I was recently contacted by the former book review editor of the Rocky Mountain News
about working for the new review website she started
, where I would review self-published horror, science fiction, and fantasy novels. It sounded like something that could be a bit of an endurance test--how long would I be able to stand each poorly written military science fiction adventure about the best pilot in the fleet who's also a hit with the ladies before contemplating my own death?--but I'd done similar work before as genre judge of the Writers Digest Self-Published Book Contest, and the promised $100-per-book payment was more than a little tempting.
Then I started to wonder how they could afford to pay me $100 a book, seeing as how even Publishers Weekly
with its thousands of subscribers can't pay that. Fearing the worst, I checked their website and, sure enough, they charge authors for reviews. A lot. Here's the reply I sent back. Maybe I should have waited until I cooled down a bit, but I was aghast.Dear [redacted],
Thank you for thinking of me, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass on your offer. I cannot get behind, nor associate myself with, any review source that charges authors for reviews. According to your website, you charge a belief-defying $395-$495 per book, as well as a $19.95 handling charge for books sent to you as a PDF instead of hardcopy. Frankly, I find this appalling. Not only does it automatically draw the truthfulness and impartiality of the review into question, it is, in my opinion, just another way of fleecing authors who have already been wildly fleeced by vanity presses.
Again, I thank you for thinking of me, but not only would I not want to be a part of a pay-to-play service like this, it is exactly the kind of thing I have been consistently warning other writers against for years now.
Seriously, this preying on the hopes and dreams of authors makes me ill. Charging nearly $500 to review a book? I'm surprised they get any customers at all--or I would be surprised, if I didn't know how desperate so many writers are to see their work in print, no matter what the cost (literally, in this case).
Remember this mantra, folks: Money flows to
the writer. Your work is a commodity. Companies are supposed to pay you
to publish it, and reviews only cost the price of postage and an ARC/copy of the book (if that; some review sources accept PDFs now, even without a $19.95 "handling fee"). Anytime any agent, publisher, or review source asks you for money to do their job, run away. There's a word for what they are. The word isn't vanity, or subsidy. It's scam.