Paid Book Reviews – Are they worth it?

Recently I received an email asking my opinion with regards to a certain “book review” site. The email came from an author, (a friend of mine) who  was unsure if it was worth paying for a book review. I had to be totally honest with my friend here; especially when the reviewer in question used the standard line “I would love to review your book…” within the pitch.

Perhaps my responses here lean towards the negative, but after nearly ten years in the writing world, I merely consider them realistic.

To Note: My opinions are not intended to dissuade indie authors from ‘seeking’ reviews. Reviews ARE without a doubt a very important element of an author’s career. They also help readers to judge their position when purchasing a title. I do, however, have some reservations  when it comes to ‘purchasing’ online reviews.

Below is the emailed response to my friend, which I thought it a good idea to print here for the benefit of others.

1. Book review sites online are ten to the dozen. The reviewer in question sounds like a genuinely nice girl, but does she have a leg in the book industry or an advantage within powerful media though? If I said “Ooh “Mel the Book Lover” reviewed my book,”  will the masses go wild then rush out to buy it? I think not.
Perhaps if it was Lorraine Kelly from Breakfast TV, or Ellen Degeneres..  (now we’re talking!) but Miss X  from Oregon… or wherever it is? No, I think not.

As you know, I used to review books for free, loads of them, for about two years, no-one ever paid me for that kinda thing. They would probably laugh if I asked. Why? Because you can acquire free reviews,  (bloggers, Goodreads and dozens of others, if you are bothered and try hard enough.)

My rule of thumb:

To pay hard earned cash for a full book review is to know that the reviewer/site is truly worth the cost, and if they are worth that cost – there is no question that it’ll be expensive today, even for half a book.

2. As far as I’m aware, Kirkus is the one place where mentioning an indie review can add some credibility to your book, and Kirkus took many years to build up their name brand to the point that it became more familiar and somewhat respected. Today they charge approx $500 per book, if not more. Still… go google and you’ll find that some authors question the efficacy in terms of a cost/results comparison.

3. If readers gauge that you have paid money for a review: it’s not so good. Aside from the fact that  Amazon won’t allow ‘paid’ reviews and are increasingly clamping down staunchly on anything they can sniff out as having been ‘paid for and posted to amazon’ by review sites. (Similarly reviews from Fiverr, Craigslist are not permitted. ) The crackdown is to ensure readers get as much unbiased feedback on their products as possible, which, hey,  is a really good thing! I don’t want to buy a book that has a semi-biased opinion because I stuffed the readers pocket with some cash – ever. I want books that have been read and reviewed by people that don’t have a clue who the author is and will speak his/her mind, no matter how good or bad.

Consider too that a reader will act more favourably towards a ‘natural’ review which is of more interest to the general public. I don’t believe general readers want a run down/re-hash of a book’s plot, climax, denouement, etc, they want to know how a book made another reader feel. It can be a simple sentence left by Joe Bloggs that nudges a reader to hit the BUY button.  On average it works better than two pages of an in-depth editorial review that the reader isn’t interested in.

4. The site has a genuine policy of refunding for books they do not like which is a respectable philosophy! You won’t have your book trashed on their  own pages at least – and at a price.

5. I get lots of emails from individuals/sites telling me that they’d love to review my books. Of course they can word it how they please; I know it’s still a mailshot, and sure business is business, that’s fair enough, but without $$$ in the equation you’ll see that love evaporate pretty quickly.  That said: if they are really good at reviewing books, and you are willing to pay the cash, that’s fine and totally your prerogative.

6. Sales Perspective: I do not believe that one review, however discerning it may be, can make an effective enough hit on a sales graph, (unless it comes from top media of course). I have tons of good reviews, but wait… so do thousands of other books. Remember, a reader’s choice is infinite. Gathering timely reviews ( fairly balanced and natural) will most definitely get your graphs moving upward, but I have never seen a spike in sales on the back of one review alone.

7. It doesn’t matter if Mike, Karen, or Maggie from Liverpool reviewed my book…. reviews are not the singular biggest effective marketing ploy anymore. For good effect they  must be consistently dripped in to a continuous and (often expensive) marketing campaign by actual marketing savvy people, including wherever possible, radio/TV/posters on shop windows etc.

Why do  Penguin/ Hodder/ Bloomsbury/ Harper..  etc have the biggest clout of all when it comes to selling and marketing? They spend thousands to earn it.

Sure, my friend, the reviewer is doing nothing ‘wrong’ per se, she is probably making a few bucks on her site, and good for her, though I’d say mainly on the back of her reputation and honesty, coupled with the undampening halo of most indie authors innocent enthusiasm. She  fits “somewhere.”

Bottom Line: Keep seeking reviews: just be wise about the sources.

Losing Emmy – Excerpt


Story Overview.

Emmy and Charlene are twenty-one year old twins. They are connected by sharing the same genes, the same hairbrush, even the same bed, but they couldn’t be more different in personality or ambition. Emmy is delicate and feminine whilst Charlene is more of a goth. With Charlene being the older twin by little more than a minute or two she is the protector, having always fixed her sister’s problems, but now Emmy is dying of cancer and it’s the one thing Charlene can’t ever fix.

“Losing Emmy” is a story that is touching and bittersweet. It highlights life’s joyful and crushing moments, plus those that will forever remain unwritten between the margins of abandoned diary pages. The girls show us that life and death are also ‘twins’. That death can never eradicate love, and finally, what lives deep inside us always finds its way back home.


Emmy’s life now hangs precariously on a string which continues to fray little by little each day and we both know that when your time is up, it’s up.

That word death leaves most people quivering in fear, but for Emmy and I, it’s been a long awaited visitor who hasn’t quite decided exactly when he’ll walk in the door. Actually, some days we thought he was closer than others. It was that particular faceless beast that taught us that life is something you cling to breath per painful breath, especially when it is crawling towards you a hell of a lot faster than you anticipated.

Just eight weeks ago Emmy and I were seated together in a stuffy windowless office when the cold, harsh, reality was delivered to us by Dr Sentoya, her radiologist. He is a broad-shouldered man with an impressive crown of white hair which somehow hilariously contrasts the thick dark hair on his arms. The man also dribbles a little when he speaks.

He presented himself as some almighty God that morning, as if he was about to deliver a verdict on Judgement Day.

Emmy and I waited with our hands tightly clasped together. I couldn’t look at her face so instead I focused my gaze on a half eaten bagel that was sitting on his desk. My eyes also searched for the obligatory framed photo of a beaming wife clasping a couple of kids; but there was none. A thought crossed my mind… maybe this guy would never know the pain of losing a child.

He tapped his pen three times on a sheet of paper, then flung words across the desk that hit us both like bricks.

I’m so very sorry. We’ve done everything we can. There is nothing more we can do.”

Her hand instantly tightened its grip on mine but there was no change in her expression. We had both known that the last batch of treatment really was her last hope. We had literally clung on to it like a child might cling to a brick wall with short stubby fingers, in the hope of reaching the ball when it is just within his grasp. Emmy’s ball fell on the wrong side of the wall that day.

I drove home straight after that meeting, shaken and stunned. The sky was glorious and the rich green fields looked beautiful on either side of us, yet Emmy couldn’t even look up from her lap. I wasn’t sure whether she was just trying her hardest to block out the pain, or if she had been rendered speechless and devoid of any feeling at all. Her catatonic state made me want to lean over and shake her shoulders so hard; just so she would scream, or cry, or something.

Just finally let it all out.

It’s okay to feel whatever you need to feel,’ I had whispered. ‘It’s okay to do that now, Emmy.’

But she wouldn’t.

And she still hasn’t.

Emmy’s suffering would soon be over and that’s when mine would begin. I still don’t know what’s coming next or how I’m going to live without her because there is no study or guide book I can buy to teach me that.

When I think about life without my sister, my mind can’t seem to connect the images which it has so painstakingly tried to re-arrange and prepare. Nothing I envisage feels right or possible, or real. My life feels like a dot-to- dot puzzle without the numbers that tell me which direction I need to go in. 

On that long drive home I had stared at the windscreen in silence, totally cut to pieces by the fact that I truly didn’t know how I was going to get through this.

An excerpt of “Losing Emmy.” Coming this Christmas to Amazon.

Publisher: Charlotte Green Publishing, United kingdom.

©Carla acheson. 2018. All Rights Reserved.


The Final Final Final Edit

A discussion about the stage of ‘final editing’ on twitter prompted me to create this post. In fact, I wasn’t just prompted to blog, I was compelled to make the whole thing a statement and reminder of what we must go through to get to the end point. The proof of which I present in the mug below.

This shows all ‘new’ writers out there that editing  (and all the zany backed up versions of it) is about as much fun as checking your monthly bank statements. Though it does become a part of our lives, along with drinking too much coffee or tea.


Yes I know that I sometimes swear at myself for lying when I tell people I am currently working on the final edit,  when actually I’m just sitting on my phone telling people. I swear, however,  this time, I actually AM getting it done and that’s a fact.

One last thing…

What is the final edit exactly?

Well there never would be one if you didn’t simply decide that you were never going to change the manuscript again.  At some point you have to say.. “THIS is what I’ve achieved and it’s the best I can do, and I never want to read it again unless I am forced to at gunpoint.” That’s the final, final, final because nobody wants to really die after putting in so much hard work. That’s when you either self-publish or sub it along with your query letter and  move on to the next project with momentous relief.