We were somewhat intrigued by Slate’s storyon self-published authors and Amazon’s BookSurge division. The fact that BookSurge offers paid reviews as part of the service didn’t make us blink. Sure, we wonder about the authors who believe this is a valuable service, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
What gave us pause was the phrasing in an email from the company to an author (see page two of the story)– while Slate’s reading of the service was that the review would be written by a New York Times bestselling author (in this case, probably the extremely extended list), the company’s email to the self-published author suggests that the review is an actual New York Times review.
But oddly, not the most interesting part of this story. As we were somewhat intrigued by this story, we thought we’d engage in “research” (clicking on links and whatnot). What to our wondering eyes did appear but…wait for it…nada! All copy referencing the review, one Ellen Tanner Marsh, has been removed from the BookSurge site. Wethinks someone realized some bad mojo was happening.
Marsh’s reviews still appear on Amazon, but the paid service has been, shall we say, discontinued. Without explanation. Okay, so someone figured out this wasn’t the best way to do business. Sure, BookSurge (and probably Marsh) made some money, but a single review on for a self-published novel simply isn’t going to be effective. Despite our own career as a book reviewer, we are not entirely sure that reviews have that much power over the consumer anyway.
Here’s why: people are cynical. One review by someone the reader has never heard of is not enough to sway opinion. We’ll go so far as to say that savvy readers expect friends of the author to post glowing reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other places. For self-published authors, these reviews likely don’t do much to sway staff at newspapers or magazines either. It’s that cynicism thing again. The truth of the matter is that self-published authors need to work harder to get their books read.
We’re sorry to say this, but the barrier for entry into the world of being a published author is low. Getting distribution via Amazon isn’t that hard. Selling your book to interested customers is. It requires a lot of good, old-fashioned legwork. Paying for reviews might seem like a brilliant shortcut, but it isn’t.