You don’t have to be a genius to see that having your book reviewed is probably a Good Thing – sure, we’d all like to have it in the New York Times or some such esteemed paper but that’s often hard to get. So many authors fall back on smaller magazines or specialised ones that cater to their genres. Which is all fine and dandy until you find out/realise that some of them are literally selling reviews.
In a nutshell, there are some magazines that sell you a review if you buy advertising space. Now, this isn’t that big a revelation for some but for the poor readers of said magazine it may be a bit of a sour taste. After all, why should I believe a review that’s basically been bought for the cost of an ad?
Now, having said that – I purchased an ad for my novel in RT. At the time I asked if there was a chance of getting a review, since my book was not only coming out late but the publisher doesn’t/didn’t believe in sending out ARC copies, or review copies before the book was published. The woman I dealt with (NOT an employee, just the one organizing the group ad) said to send it along and see what happened. Well, I did get a review. Three stars. Of course I got pretty well NO sales thanks to the review but it was nice to see some acknowledgment of my book in print. Did I buy that review? Sure as heck I did… I may not have bought the RATING but I bought the space for it to go to the reviewer out of the stacks and stacks of self-pub/POD/vanity/micropress copies that no doubt fill up rooms and rooms on a daily basis at RT. Did I know this from the start? Nope… I just assumed that I was buying the ad and tossing my book upon the heap in the back room with hopes of getting it reviewed. Now that I know that buying an ad pretty well guarantees the space for a review, well…
While I agree with Goldberg that it’s a major lapse in honesty for the reviewers not to say that there’s some payoff going on here I also sympathise with Carol Stacy of RT who states that it’s one of the ways for them to sift through the chaos above. But maybe it’s not the best and maybe RT should have a disclaimer somewhere in the magazine that states that the reviews of smaller companies are basically being bought by the advertising. Perhaps not the rating but the space for the review itself.
As for Affaire de Coeur, where this all started, it’s obvious that they’re just not as good as hiding it as others. Which is both a shame and a blessing, when you think about it.
So next time you pick up a review for your fav book you may want to consider the source. And then wonder how the system still works with all this silliness going on.