ASK AN AUTHOR: REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR FREE BOOKS: ETHICAL OR DANGEROUS?

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By Sarka-Jonae Miller

August 26, 2015 (San Diego) -- “How is it possible to acquire genuine reviews for a book when most reviewers want FREE books to review? If a reviewer has a Free book have they been compromised or influenced to provide a good review? I have been approached by fellow authors requesting reviews on the understanding of you scratch my back and I will scratch yours! I have of course turned down all such requests! Over the past few weeks Amazon has started to address this issue by removing reviews that they consider to be inappropriate or not genuine or verifiable. I would be most interested in your understanding of the current and future book review process.” - Mike Wilkins

Let's first address the idea that a free book automatically means a positive review. That is not the case. Any author who has run a successful giveaway knows that you're more likely to get negative reviews than positive ones from people who download free books.

Someone who takes the time to read your book blurb, look at reviews, check the genre, and even read the sample of a book she is considering purchasing beforehand is more likely to read, and then review, books she might enjoy. Not so with the people looking for free books. They download everything they see without taking the time to evaluate whether they'll like the book, and then more often than not leave a scathing review because the book wasn't what they expected. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it happens all the time.

Traditionally, book reviewers – amateur and professional – accept free books in exchange for reviews. Does that hurt their credibility? No, that's the way it's always been done. Asking someone to buy your book and then review it is like asking someone to help you move and buy you lunch. It doesn't seem fair.

Sometimes, authors get angry when they provide free books to readers or review sites, which might put pressure on reviewers to stop reviewing, but not to start giving fake positive reviews. The problem comes from authors who agree to write a positive review of a book whether they like it or not in exchange for a positive review from another author who also might not enjoy the book he agreed to review. Amazon does a good job of figuring this out eventually.

There are plenty of authors, readers, bloggers, etc. who write unbiased reviews. When seeking reviews, make it clear from the start that you're looking for an honest review in return for a free book and you shouldn't experience any problems.

Some good sources for honest reviews include San Diego Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Net Galley, Readers' Favorite, Kirkus Reviews, the Paranormal Romance Guild, the Masquerade Crew, and In'Dtale Magazine. Some of these services charge an administrative fee, but the author and reviewer never have direct contact, so the reviews do not violate Amazon's review policy. Be sure to check each site's procedures and open submission periods.

SJ's Favorite Freebies:  Contemporary romance The Posse: A Crystal Cove Book by Tawdra Kandle and fantasy novel By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) by Jill Williamson are free through September 7.

Got questions?

Send them to Sarka-Jonae Miller through Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, or via her author website.

About Sarka-Jonae Miller

SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Her novels include the Between Boyfriends series and the All for You series. SJ also writes health and fitness articles for The Best Years in Life and Natural News.

Check out her Between Boyfriends blog for book reviews, author interviews, TV episode synopses, and giveaways. Follow @sarkajonae and @sjpublicity9 on Twitter for more writing tips, book recommendations, and industry news. Get health and exercise articles from @sjnews9.