I'm always answering other people's questions but today, I'm going to ask one instead.
A few years ago (2008-ish) I wrote some book reviews, posted them on my blog (the big 10 year old one with 6,000+ posts on it), posted them on a Squidoo lens, posted them on Space Dock 13 (the old original web site, not the new one still being built), and posted them on LibraryThing and Amazon. They were just random reviews of books I had read, some fiction, some non-fiction. Each review was 500+ words including details of what I did and did not like about everything in the books in question. There were maybe 15 or 20 books in all. There was no motivation in any of this other than the fact that I read the books, liked them, and had nothing to say on my blog that week, so spent the week yapping about how much I had enjoyed reading these books. I had never reviewed books before that week and have never reviewed books since than either.
In the few weeks to follow, two of the authors of the books I had reviewed, contacted me to request I review other books of theirs, stating that in the days following my writing those reviews, they had seen a dramatic boost in sales (apparently due to the fact that I have a very large WordPress, FB and Twitter following and I had posted links to my reviews on WordPress, which bounced them to Twitter, which in turn shot them over to FB, which means that close to 20,000 people ended up potentially seeing those reviews.)
I declined, stating that I was not a professional book reviewer, I was simply someone who had a week of nothing to do and reviewed a few of my favorite books to pass the time.
Skip ahead a few years.
Since posting those reviews, I have been contacted by a few dozen or so authors, who stated they saw the old blog posts, where blown away by the in depth method I used at reviewing books and asked if I would review their books as well. In each case I declined, stating as before, I'm not a book reviewer, my blog does not make a habit of reviewing books.
With the server crash of Space Dock 13's host last July and it's being rebuilt as eelkat.com on a dedicated server able to host the massive bandwith required to host a site with 6,000+ pages full of 20,000 word blog posts, articles, images, and dancing banana gifs...I have been receiving requests from authors stating "You have a talent for reviewing books, people read what you say and than act on your words. Your words have more power than you are aware, please consider adding a book review section to your website."
My question is this:
Should I consider doing this? Should I consider setting up a section of my website just for reviewing books?
I certainly read enough books to be able to do such a thing.
Well, it occurred to me that the people who review books full time on their blogs, they do just that: reviewing books is their full time job. It is their source of income. They are being paid to write reviews. The past couple of weeks I have been asking around to various book review bloggers and on writer's forums, how does one go about getting paid to write book reviews.
In some cases they will review books they happen to read in their free time, and like I had done all those years ago, just randomly write a review because they felt like it.
However, most book bloggers I talked to the past few weeks have informed me that they rarely pick the books they review. They set up a guideline stating the type of books they will review and authors contact them. The authors than pay them to read the book and write a review.
I asked, how do you determine the pay, and a few reviewers had created charts and put a PayPal button on their blog, but in most cases, they pointed me to Fiverr, stating that they create a book reviewing gig on Fiverr and the author contacts them and pays for the review via that site.
Well, in researching this whole business of reviewing books, I also came across some shady downsides:
#1: I discovered that there are "review brokers" who have hundreds of people they hire out to, each with an Amazon account, and author hire the broker paying for 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, etc reviews to be posted on Amazon. The broker than contacts their "reviewers" who each log in on amazon and post a fake glowing review, usually rather short, under 100 words, and not giving any details, just stating "I love it", without saying why.
#2: I also discovered that on Fiverr, there is a sad trend in fake review gigs. For $5, you the author write your own review of your book and than you pay the "reviewer" to post it via their Amazon account. Most offer to post it as a 5 star review, but I saw a few which stated they'd post it as a 4 star review so it would "look more real". A couple of them posted samples of a past "successful gig" and I went to the Amazon page to look at it and was horrified to see the book had seven 5 star reviews, all of which said almost identical wording, were obviously written by the author, yet each was posted from a different account.
I found this last one particularly disturbing, because it is nothing more than the author writing their own reviews. Well that's just cheating your readers.
I went to various writers' forums AW, KB, KDP, etc, and did a search for "book review" threads. I found very mixed feelings on this. Some authors feel it's okay to ask for reviews if you are submitting free copies of your books to a blogger but say paying for reviews on Fiverr is unethical.
Others see nothing wrong with paying for Fiverr reviews if the reviewer puts the review on their blog or Goodreads but not Amazon.
Others are okay with paying for reviews no matter where they end up.
And still others are dead set against asking for reviews (free or paid) altogether.
There were a few threads where all out battles were argued between the authors on each side of the issue.
Many of these threads posted to blog posts filled with sordid accusations and long lists of author names, decrying the fact that all the authors on the list were crooks and criminals because they had paid for reviews.
It's enough to make one's head spin, trying to sort it all out.
Well, my question once again is: Should I or should I not set up a book reviewing segment for my site, while it is being rebuilt?