bothers me. There's a "rule" in publishing that "money flows to the author." Now, I realize when you're an indie author things are a bit different in that the author takes on the fees generally associated with the publisher. However, any online book blog that compares itself to Kirkus or Romantic Times or any other well-known, respected print and digital publication is a little too full of themselves for my liking. Yes, Kirkus and RT charge in some way. Kirkus is obviously very straight-forward about it, RT has a policy that has to do with buying ad space, and I'm sure other magazines like them do similar things because of the amount of overhead involved. They are businesses with employees... who are professionals. (Also, oftentimes, publishers cover these costs.)

    Book bloggers can review as well as the pros, I will not dispute that at all. However, there are ways to generate income to cover the costs of a blog that do not include selling reviews. Because these people aren't even saying the charge just guarantees you a review--it guarantees you a good review... with no return on investment. It's not like RT magazine where you've paid for an ad so every subscriber to the magazine will at least see your cover PLUS your review. It's just... a "good" review that might be ignored by everyone (and I'm fairly certain most readers who are aware of their policy won't take their reviews seriously.)

    In addition, their disclosure statement simply says "compensated." It's the FTC disclosure rule that all review blogs are being forced to carry. "Compensated," at least to this author, means their acknowledging that they get the books (or other items they might review since I didn't bother spending any more time on their site than was necessary to read the disclosure statement) for free. As an author, I would *never* take that statement to mean I was expected to pay the site for the right to send them my book to review.

    As a reviewer... just yuck. Blogs like this call the integrity of all bloggers into question, which is horribly offensive. At the very least, if they're going to charge for reviews, they need to be very upfront and honest about that. Don't hide it under the guise of "compensation." I pimp the hell out of books I love by friends. My compensation? A thank you and maybe a drink the next time we see each other. Or, if I'm really lucky, reciprocation.

    My mother used to love the phrase lying-by-omission. I always thought it was kind of a joke. I still do, but it doesn't mean it doesn't ever apply. And it definitely does in this case.

    ReplyDelete
  39. To be honest, the blog in question lost me at "we won't review books that we feel won't get a minimum of (4-) out of a total of (5+) stars from us". What's the point of having a rating system when you're only posting reviews that make a certain grade?

    And it just went downhill from there. Whoever jumps on a Tweet with "YOU CAN'T SAY THAT - WE'RE PHONING OUR LAWYER!" deserves no respect whatsoever. Not that I write chick lit, but even if I did I would NEVER touch this site. Dreadful.

    ReplyDelete
  40. How does the quality of their site have to do with the books they review? It's a review. If you read a book you don't like, say why. Giving a book 2 stars is perfectly acceptable and only giving reviews to 4 and 5 star books makes it look like they only give good ratings. Which, to me, translates as they aren't that critical. At least, if you aren't looking close enough.

    I have a book review blog. I do it because I love it. I don't ask for money for it because I think it's inappropriate. It reminds me of a post I read somewhere about people charging money for a 5 star rating, regardless of how much they loved or hated a book. To me, getting free books to review is a nice perk, but asking for money crosses a line for me.

    Most of the books that have been reviewed on my blog are books that I paid for and loved enough to review. Maybe 1 in 5 book reviews are from free books given to me specifically to review. This really bothers me. -___-

    ReplyDelete
  41. We can thank Kirkus for this, they started selling their opinion first. However, I do commiserate with bloggers. I review very few books, and I've been approached by strangers for blurbs and reviews. I'd rather stick to reviewing books I choose myself than resort to this. I can't imagine an honest review from someone paid by the writer, but I'm sure they exist... Legal disclaimer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Thomas, it would be very interesting to know from Kirkus why they started doing this. Perhaps I'll contact them and see if they'd like to join the discussion.

      Delete
    2. What Kirkus does is (ostensibly) quite different, though. I can appreciate a reviewer wanting to be paid for the time spent reading a work and writing an honest review. What is sketchy about Ms. Gorman's experience is the emphasis on only positive reviews.

      Delete
  42. Hi everyone, I am Paula from the Chick Lit Girls website.
    We are very upset about this recent attack on us. We love the writing community and would never try to harm or be unethical.
    The reviews that we post here are honest and fair. We will not and do not post negative reviews. Our intent is to help-not harm. If we read a book that is less than good, we will not post the review. We are here to help authors, not destroy them!
    Yes, we do charge a fee, as do other sites. Such as Kirkus,
    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/indie/about/
    All of the authors we have reviewed for knew full wellthat there was no guarentees of a good review. We work hard to determine ahead of time, if the author's book will get a good review from us before we agree to do it. We have returned money more than a few times when the book has not met up to a good review. Kirkus does not return the money when the review turns out to be bad, they just "bury the review". Only about 1 out of 15 or more requests for reviews make it through to get an actual review from us. We do a lot of research on the author and their previous reviews and ratings before committing to do it ourselves. We have had so many authors request promotion help, and reviews, that a couple of us quit our regular jobs, to do this fulltime. Websites cost a lot of money to run and the time involved in sorting through all the requests, reading the books, maintaining the website,and writing the reviews, is more than a full time job and we have to eat too. We state to the authors more than once and in follow up letters, that their are no guarentees, and some have sadly recieved their money back, but we keep it to ourselves. We have on many many occasion done reviews for free, if we feel the author is good and deserves a chance(but they can't afford to pay) We are here to help-not harm. We are very sincere and nice people and and have done nothing to deserve this. We are very saddened by this recent onslaught and attack on us. Please stop. This is not good for the writing community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your very response here is contradictory.

      "The reviews that we post here are honest and fair. We will not and do not post negative reviews. "

      followed by

      "All of the authors we have reviewed for knew full wellthat there was no guarentees of a good review. "

      Your first sentence actually guarantees the review. Like I said on twitter, maybe fixing your contradictory and misleading disclosure form should be the first order of business for your lawyer instead of threatening an author with some kind of retaliation for shining a light on your pay to play activities. You aren't up front with your readers and I have serious doubts about your claim to 2.5 million views a month given than your site ranks about 450,000 in Alexa and the news site you partner with is one where anyone can submit posts further of the book posts that are on the site, most of them receive only one view.

      So you have contradictory disclosure statements, you aren't up front with your readers, and the public information available about your stats don't match up to your email claims.

      Delete
    2. Hi Paula

      I just posted about this on my blog:
      http://logophilos.net/blog/index.php/2012/07/well-charge-you-for-a-review-but-well-sue-you-if-you-tell-people-that-we-charge-for-reviews/

      As you have clearly identified your site in your comment, I believe I am entitled to do the same in my post.

      Please send me the name, address and phone number of your lawyer, and the grounds and evidence for your action if you intend to sue to my email address, logophilos@gmail.com. I'll be taking advice on the course of action to pursue from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (https://www.eff.org/) on how to respond.

      Delete
    3. What is not good for the writing community is calling yourselves book bloggers. A paid review site IS NOT and should not be listed as an impartial blog. I read blogs for honest opinions. How honest can you be when you are paid to write a review? It unnecessarily tarnishes the image that bloggers have worked hard to overcome....the idea that we would sell out.

      Delete
    4. I don't understand the threat of lawsuit. If your blog charges a fee for reviews than own it. Why would you be upset if that fact was made public? If you feel like charging authors is a justifiable and honest business practice why would you be upset at Michelle for saying that is what you do? How is stating the truth an attack? Color me confused.

      Delete
    5. So, wait. You charge for reviews, you claim the author knows there's no guarantee of a good review, even though you've made it clear that you got out of your way to make sure you post good reviews. Then you return money if the review won't be good. That sounds even more unethical to me. As Jane said it's one big contradiction. And you need to stop comparing yourselves to Kirkus. You're not Kirkus. They are upfront about the payment scheme. They drive traffic on their own without having to tout a nonexistent partnership with a site anyone can post to (and it looks like inflating page view stats), and the author knows the review can be favorable or unfavorable. Finally, Kirkus doesn't start screaming "attack" or threatening to send in the lawyers simply because someone states their review for payment policy.

      Delete
    6. This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. As an author, I have never paid anyone to review my book, whether the review be good or bad. That is the reviewers opinion. You take or leave it.

      And I agree with Jane. Paula, your comments are very contradictory, and a rewrite of your disclosure statements on your website is in order. As far as you suing anyone, I doubt you have any basis for any lawsuit, since you are the one who made your ridiculous charging for review public anyway.

      Delete
  43. I can't decide if I'm more horrified by the site's reviewing criteria, their charges, or their astonishingly unprofessional attitude to your tweet. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Kirkus is one thing. That's KIRKUS. I don't know who these guys are and I was always under the impression that as a book blogger, the exchange was one review copy for an honest review. The FTC sees this as payment which is why we need to declare the books we receive; otherwise it looks like we're being paid for favorable reviews.

    It appears this website is charging for favorable reviews but it does appear they have a rather thorough culling process and only take on books they feel would garner higher praise. Other bloggers do this as well; they just don't charge for it. I guess it's the blogger's prerogative to start charging, especially if they're accessing audiences that large and are willing to do that much effort for the title. But let's not call these guys something they're not: these are not book bloggers. They're publicists charging a fee for their service. Again that's fine but these guys have exceeded the bounds of book blogger-dom. I do know other book bloggers that freelance their reviews for other sites but, to me, that's not the same. They're acting as freelance writers for other media outlets. These guys are in business for themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Unbeliveable. It's extortion, plain and simple. Shame on them! Such behavior dilutes the entire industry.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Charging for reviews happens, yes, rarely. But for only positive reviews? eeeeeeenh. I wouldn't trust any of that reviewer's work, personally.

    Also, having looked at their site-- I wonder if Goodreads has sent them a cease & desist order yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assumed from their tag-line that they're associated with Goodreads? Maybe not?

      Delete
  47. It is *MY* opinion that it's pretty damn sucky to charge for reviews, and good on you for not doing it.

    Bloggers can charge whatever they want, but paying for a positive review? That's BS. Again...my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  48. As a reviewer for a well respected crime fiction review site I am appalled by the front of ChickLitGirls. To charge for a 4+ star review is in my opinion tantamount to bribery. Do they refund the money to authors whose books they don't like? Do they perform detailed critique back to the author? Or do they ask for free books and a fee for a guaranteed good review?
    I would stop reviewing if I was told to give a good review because the author or publisher had paid.
    Save your money and keep writing.
    Just my opinion for what little it's worth.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I don't want to say anything but after reading this I must. First off, why pay that much money to some reviewers, who aren't even legit? For that amount of money you can pay a real publicist who works at the New York Times and can actually get your book in their paper. And they are getting a bit hated on in social media right now for that. Charging to leave the author a good review, that is just wrong

    Sadly those chicklit people sound like fakes. I review books on my blog, but i don't charge I simply like to just write a review and I may say some critical tings about the writing, but I don't charge. I just like to share the marvelous books I read.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Wow, that is one of the worst things I have ever heard. I write for a book blog and it would never cross my mind to charge an author for a review, favorable or not. Kirkus, as a company, has professional reviewers and whatnot. And although I think they charge way too much for a review, they are well known in the publishing world. A book blog, IMO is something people do for fun to get their love of books out to the world. To start charging for a review completely takes what started out as something for fun and sullies it. It is a shame that the names had to be deleted, because I would really love to know who would go about doing something so unethical.

    ReplyDelete
  51. What I find especially appalling in this is the idea that
    "we won't review books that we feel won't get a minimum of (4-) out of a total of (5+) stars from us. We want to keep up the quality of our site ... and this is one of the ways that we accomplish that"
    Since when does a positive review correlate in any way with maintaining quality? How does only publishing positive reviews demonstrate any integrity?
    Negative reviews, especially well-written ones, are a huge service to the many readers who are trying to wade through an ocean of choices and make an informed decision whether or not they want to invest their time in a particular title. Knowing why some people liked or did NOT like a title is an aid - they can do what they like with the information, once they have it.
    But if all the information they have to go on is a bunch of people who are paid to say, hey, this book was swell - they will go elsewhere to get the information they need.
    And finally: don't call yourself a book review blog if what you really are is a PR site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks SprungAtLast, I couldn't agree more with your comment about negative reviews, when constructive, being very useful to readers. And to writers. Here I'll quote from an excellent article hosted by Chick Lit Reviews about writing bad reviews. It was a 2-parter in which they got the opinions from bloggers, and from writers. This was my 2p:

      I always want the reviewer to be honest and post her review on the blog. In fact, I think that not posting a negative review has the potential to do more harm than posting it. There's such a wide range of reading tastes even within genres, and I want readers to have a good idea about whether they'll like my book before they buy it. Otherwise that short-term sale could harm my long-term prospects. Let's say the reviewer has a real bugbear about my current book (maybe she hates the writing style I've chosen). Another reader who also hates that writing style is equally unlikely to enjoy it. So it's much better that she reads the review and passes up the book. Otherwise she may buy it, read it, hate it and never buy another book of mine again, regardless of the writing style I choose.

      And I wholeheartedly agree with the bloggers who've pointed out that it's important to critique the book and not the author. I was on the receiving end of a vitriolic 2* review of my debut novel from a blogger who made a bit of a career of smearing authors (as was mentioned). If there is something a reviewer hates about my book, say so, but in a constructive way, please!
      full article is here: http://chicklitcentraltheblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/fifty-shades-of-gray-area-ii-what.html

      Delete
    2. I tend towards reading the negative reviews of books. As a reader I find them immensely useful as a means of gauging if I might like the book. Positive reviews are often gushing and useless. A well written NEGATIVE review however will tell me WHY someone disliked the book and give me a gauge of the reviewer's tastes. More than once I've read a book BECAUSE the negative review made it sound like something I might enjoy.

      Chick Lit sounds like a singularly useless site, specializing in creating the very kind of reviews that aren't worth reading. If I want cheerleaders I'll watch a football game.

      Delete
  52. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  53. So, I write reviews when I feel moved to. Usually that's because I loved a book, but sometimes it's because I hated it. I would NEVER charge for a review and think that it's unethical to do so. However, here's a question: if I'm given an ARC for a book and asked to post a review on Amazon, etc. once I've read it, and I read and hate it, then what? I was faced with this scenario recently and decided not to post a review at all. I don't want to lie in a review and say I liked it if I didn't, but I also felt like I was somehow defaulting on my end of the deal if I posted a bad review when they gave me the book for free. They never said "post a good review" just "post a review," but let's face it, if they'd thought I'd put something bad up they wouldn't have offered me the book for free. So, as I said, I just didn't post anything. Thoughts from others of you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to be kind of torn about that too when I started getting ARC's but I've just come to realise that it doesn't really matter if a review is positive or negative. I've bought books after reading negative reviews before, because I know opinions are subjective and I wanted to see for myself if the book is good or bad, the negative review just had me going into it with lower expectations.

      In my negative reviews, I make it clear that the book just didn't work for me personally and if I can't think of anything positive to say about it, I look up a few more positive reviews on goodreads or other blogs and link those in case the blog readers want to read a differing opinion of the book.

      I've had a few authors specify in their review request email that if I don't like the book, they don't want me to post the review. In those cases, I just don't accept the book for review.

      All of the publishers I've been in contact with over the years have been fine with me posting reviews that weren't particularly positive.

      Negative reviews are fine, so long as they're fair. It's really up to you whether you post negative reviews or not though. *shrugs*

      Delete
    2. This is a big debate and something that a lot of bloggers seem to have difficulties with.

      An author wants the review, regardless if it is positive or negative. The fact of the matter is that they are getting publicity one way or another. Publicists also appreciate truthfulness.

      I always post my negative reviews. I think that it is very misleading to your viewers if you only post the positive. Let them know your full opinions!

      Delete
    3. As an author, a review (to me) is publicity whether it's positive or negative. What Lanna said is true though, I do prefer both positive and negative reviews that do more than just say "loved it" or "hated it." Give the readers something to help them make a decision, and if you can show both the good and the bad, that's even better.

      Delete
    4. Negative reviews can be helpful to other readers too - there are some reviewers out there where if they don't like a book, I'm almost guaranteed to love it and even some of the snarkiest reviews have led to increases in author sales.

      I have a review policy up at my blog which states that books accepted for review are not guaranteed a favourable review. That might work for you too.

      Delete
    5. The majority of authors (myself included) simply want honest feedback on their work. I always stress that I'm open to all opinions whether they're positive, negative, or indifferent, because I want to know what works, and what doesn't.
      Writers who are only interested in favourable reviews won't do themselves or their readers any favours, in my opinion.

      Delete
    6. Thanks, everyone, this is a very interesting topic, and one that Chick Lit Central posted about a couple of months ago. Here is the authors' POV (it's a 2 part article - the other is from the bloggers' POV): http://chicklitcentraltheblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/fifty-shades-of-gray-area-ii-what.html

      Delete
  54. Wait, these chicks are still continuing to threaten you with a lawsuit? What internet lawyer's advice are they relying upon? Reposting an email response from them soliciting money from you in exchange for a review is in no way defamatory or actionable in any other claim. I call bullshit on the [name not included to observe Gorman's preferences].

    ReplyDelete
  55. I would never....EVER let someone pay me for a review. I would be really uncomfortable with that. I know someone who just received a random Amazon gift card from an author...and she was really upset...as she should have been. If I want a job, I'll go out in the real world and get one. This is a hobby and I will not be paid for it.

    On another note, everyone needs to calm down about contacting their lawyers. I don't even think a lawyer would take this matter seriously unless it started to border into slander. And, yes, there is a difference between free speech and slander.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I agree with Jane. Nothing you've done is actionable. If you'd made up the whole thing or added false information to the email, they might have a case, but this is in no way defamation. They cannot win a lawsuit against you just because you gave your opinion on their practices.

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  57. The idea of charging for "honest" reviews is laughable at best. Never mind the fact that there are a thousand book blogs that would never consider charging for reviews.

    It seems to me that they're more a "marketing space" trying to masquerade as a book blog. It makes me feel kind of ill though.

    ReplyDelete
  58. And they topped the rest of their WTFery off w/an implied threat to harass you with bad reviews should you persist in stating factal evidence. Unbelievable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and then, give some advice about how to get ahead in the biz (with some helpful "life" advice thrown in)!!

      Delete
  59. Wow! How can you charge for an honest review? I couldn't imagine charging an author to review their book. Personally, for me, payment is being able to read your work. There are thousands of free book bloggers out there, I'm surprised that they'd even get business but maybe the fact that you are paying for a 5 star review is what draws writers in?

    Either way, it's sad to see this.

    ReplyDelete
  60. I don't know what to say other than this totally sucks. I read and review books because I LOVE TO and thankfully money has never entered the equation. Maybe that's why I'm broke! LOL.

    On the up side, I bet you have a ton of bloggers offering to read and review your book for reviews, right? If not, shoot me an email and I'll read/review one for you. #support!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks lovely, but I think I would scare your readers with my chick lit! :-)) They'd be confused, wondering when the ditzy shopaholic was going to turn into a vampire!

      Delete
  61. I had NO idea that was going on. GAWD, that's a horrible practice. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  62. Michele - Thanks for sharing the information. I've received a similar message from the same site about my latest novel, as have some author friends. It's really a bit shocking, and I hate that it's come to threats of legal action. That's certainly not what the indie community is all about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lauren, if that message has come through goodreads, that's a breach of goodreads' policy!

      Delete
  63. OMG. I belueve the difference is that KIRKUS provides honest reviews... Not "FAVORABLE" reviews. Absolutely PATHETIC.

    Thanks for letting us know babe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Kirkus" doesn't charge for reviews.

      "Kirkus Indie" does charge for reviews.

      Kirkus reviews are widely respected.

      Kirkus Indie reviews are universally ignored.

      I hope this clears up everyone's confusion.

      Delete
    2. Thanks BookishBrunette, BTW, please don't feel left out :-) - would have sent you review request but saw in your policy that you 'selectively' read chick lit. Am happy to send if you'd like. You can pop me an email if so: michelegormanwriter@gmail.com

      Delete
  64. It is only considered defamation if you are spreading lies, which obviously you are not.. ugh. people these days.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Completely defeats the purpose of book blogging. Good for you for calling them out on this ridiculousness! What a bunch of greedy losers.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Charging for reviews is disreputable whoever does it. There's no one out there saying that what Kirkus do with their Indie Reviews is respectable. Quite the opposite: they're setting a very bad example for the Paulas of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Good morning Michele,
    I feel really sad seeing their next step, and I hope you're ok. Most people disagree with their practice, bloggers and readers alike, and that obviously concerns them greatly.
    Michelle x
    @bookclubforum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle, I'm fine. I'm happy to see that debate is raging about cash-for-reviews. I'd like the discussion to move away from individual players and towards whether/in what circumstances we'd be happy to see paid-for reviews.

      Delete
  68. Those are not 'nice girls'. As others have noted, there's a world of difference between Kirkus Reviews and Kirkus Indie - the latter seems more like a critique service than anything else. If they genuinely want to support writers, then they shouldn't be charging for positive reviews (or any) - if they want to work in publicity and make a living, that's a separate issue and book blogging is not the way to go about it. Shame on them for their bad practices and for the absurd (yet unpleasant, I know) legal threats. And well done to you for letting people know about it and getting the discussion going.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Claire, so far, luckily, it's not in the UK, but I fear that as we tend to import lots from the US, it may threaten us soon. Hopefully by forming opinions about the practice now we'll be in a good position to decide how we want our book community to look in the future.

      Delete
  69. Ross Golden-Bannon17 July 2012 at 00:46

    It is completely immoral to charge for reviews. If their business model does not create a revenue to pay a reviewer themselves and shifts that cost to the author they are morally compromised. If they are reading this I look forward to their 'legal threat' as it will expose what is essentially a scam.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I think that charging for reviews is just another business. Authors presumably use those services because they in turn want good reviews to help sell their books. In essence, the review is a form of PR. Part of the issue, I feel, is that writers don't always want an objective review - they want to hear good things and to see their progress as an author as a continuously ascending line. But life isn't like that, and hopefully writing isn't either. The issue is whether the charging model is visible from the outset so that writers aren't confused about what they're getting - and paying. Personally, I'd rather have unbiased reviews, but I'm not planning to pay the rent from my novels (at the moment!). I recently chased up an agent in the UK, who Id submitted to four months before, and she said she only looked at material if a 'small fee' of around $150 was paid - for her time. Reader, I declined! Writing - it's a business.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Derek, I'm sorry to hear that an agent wanted to charge you. I've heard that a few do, and disagree with it. Agents are paid a salary by the agency to do their job, which is to find good writers, represent them and sell their work. Compensation to the agency comes from the publishing houses that buy the books. It need not come from hopeful writers. If it does, it says a lot about the agency's ability to sell writers' books (i.e. to do their job).

      Delete
    2. Derek - agents are not supposed to charge a reading fee. The (UK) Association of Authors' Agents forbids it. It creates a conflict of interest.

      Delete
  71. Good morning everyone, I'd us to move the discussion away from individual bloggers if we can, so that we can discuss the concept of cash-for-reviews. Are there any circumstances in which it's okay to charge to read a book and review it? If so, what are those circumstances, and how much is fair?

    Thanks everyone, for joining in this important discussion!

    ReplyDelete
  72. Personally, I don't see how you can accept cash, then write an honest, unbiased review.

    As a reader, if I want to find reviews of a particular book, I may choose to google it - I expect blog reviews to be honest and unbiased, and I think it's bad if we're not aware whether a payment has changed hands or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not even a little bit of cash, say $5? Is that different from receiving the book for free? Playing devil's advocate.

      Delete
    2. But where do you draw the line with an amount?

      I have to admit, I think even the idea of receiving a free book has the potential to cause pressure. And that issue gets more complicated when you have a good relationship with an author and/or publisher. However with a little experience, it is possible to stay constructive whilst writing the review, even if you weren't keen on the book.

      For honesty, you can't beat the review of someone who's purchased the book themselves, and then reviewed it. The way most bloggers work these days is a compromise - but for me, cash is a step too far.

      Delete
    3. Exactly, Michelle, that's the question: where do we draw the line? That will be an individual decision, however, we as a community will arrive at a consensus. Based on the responses so far, it seems that consensus disagrees with paying $100 or more for a review.

      Delete
    4. Well I have suggested that I'd like a large bar of chocolate with every book... but I think that would be my limit! ;-)

      Delete
  73. By the way, the cash-for-reviews blog that shall not be named has responded in the comments above. You can search "Paula" to see these.

    ReplyDelete
  74. The amount of corruption on the Internet is second only to that in banking.

    Pay-Per-Post is all over the place and is usually well hidden. And there are blogs that charge for "reviews" of iPhone (and probably iPad now too) apps.

    Every review should state up front how the book or product was acquired. Did the reviewer buy the product? Was the product given for free? Did the reviewer solicit the product for free? Is the reviewer in any way related to the product creator by family or other ties?

    A paid-for review is not a review. It's a marketing placement, little different from product placements in movies & TV. And I don't care that Kirkus or PW or whoever might give a book a bad review. If it's been paid for, it's a corrupt system.

    And saying you want to "help" writers is a flimsy excuse to line your pockets. Review sites are supposed to be helping *readers*, not writers.

    ReplyDelete
  75. There is nothing wrong with wanting to turn your book blog into a business (I have done it). But there is an ethical way of doing it! I'm puzzled.

    If you want to make money from a book blog work hard to create honest reviews that your readers can trust. Create content that is helpful to readers and writers and book lovers. Once you have built yourself up as an authority (using your own opinions - not just an amalgamation of other opinions you have sourced from across the internet) and have a large, loyal following who TRUST YOU, you might be in a position to offer advertising space which should be clearly set out as such.

    What @chicklitgirls are forgetting is that their fake recommendations could lead people to part with their cash to buy that book! That's horrible! They are so focused on extracting money from authors that they are forgetting about their READERS. Our stance at Novelicious is READERS FIRST! What use is a good review anyway if no-one trusts it.

    @chicklitgirls, why not offer advertising or promotional spots (interview/guest post space) if you feel your site is popular enough to warrant it. But your reviews need to be honest. They are the cornerstone of any book blog. Stop being greedy and stop threatening to sue people because you are ruining what has the potential to be a good website for book lovers. Think about what you are doing, eh? xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kirsty. I also understand that you can earn a small amount from click throughs to Amazon from your review site. That seems to me to be a fair way to receive compensation, since then you are effectively a distribution channel for our books. Happily it is Amazon that pays bloggers for expanded distribution.

      A few people have mentioned that paid for reviews fall within the remit of paid-for advertising. So perhaps there need to be rules to distinguish promotional pieces from unpaid-for reviews.

      Does anyone in US have a view on this? What are the rules now?

      Delete
    2. Yes, Michele. Amazon affiliates means that our amazon links earn us a commission of about 4% per book if the book is bought within 24 hours of clicking on our link. It also works as a link tracker so that we can see which post types and advertising spaces convert well.

      We rarely run sponsored posts (a news post or advertorial - never a review or recommendation) but when we do it is written in the post that it is a sponsored space.

      Delete
  76. Preditors & Editors just recently instituted a policy of posting reviews on its site for one week. For authors, it's free. For sites that charge , it's not. So far, not one site has sought to expand its coverage by placing a review with P&E. Oh, the cost for those sites that charge? Only a dollar. I guess they don't want to pay for what they're getting.

    ReplyDelete
  77. This is terrible. I don't think it's ethical to charge for favourable reviews - or possible really, because once money changes hands it turns from a review to an ad. If people do accept money in exchange for positive comments, then the post should be clearly marked as "sponsored/advertorial".

    ReplyDelete
  78. I own a small press and one of my authors received this EXACT same email, so it is obviously a form letter. We were both immediately turned off by them and turned them down. I do not pay for reviews, other than giving bloggers a free book in exchange for an HONEST review. And there are many wonderful book bloggers out there more than happy to read & review books for the sheer love of reading. No one should ever pay for a review. And, as a reader, I would not trust a review site that was compensated for reviewing a book.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Paying a reviewer is like paying for a hooker. It ain't real love, baby, and your reputation as a writer could catch a nasty disease that just won't go away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "This time, it's love. Next time, it's $95."

      Delete
  80. This isn't a reviewer, this is a publicity/marketing service calling themselves a reviewer. I am willing to bet that you could send them "Atlanta Nights" by Travis Tea and be told it made their cut and would get a favorable review for just $95.00, too. The form letter had the same vibe as the standard hooks used by the likes of PA and Poetry.com. Also the propensity to toss legal threats around when mentioned in any way that isn't gushing praise--all red flags that these are bloody scammers.

    Remember Yog's Law: Money flows *towards* the author.

    ReplyDelete
  81. There is a big difference between a blogger asking a writer to pay for a review of their book and a newspaper or magazine paying a reviewer for a book review. A blogger receiving a payment from a writer would be a straight forward conflict of interest. A book reviewer from the the NYT is paid by the NYT not the authors who want their books reviewed and given a "nice" write up. I would not trust a review of a book that an author had to pay the reviewer to make. I think that an honest blogger would have it readily available on their site (for both writers and reader to see) that they charge for their reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  82. This really upsets me,. One reason is they say they quit their jobs and they have to make money okay. Well I don't work haven't for a long time and I still do this for free. Sure I don't have a custom design, or any fancy stuff that costs money but its mine and I wouldn't ever feel right charging an author for my opinion.

    Second reason this bothers me is the threat they gave you. When all you did was state your opinion, correct me if I am wrong but I don't see how that is harassment?

    ReplyDelete
  83. Ross Golden-Bannon17 July 2012 at 12:19

    One of the reasons print journalists like myself have felt such animosity towards online journalism and bloggers is precisely because of the lack of knowledge on the ethics of journalism (online or otherwise). Even the headline of this 'Should bloggers charge for reviews?' is unwitting testimony to this. I am paid by a newspaper and a magazine to review, amongst other things, restaurants, books, shows etc. They pay me a living wage to make an independent judgement of the work in question. If the publisher, writer or manufacturer also paid me, that is a bribe. I would lose my job and possibly end up in jail. Think about it. You won't get an independent review anyway, you're undermining the journalistic code and possibly undermining future paid work for yourself. Would you trust a review of a new car, play or film if you knew it was paid for by the very people who produced it? What about a new surgical procedure or drug?
    If you pay somebody to read your work and give you a private critique that is an entirely different state of affairs it is NOT a review. Charging for reviews is not a business - it is corrupt. I am flabbergasted that people with an interest in getting published don't understand this.

    ReplyDelete
  84. In effect, I am "charging" for reviews on books I read - the cost of the review is the book in e-format. Beyond that, I don't think bloggers should get paid for reviewing, because I wouldn't be able to trust those reviews. They would no longer be independent, honest judgments of the product in question but rather a paid-for lip service. I see a huge conflict of interest with that scenario, and a lack of credibility.

    My blog is not a professional site. I review because I love to read and share my thoughts with fellow readers. My only "payment" is that I get to read these books.

    I'm with you, Michele. This is not legit. I'd be glad to read your book (for free) and review it. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sandra, I'll drop you an email.

      Delete
  85. As a new blogger I would never consider taking a payment for a review. In reality I love reading and until recently all my books have either been ones I've bought, picked up for free on Kindle or borrowed from the library. I recently have been able to pick up items via NetGalley or direct from authors via contests and consider that to be more than generous. To solicit a fee or receive cash smacks of blatant dishonesty! Like the previous poster I'd happily take a chance on a book if someone wanted to hand me a copy but would never promise or suggest a favorable review due to that. I try to be fair in my reviews and feel that is what other readers appreciate plus is what an author is truly looking for.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Here's something which concerns me though - there's obviously a huge feeling that charging for reviews is wrong. However, the people charging are doing so well out of it that they have a massive waiting list, and have been able to leave work! Are there really that many chick-lit authors who aren't aware of all the other blogs/forums etc out there?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was one of my biggest concerns, Michelle, and an important reason why I wrote the post. Hopefully now many writers are aware that most bloggers don't charge for reviews!

      Delete
  87. Said a lot already, but I wanted to add...

    1: (Usual I'm not a lawyer caveats aside) In the laws of most developed countries including the UK and the USA, it's usually not considered libel, slander or defamation to honestly express a subjective opinion about any given subject. If somebody is repeating a well-established and verifiable objective fact then it definitely isn't defamation, libel or slander.

    2: There are numerous newspapers, sites and magazines that seem to have slid into or deliberately adopted a "positive only" review policy. If all reviews are relentlessly positive it negates the concept of a review, because it leaves us unable to judge what's really good.

    If I'm teaching somebody to drive or to do just about anything else, it doesn't help them if I constantly tell them that everything they're doing is great. Sometimes bad work needs a rebuke. You praise when they do well, offer constructive criticism when they don't. You don't say:
    "You just hit somebody... it's OK, just winged her I think. She was old, anyway. You did great!"

    And anyway, shouldn't people who are in the business of criticism understand constructive criticism when they receive it, instead of going off the deep end and lashing out because they got a bad review?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good points Alistair, thanks. I learn from every review in which a reader has constructive criticism. That's how we get to be better writers.

      Delete
  88. As a reader, I don't want to read "only good" reviews. I want to know if there was something that didn't work for the reviewer, if there was a flaw in the actual product (either authorial or editorial OR physical), and seeing those "pass on this" reviews makes me more confident in the "read this!" reviews. If the person reviewing isn't at least partially picky, or doesn't share my EXACT preferences in reading material, they're useless to me.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Why delete the name of the semi-literate buffoon at chicklitgirls.com making these cowardly legal threats?

    Call him/her out.

    As for me, I'll never visit chicklitgirls.com again.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Popehat has a good post on this, which you can find linked below. I'd suggest undoing your redaction, Michele. It's pandering to a kind of bullying which is pathetic and ungrounded.

    http://www.popehat.com/2012/07/18/girls-just-wanna-have-lawsuits/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, I did it as a courtesy, because I'd been asked to. The point I wanted to make with the blog post is that we, the book community, should be thinking about marketing sites like this and deciding whether and how we want to engage with them. After all, we are their customers (writers who pay for the reviews and readers who "consume" their product). The names of the blogs really don't matter.

      Delete
  91. Thanks for putting this post out there. It had been in the back of my head that an author could pay for a good review, or someone else could pay for a bad review in order to smear a rival, etc. Yet, I had thought of the book blogger community as a bunch of book junkies doing it for the love of books, not for the cash.

    I write for 2 different book blogs, and neither accepts $ for reviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, lots of bloggers have let us readers and writers know that they don't charge for reviews. Hopefully the message is becoming clear that it isn't the norm!

      Delete
  92. Good afternoon Michele! You've posted a WONDERFUL piece here that was rather eye opening and sickening. I wanted to let you know that I wrote a piece about your story and posted on my site today. You can view it at http://puretextuality.com

    Thanks again!

    Jena

    ReplyDelete
  93. The website in question seems to be offline at the moment. Too bad I wanted to see the site for myself. I assume they are re-evaluating their policies.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Money taints impartiality. You were right to speak up.

    ReplyDelete
  95. I'm glad you spoke up and brought this to public attention. That site has given book blogging a bad name. Interesting that when things are heating up, they have gone offline.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! My mouth literally dropped open when I read your post. I can not believe that there are bloggers out there being so greedy, rude and disrespectful. I can completely understand why it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, I feel the exact same way. They should understand that blogging about books should be out of pure enjoyment, not earning money off it. Earning money off it is fine, if you do it in the RIGHT, RESPONSIBLE way! Like having some advertisements on your blog, but it is so wrong that they charge money to review an author's book.

    Isn't enough that we can communicate with such lovely authors and get their books to review for them. Since I started book blogging I am so happy that I can chat to authors in a way I've never done before and really, that's what blogging about books is about. You can chat to authors, be friends with them, read their books and review it HONESTLY.

    This is what also shocked me, is that they're ONLY reviewing "good" books on their blog, they should be writing honest reviews for books they enjoyed AND books they didn't enjoy. I love reading reviews on Goodreads because there you can see for yourself, the positive AND negative reviews.

    I'm really sorry that you were treated with such disrespect and threatened like that. I do hope that your lovely book will be reviewed by more honest, humble bloggers in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bookaholic, for your comment and your kind thoughts.

      As long as everyone is aware that these businesses exist, we can decide as a reading community whether we want to use them. It's when they are sneaky that problems occur. And I agree re: gooodreads - I tend to look there for a balance of reviews.

      Delete
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