In the past couple of days, Facebook has been rife with the debate of paid book reviews and as a pretty new reviewer myself, I realized that there were two aspects that need to be put out there. Not only for the benefit of authors and established book reviewers but also for newbies like me as well as the aspiring bloggers who want an in on this channel.
Let me start off from an author’s point of view first. An author spends time, efforts, hard work, sleepless nights working on the novel and most importantly, money on the book. This whole process drains them emotionally as well as financially to an extent and in our country, where it’s usually an author that has to hold the front of marketing, the author is left with no other choice but to expend his energy in yet another draining strategy. Self published or otherwise, Indian authors have to take it on themselves to market their book or otherwise give up their name to oblivion. Blog tours, reviews, contests are held so that their book isn’t just another lost title in a sea of books. When they encounter people who charge money, more or less doesn’t matter, it obviously enrages them since they are giving up their life’s best work to them for free. Shouldn’t the reviewers be grateful instead of demanding money? Shouldn’t they understand the efforts that they put in for that one book? Shouldn’t they just say thank you instead?
At this point, let’s get the reviewer point of view in. Remember the movie Ratatouille, where the hotel/food critique wasn’t just revered but also feared? How every little thing that he said could make or break the restaurant? Let’s use that analogy here to clarify the situation a bit more. Just like a restaurant critique is paid to eat (And that, let me just add is a dream job along with being paid to read!) But isn’t expected to eat and pass his judgement and leave, a reviewer expects to be paid for the time and effort they put in to read the book. No. Let me rephrase that. They don’t just read the book, they critique the book. They tell you what was good, what wasn’t, what worked, what dragged, if your language is the problem or the publisher should have paid more attention, if the cover is enticing or isn’t relatable at all, if the editing was good or left a lot to be desired and so on. We do this, not only for the benefit of the authors but also for the hard earning masses who wouldn’t want to be disappointed in case the book isn’t worth it. This is no way, shape or form to demotivate or discourage the authors from writing again. It’s done so that they know what they faults were and come back with a better book, working on their mistakes and rectifying the fumbles. The time and effort to read your lit baby, write down its goods and bad, share it on the various media platforms and groups and sometimes even invite the flak of the readers for being too harsh or too lenient, shouldn’t go waste either, don’t you think?
True, this paid service makes people think that they can buy higher rating but I don’t think anyone would risk their credibility for a few bucks. Especially since they know that it’s their word that would be counted and vetted against the other criticisms of the book.
So, just like that restaurant critique in Ratatouille
is paid to eat the food and write the review, a book reviewer also has the right to read a book and expect something in return.
For newbies like me, who are just getting started and have taken this up more as are professional hobby as opposed to a full time, money paying job, it’s difficult to choose a side. If you demand money from the start, you are neglected because, well, you are new! And if you start asking for money once you are established enough, people start judging your reviews since they are ‘paid’ now. Do you see the confusion that baffles us? We risk our credibility, the only thing that people know us for, to put your book on a blog that is a result of our hard work and patience. I think we deserve some respect for our professional opinion and time, don’t you think?
If you are an author, looking for unpaid reviews, you might either have to compromise on new reviewers or find a few that would be willing to do so. If you are are reviewer who does unpaid reviews as a hobby, then great! But if you are a professional reviewer, college goer or otherwise, and this is your attempt to make a living and earn some money, then more power to you!
All in all, I think it’s a fair ballgame. You have authors willing to pay you and reviewers willing to review for free. Let’s take a moment before we come out, guns blaring if God forbid, someone tries to make a change.