A friend of mine has a book releasing soon, and she made the decision to pay two-hundred dollars for a single review from someone who is, apparently, a respected NY book reviewer (I've never heard of him, but trust she's done her research).
He also offers a marketing package and uses his own review to promo the book. This was a red flag to me. If he's taking money for the marketing component, then how can you trust the review to be honest?
The other option is to use one of the companies where you pay a fee and the book is provided to random readers for a set number of reviews. If it were me, I would choose the latter, to be sure the reviews are honest.
Now for the question, which I hope will be appropriate for your blog:
What is your opinion of this practice?(1)
Do you suggest this to your authors (2a), or recommend against it? (2b)
Writing, publishing, and marketing books is a tangled road for most of us authors. Thanks for providing a road map.
1. This practice is a vile and morally bankrupt way to make money. It caters to writers' anxiety and lack of knowledge about how book publicity works.
2b. Yes. In fact, it's stronger than recommend against. I'd insist that any client of mine NOT do it because it tarnishes every other legitimate review you might get.
You can't buy reviews worth getting.
You can't buy reviews from someone who actually IS a respected book reviewer. Apparently you can buy them from someone who claims to be.
Paid reviews are done by shills, not book reviewers. They won't tell you that. I just did.
If your friend hasn't coughed up the money yet ask if her research included googling the "reviewer's" name and his reviews appear on any site OTHER than his own. A "respected" reviewer gets quoted. (That's the whole purpose of reviews!)
If you want to test that theory, here are some respected reviewers: Ron Charles of the Washington Post. Oline Cogdill. Lesa Holstine.
There are LOTS of others.
If you want an easier test: do you recognize any of the books he's reviewed? Shills often find their targets among people who don't have access to the trade reviewers, or legit book reviewers.
The purpose of a book review is not to get a review. It's to use that review to get attention from readers. Readers pay attention to people they know. Unless this shill has real name recognition (which he doesn't because YOU have never heard of him) a review of any kind, let alone a paid one, isn't worth anything.
Here's the rule: Don't pay for reviews.
It's very tempting to think "what can it hurt" and that's exactly what these flim-flam artists are counting on. They KNOW you want to sell books, and they know how to write a pitch that hits every anxiety you've got about your book being published.
It requires a lot of confidence to turn away from this kind of beguiling sales pitch. Be confident your book will find readers the old fashioned way: people who read it and talk about it.
You'll find those folks on book reviewing blogs; on Goodreads; on Twitter. You'll find them from working your mailing list and doing events. It won't be easy. It certainly won't feel anywhere as certain as a "review from a respected NY book reviewer" but what it will be is real.