Author Beware

My friend Nick Kaufmann just did a blog post (or LiveJournal post, which is like a blog wannabe, right?) about some shady shit happening in the publishing world. Here's some of the post:

I was recently contacted by the former book review editor of the Rocky Mountain News about working for the new review website she started, where I would review self-published horror, science fiction, and fantasy novels. It sounded like something that could be a bit of an endurance test--how long would I be able to stand each poorly written military science fiction adventure about the best pilot in the fleet who's also a hit with the ladies before contemplating my own death?--but I'd done similar work before as genre judge of the Writers Digest Self-Published Book Contest, and the promised $100-per-book payment was more than a little tempting.

Then I started to wonder how they could afford to pay me $100 a book, seeing as how even Publishers Weekly with its thousands of subscribers can't pay that. Fearing the worst, I checked their website and, sure enough, they charge authors for reviews. A lot. Here's the reply I sent back. Maybe I should have waited until I cooled down a bit, but I was aghast.

Dear [redacted],

Thank you for thinking of me, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass on your offer. I cannot get behind, nor associate myself with, any review source that charges authors for reviews. According to your website, you charge a belief-defying $395-$495 per book, as well as a $19.95 handling charge for books sent to you as a PDF instead of hardcopy. Frankly, I find this appalling. Not only does it automatically draw the truthfulness and impartiality of the review into question, it is, in my opinion, just another way of fleecing authors who have already been wildly fleeced by vanity presses.

Again, I thank you for thinking of me, but not only would I not want to be a part of a pay-to-play service like this, it is exactly the kind of thing I have been consistently warning other writers against for years now.

Sincerely, Nick Kaufmann

Kudos to Nick for having strong principles. Some reviewers might feel inclined to take the fast money. Then again, I do have to wonder where the rest of the $395-$495 goes if the reviewer (who is doing pretty much the bulk of the work, no?) only gets $100 per review. Oh, and let us not forget about the $19.95 handling charge for PDF!

But this outfit is professional, right? Well, they certainly think so:

Professional reviews are a critical cog in the book business. While not infallible, they offer informed, reasoned assessments that put the book into the greater context of literature. They are not replaceable with this sort of sophomoric review. They do, however, provide a nice complement and reality check to crowd sourced reviews.

At BlueInk Review, we use professional reviewers who know their genres and offer opinions that are more than thinly supported snap judgments. I am proud of our roster and would never use reviewers who weren’t committed to reading the entire book.

If you're an author looking to get your book reviewed, there are, like, a gazillion websites and blogs dedicated to reviewing books. Seriously, The Dishonored Dead has been reviewed four times on blogs, The Serial Killer's Wife two times so far. I didn't pay a cent, just contacted those website asking if they would be interested in seeing my book. In fact, a few other places even requested to see the books after they were mentioned elsewhere. So just contact them. The worst they can say is no.

Actually, I take that back.

The worst they can say is, "How much is it worth to you?"