Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just reviewed Anjali Banerjee’s “Haunting Jasmine” for SBR — Plus More Book Review Stuff

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Before I forget, here’s the link to today’s review:

Now, as to the rest of the “book review stuff” I promised.

I started following author Victoria Strauss on Twitter and one of the articles she Tweeted (or possibly re-Tweeted as I now can’t find it) talked about how some places are paying people a fee, per review, in order to give a place a five star review.  An undeserved five star review, at that — the highest possible rating for many rating scales — which skews the curve and makes a business that employs this practice seem to be a little better than they really are until people catch on that many of the highest reviews are out-and-out frauds.

I quickly did a Web search and put in “pay for reviews.”  I saw many links at Craigslist and other places (including promoting this despicable practice.  Which is why I wanted to discuss it tonight.

I review books because I enjoy reading and I enjoy reviewing what I read.  I do my best to give the fairest review I possibly can.  I don’t give a ton of negative reviews, but I have been known to give two star reviews and have even given a one star review to a major author (Mercedes Lackey) once because I felt she could do much better and that she also should’ve known better because by that time she’d published at least fifteen solo novels and certainly knew her art and craft.  (Mind you, this is where the highest review possible is a five-star review.)

I also, occasionally, have re-reviewed something when I felt I didn’t give someone a fair shake; I’ve discussed that here on my blog before.  I don’t do this often, but if I feel I’ve made a mistake, or that there were other things that I should’ve known but somehow didn’t that clearly would’ve changed my review, I’m glad to correct the record as best I’m able.

But I do that because I’m honest, and because I like books, not because anyone is paying me to give ’em a better review.

Look.  The only thing a reviewer should accept from a place like Baen Books or Tor Books or whatever publisher is a free copy of the book (in dead-tree or e-book form).  That’s it — that’s the only gratuity any reviewer worth his or her salt should accept — because if reviewers start accepting money from a publisher (or from a travel company, which is one of the places hiring for the fraudulent reviews) in order to review something, that throws the entirety of their reviews into question.  And by extension, it makes every reviewer — including the poor but honest ones, like me — look bad.

I love books, and I don’t enjoy giving bad reviews to anyone.  But I’ll do it — I’ve done it with Debbie Macomber, one of my favorite romance authors, in my review for “Hannah’s List” at SBR.  I’ve done it at in a review for one of Ursula K. LeGuin’s books (two stars).  I’ve done it at in a review for one of Misty Lackey’s books as previously mentioned, and Lackey is one of the few authors I’ll go out of my way to buy in hardcover.

The reason I do it is because if I don’t like a book, I had better say so, and say why I don’t like it.   This is the right thing to do, and it’s the only fair thing to do, even if you occasionally tick off one of your favorite authors in the process.

So if you’re thinking about selling your skills to write a fake review, please take another look at this and realize it’s a scam.  Yes, you’ll get paid something to do it.  But you’ll also be selling something that’s far more worthy than any amount of money — your good name and reputation.


Additional note — there are still some places out there, like the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post, who pay book reviewers for their time and trouble.  I am all in favor of paying reviewers when it’s done by an independent newspaper or online source.  But that in no way, shape or form allows for people to sell fraudulent reviews to Web sites.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Book reviews

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