So You Want to Be a Book Reviewer?Posted: February 1, 2013
A few weeks back, I did a post about getting started in freelance writing. A lot of people liked it, and a lot more had questions. One very big question I got was if you can get paid for doing book reviews. I mean, I get it. If you’re a reader so it sounds like an awesome job, right? Free books, tell your opinion, get paid. Well, it’s not quite that simple and there are a few pitfalls.
If you can believe it, there is a bit of scandal in something as boring as the history of book reviews. Let me tell you about it.
Once upon a time, there was a man named John Locke. He wrote delightful little novels about a spy named Donavon Creed. They were mind candy. He made a million dollars…and he did it all through self publishing on the kindle platform. He handled all his own marketing because on top of being a writer, he was also a businessman.
Turns out, he was a slightly unethical businessman. See, he paid for people to get his book and give him reviews. He also paid people to leave bad reviews on the books of competitors. For him, it was all a game of math. Beat the Amazon ranking system; make it to the top 10 of the fiction section. Stay there for weeks thanks to the momentum. It was a genius evil plan of cat-stoking-maniacal-laugh proportions. Locke beat the house. He won the internet.
Then people found out and shit rolled downhill. Amazon, concerned about the credibility of their ranking system, started deleting reviews. They did it in bulk. Accounts that were known for accepting money for reviews were banned. The reviewing system fell apart.
Then came the mobs and their pitchforks. Readers were pissed at authors for conning them. Some would go as far as to organize online attacks and destroy author’s rankings on Goodreads and Amazon. Authors didn’t behave any better. They got into arguments in the forums with the reviewers that left reviews for them. They attacked book bloggers on their blogs.
All of this did two things. It eliminated your ability to get directly paid for book reviews, but it also created a niche market. The niche market is the need for book reviewers for indie books. Reputable indie reviewers. Because of the online flame wars, many popular book blogs no longer review indie books. If you can establish a good following of readers, you can make bank on an indie book blog.
The trick is not to get paid directly for reviews. Instead, it’s to get paid through offering an advertising forum. See, a self published author is always looking for cheap ways to advertise their free days or discount books. Authors find these sites by searching Google for high ranking indie blogs so we can cheaply advertise our books. If you’re popular, you can get a flood of requests for reviews and a flood of request for advertising. Free books and paid advertising. You make out on two fronts.
Check out sites like Captivated Reading, Underground Book Reviews or the delightfully named Insatiable Book Sluts to see what I’m talking about. These reviewers are hobbyist reviewers, so they have credibility, but they can also make money by allowing paid advertising on their sites. Not all of them do. Some only review out of love for reading, but they all have the kind of credibility and following you need. If you want to get paid for reviewing books, that’s what you need to do. Above all, your credibility and your following decide your price.
By credibility, I mean you don’t just review only the books you like. You must be willing to be a critic. You tell people what you honestly thought of the book. Here’s where it could kind of suck.
You might get a psycho author. Not all indies understand professionalism. They might seem normal in the beginning, but if you pan their book for bad writing or an unbelievable plot, they will cyber stalk you. They are few and far between, I promise, but they do occasionally poke their heads out. You can avoid this by checking out their webpage ahead of time. If they spend most of their time ranting about their Amazon reviews, or complain about being bullied by reviewers, that is a shit storm you want no part of.
If you are an author as well as a reviewer, you might want to consider separating those for your book blog. Some people are suspicious of reviewers who are also authors. It doesn’t mean your opinions aren’t completely above board, but you if you have a horse in the race, its hard to be unbiased. Why do you think I hate every single book above mine on Amazon? Because I’m a jealous bitch.
Getting started in book reviewing is as easy as actually reviewing books. Get onto Amazon, write in depth reviews for the books you’ve read. Write honest reviews. Don’t get into online flame wars with authors. Build your reviewing credibility and offer the option to advertise for indies. A lot of huge sites started out as small book blogs that gained a huge following.
Also, if you need a book to get started, feel free to contact me. I give out free print copies to review sites, along with free naked pictures** to those who give me good reviews.
** Free naked pictures feature middle-aged Bea Arthur, not author.