Paid Book Reviews: The Pros and Cons

A Discussion of Paid Book Reviews: To Pay or Not to Pay

Should you pay money to get your book reviewed? We go through the pros and cons of paid book reviews.Paid book reviews are a growing topic of conversation in the industry. Many first-time authors are surprised to learn they can pay for reviews. While in years past, paid reviews were considered taboo and unprofessional, it is less and less the case. Increasingly, paid reviews of books from the right sources can be a legitimate resource of book promotion.

But what are the pros and cons? When indie or self-published authors don’t have significant marketing machines behind them and lack professionally bound galleys of their book ready six-to-nine months in advance, the prospect of paid reviews can be intriguing. However, the possibility of paid reviews is also intriguing when you do have those things. Therefore, how do you decide if it’s worth it?

The Pros
  • Several of the paid book review websites do have a certain amount of prestige and reach — they are being read by the people who decide what books bookstores buy (book buyers) and librarians, the people you want to discover and buy your book.
  • You know precisely what you’re getting in terms of word count, links, and social sharing. Without paid reviews, you might pursue a book review only to receive a few sentences or be part of a round-up. With a paid review, you know what you’re paying for.
  • With a traditional review, and especially with organic social shares – social media posts and links about your book that you didn’t pay for but happened naturally – you don’t know what impact they have. You can look at the number of retweets or likes, but how many people followed the link? How many made a purchase? With some paid review services, you get precise analytics to at least understand how many people engaged with a post, or at the very most, tell you who clicked through to purchase a book.
The Cons
  • What you generally do not know is whether you are going to get a positive review. Taking the chance — and spending money — on one review and not knowing if it will be positive or even if it is, whether or not it will help with book sales, is nerve-wracking.
  • Many authors are unaware of the fact that the people these reviews target — editors and publishers, booksellers, librarians, and die-hard readers — can spot a paid review from a mile away. Therefore, it doesn’t have the impact of a review earned through a traditional book marketing campaign. While you may have a review in Kirkus, which the industry keeps an eye on, professionals know that Kirkus Indie Reviews are paid placements. In much the same way a blogger can be paid to write about a product, a paid review can carry less weight with insiders.
  • The price for a single review generally ranges from $150 at smaller sites to $500 up to $1,000 for significant players depending on the package. As book publicists (and also book reviewers) who spend a lot of time showing reviewers why our client’s books deserve a spot on their roster, it seems pricey. You could end up paying for a few reviews about what you could have spent on an entire book marketing campaign that targets legitimate book reviewers and writers who are not paid for their opinions. An author could use that money to invest in advertising, reaching out to booksellers, printing galleys. Many initiatives cost less and have a more substantial impact — you can find some of those book marketing ideas here.

How to Decide About Paid Book Reviews — or Not

The Smith Publicity team at our Cherry Hill NJ headquarters.Often, the decision about paid reviews of books is going to come down to budget and how important you find having a review in a particular publication.  Paid book reviews are only one component of a book promotion campaign, and they are certainly not a mandatory element in the opinion of most book marketing professionals. A paid review can be one of the many tactics in your publicity campaign. For additional help, check out our book marketing resources for authors page.

One trusted paid book review service Smith Publicity recommends is Blueink Review.

If you have questions about paid reviews or any other promotional services, please email us at