Friday, July 15, 2005

When Can A Book Reviewer Expect To Be Paid? Part II

Marketing with Fran: When Can A Book Reviewer Expect To Be Paid?

The reviewers' websites from both Part I and Part II are at the end of this column.

2) Do Authors Make Better Reviewers?

“Since I am an author,” says Carolyn Scheidies, “I have insight into the heart of story construction as well as the heart of the author.”

“I find that authors usually make better reviewers,” says Mayra Calvani, “for the simple fact that they are more conscious of what writing a book is all about and are better able to explain the dynamics of a book, the technical aspects of it, and give a more thoughtful, critical evaluation.”

Author of The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything (Mountain Mist Productions, 2002), Maggie Ball likens reviewers to authors since “all reviews are pieces of creative writing.” Moreover, she feels that writing and reviewing books of the same genre provides “a much more intimate understanding of the processes involved….It may also make a reviewer more sympathetic and less harsh - more likely to carefully back up criticisms.”

Reviewers who are authors, says Bob Spear, “will have a clearer understanding of the writing process,” and less likely to suffer writer’s block, says Cheryl McCann.

“I've a better understanding of the process an author goes through in writing a book, says Cindy Vallar, author of The Scottish Thistle (NovelBooks 2002). “I can better assess whether the author did the research and knows his/her craft. For me, the greatest advantage has been seeing how my writing skills have improved over the years. I always check the published review over what I wrote to see how the editor changed it. In doing so, I've honed my skills, and, since many of my assignments have maximum word lengths of 200-300 words, my writing is concise.”

3) And what about payment?

The consensus is that book reviewers are generally not compensated. “Almost nobody can make a living from only writing reviews,” states Mayra Calvani, co-author a forthcoming book about writing reviews. “Personally, I like the system of the book itself being payment enough,” says Dehanna Bailee. Shirley Johnson agrees. “I receive no monetary reward for my reviews, nor do I expect that to happen anytime in the future…” Compensation would be “two-edge sword,” she adds, since she’d lose the freedom “to enjoy all the wonderful unknown works that I now have the pleasure to read.”

Staffers and freelance reviewers at a publication will sometimes get paid. Judith Colombo, for instance, has a bi-weekly column in The Weekly Gleaner, the North-American version of a leading Jamaican newspaper, and receives payment when the review is published. Heather Grove expects to be paid and will only post her reviews at Amazon and Epinions, two main sources of income. Heather Froeschl is adamant about getting paid – much like “any writer anywhere expects payment for their services,” she says. “Compare the reading of a book to doing research for an article and the effort is much the same, at least on my part. Compare the writing of a review to the copy writing of an advertising writer…The effort and skill, and the time spent is much the same, again, at least on my part.”

“I have never been paid for my reviews,” says Cindy Vallar. “I don't want to compromise my opinions or be forced into giving a good review when I don't think the book merits it. While I don't trash a bad book or attack its author, I do let my readers know that a book fails to measure up to my standards and why, giving examples where applicable to back up my conclusions. As a reader, I'm not sure I'd trust a reviewer as much if they received payment for a review. I'm not speaking about reviewers who earn a living from third parties, such as newspapers or magazines as an employee or freelancer, though. My cousin, who reviews children's books, is nationally syndicated but authors and publishers don't pay for her reviews.

Finally, Lana Jordan questions whether staff reviewers are legitimate. “I’ve seen book review services advertised to authors that don’t even guarantee a positive review,” she says. “I can’t imagine that anyone would be willing to pay in the neighborhood of $300 or more, even for a good review. But throw in the possibility of a bad review, and there’s no way. That’s highway robbery. No one should be that desperate!”

Reviewers’ Websites

Dehanna Bailee –
Maggie Ball – http:://
Tami Brady -
Mayra Calvani -
Judith Columbo –
Heather Froeschl –
Annette Gisby –
Heather Grove -
Joyce Handzo -
Jeremy Hoover -
Suzie Housley –
Shirley Johnson -
Lana Jordan –
Cheryl McCann -
Michael Meanwell -
Lia Metal –
Shirley Roe -
Geoff Rotunno -
Graciela B. Sholander –
Barbara Scott -
Bob Spear -
Cindy Vallar –
John Walsh -
Christina Whitcher –
Misty Wright -

Francine Silverman is editor/publisher of Book Promotion Newsletter, a bi-weekly ezine for authors of all genres, and author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing, 2005), a compilation of the best marketing strategies of 325 authors from all over the English-speaking world. Web:
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