Monday, October 17, 2011

Self Publishing Takes Another Step Forward

You gotta hand it to the self publishing industry. Traditional publishing is definitely feeling some pressure thanks to the new medium. I've always been somewhat hesitant to review self-published books because I hadn't had a lot of luck with the few early submissions I received-- I'm a big believer in editing and the early days of self-publishing were a kind of no-man's-land of hit or miss (mostly miss) writing. But things are definitely changing thanks to a rapidly evolving industry that is aggressively looking to be a real presence in the publishing world.

How aggressive? How about paying for reviews?

I received an email today from Self Publishing Review (SPR) looking to spread the word that they are now paying reviewers $45 a review. It may not seem like much but if you're motivated it could add up-- you can click on the link for the reviewer guidelines.

My first thought is that this is a pretty smart strategy. Payment is a sure-fire way to generate some word-of-mouth for a book that would otherwise struggle to find an audience in an increasingly saturated market, and if the book is good an author can quickly make a name for themselves. The only downside I can think of, off the top of my head, is whether or not the reviews will be less-than-honest due to the financial incentive to be nice.

I haven't decided if I'll enter the pay-for-review world-- I'm tempted but drowning in books as it is. The money is a bonus but given the number of reviews I could realistically do a month I'm not sure it's enough to tempt me into dropping books by my favorite authors in the hope of discovering the next literary superstar. But I admire the foresight of the SPR and respect how quickly the industry is evolving.

What do you think? Are there any downsides I'm missing here?


The Man in Black said...

Downsides: Some of the books you'd be reading, some of the authors that write those very same books and can't take honest criticism even if they claim to want it.

If you can handle that, this sounds like a pretty good deal.

SQT said...

@MIB-- Yeah, I've seen that played out. But I think if an author is paying (and I'm assuming it comes from the author's own pocket) for reviews, they might be more committed than your average self publisher. I'll certainly be interested to see how this goes.

ShadowFalcon said...

There is the problem of how well formed the material you get will be - some of it might be nothing short of painful. Do you still get paid if you can' bring yourself to finish...I just wonder if this is a cheap way to get editorial. But that is just just me trying to find a problem, does seems like a good way to make money

SQT said...

Shadow Falcon-- That's been my biggest reservation. If I were to self-publish I would pay someone to edit the book (a frequent ad on my sidebar is for a copy editor-- I'd look for someone like that) but I don't know how common it is for people to do that. I'm not interested in plowing through the slush pile if I can avoid it. You gotta do a review to get paid-- I don't know if a "did not finish" review counts. Probably not.

Charles Gramlich said...

My reading is so idiosyncratic that I probably couldn't take advantage of an opporutunity like this. But it sounds like a good one to me.

Jim Haley said...

There are all sorts of interesting things going on in the world of self-publishing. Tobias Buckell - who himself is a bit of a skeptic of the process - decided to see if he could get readers to pre-pay for him to write (and self-publish) the next book in his scifi series (Xenowealth) without really knowing if it would happen. The series was planned for 5 books, but the publisher dropped it after book 3. Well, with almost two days left to the "clock" for the fundraising, it's already fully funded.

SQT said...

Jim-- I saw that. I've noticed a few well known authors jumping onto the self-publishing bandwagon. I can see that being the next big thing for established names who are tired of dealing with big publishing houses. I would buy a self-published book by someone I know I like-- as I'm sure anyone else would. I bet we see a lot more of that.

Budd said...

I don't know if self publishing will ever be huge. I think of it as a slush pile, even today. I think you will have small publishing houses that will wade throught the slush pile and start publishing some of the more talented writers. Self publishing also has a future with established writers that want to cut out the middle man. Think about Stephen King. If he self published a book, no one would think twice about buying it. It would still be a best seller. King would also make all editorial decisions. It also works for people with cult followings like Scott Sigler. He can self publish a novel that wouldn't really make huge numbers with a normal publisher, but make more money by selling to his army of dedicated fans and cutting out the publisher.

Paying for reviews is doomed to fail. Honest reviewers that give lower ratings will be weeded out and the rainbows and unicorns crowd with their 5 stars will be the only ones left.

Lisa (starmetal_oak) said...

Downside: You'll have to report this compensation on your income tax.

And will they accept an honest negative review when they paid you $45?

xenophon38 said...

The whole concept doesn't sit well with me.

Kinda reminds me of the payola days when DJs were taking money to play certain songs by unknown artists on the radio.

I imagine unscrupulous reviewers could make some quick cash my skimming the books and writing a glowing review. But after the initial rush, things would quickly dry up once people actually bought the books and felt gypped.

I think taking the money would put unfair expectations on the reviewer; instead of just reading as much as you can stomach depending how well it is written. Then reviewing the work based on its own merit for good or ill if its worth the effort.

Blodeuedd said...

The whole downside for me is people entering, not really reading the books and posting glorious reviews of crappy books :( Sure that happens with published books, but still

ediFanoB said...

I received the mail too. At first sight it looks like an interesting opportunity.
BUT I struggle to write all the reviews I want to. And to be honest I want to decide which book I read and review.
I prefer the way that authors contact me. I must say I discovered some unexpected good reads in the past months.

I write reviews for my pleasure and for anyone who wants to read them. $45 per review can't change my mind.
I prefer "payment" in form of a comment from the author and from readers.

SQT said...

Budd-- You have a very good point. I didn't think too much about whether or not someone would be allowed to review once they give a negative one, but that would probably happen.

Lisa-- I agree-- once they're paying you they probably feel entitled to expect positive feedback.

Xenophon-- My main reservation is that it takes away my freedom. I accept books for review but I don't guarantee positive reviews-- or that I'll even finish the book. That seems harsh but I can't possibly review every book I get so I have to be choosy and I don't feel obligated to be nice. If you're going to keep any integrity as a reviewer you have to do that.

Blodeuedd-- Harriet Klausner comes to mind.

ediFanoB-- I agree. This is something you have to do because you love it. I'm all for making money and writing as a career, but reviewing is its own special kind of animal. It's probably best not to take payment for it.

mystichawker said...

My vote is still out on the paid review idea. There are a lot of good reviewers out there who give excellent honest reviews, but if they start doing it for cash as opposed to love will that change. I've had some harsh reviews of my work and I've had some great ones. If you're going to be publishing, either self or legacy then you have to have thick skin. Make sure that you are putting out the best writing you can, find a way to get it edited. If you can't afford to pay an editor for your first few works, join a critique group, they can be an awesome source of input. But most importantly write, take the criticisms and make things better. Then if you get a great review you know you've earned it wither you paid for it or not.
Like the rest of the publishing world this is changing and we are going to need to wait it out and see where it leads.
AM Burns

Pabkins said...

I really don't know where I sit on the fence for this one. I mean I can see the benefits of both sides but with everything there is going to be cons. Hell even with unpaid reviews you still get those book reviewers who really don't know what they are doing and only post positive posie pixie reviews anyway. So essentially I'm almost tempted to say it doesn't matter because you are going to get that either way. I love this discussion thread you've got going though lady!
Pabkins @ Mission to Read