Book Bloggers Should Charge for Book Reviews

Book bloggers invest a lot of time into book reviews and book promotion, yet they don't charge for their services. IMO, that's crazy and this is why I think book bloggers should charge for book reviews.

You may not know this about me but once upon a time I was a book blogger. I ran a book blog for four years (2010 – 2014) before I finally abandoned that part of the blogosphere. I quit. I gave up. I bailed.

I’ve also never looked back. It wasn’t the right world for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved blogging about books. I met some amazing new author friends, made great contacts in the publishing world and read 100’s of books I never would have read if I hadn’t been blogging about books. The problem came when I started to receive far more requests to review a book than I could manage.

Once you read and favorably reviewed an author’s book you were on a list. As soon as that author published another book there seemed to be this underlying expectation that you would accept it to read and review as well. Once you made a contact with a major publisher they would offer and send an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of books on their upcoming release list. They expected reviews as well. They always said there was no obligation to read and review the books but there was and if you didn’t you didn’t receive quite as many in the future.

But it wasn’t just a review on the blog that was expected.

The authors, publishers, publicists, etc all expected a review on the blog, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble and on other retailers that they may have selling their book. They also wanted photos, graphics and social media promotion. This all came after spending a solid 6 – 10 hours actually reading the book.

Let’s keep that straight. I was being asked to invest 6 – 10 hours reading the book, another 2 – 4 hours taking pictures, creating graphics and preparing a book review in a blog post, another 2 – 4 hours publishing that book review on various retailers and scheduling social media promotion. That is a total of 10 – 18 hours PER BOOK.  If I was charging for my time by the hour I would be charging between $150 – $270 per book based on a rate of $15.00 / hour and I’m not even certain that is enough.

The problem though, is that authors, publicists, publishers, etc don’t offer compensation for book reviews. They offer a free book. Think about it – they are offering a book (value ranging from $0.99 to $25.00 depending on format and publisher) in exchange for 10 – 18 hours worth of work promoting their product. Breaking that down by the hour book bloggers are making anywhere from $0.09 to $1.38 per hour (based upon a 10-hour investment).

How much are you worth per hour?

[bctt tweet=”How much are you worth per hour? Why book #bloggers should charge for reviews.”]

I started charging for reviews before I left the book blogging world. I started charging $50 per review and there was no guarantee the review would be favorable. I was still selling myself cheap at a rate of $5 per hour (again, assuming a 10-hour investment). Considering I almost always tweet quotes from a book while I’m reading it and talk about the book on social media it was pretty obvious the book was going to get exposure. Everyone balked. There was backlash from the book blogging community and people in the publishing industry were upset.

I eventually left book blogging. I haven’t missed the “perk” of free books and I enjoy having the time to myself to read what I want now. All those books I was getting for free? I didn’t have the space to keep them all so a lot ended up donated to literary charities, local jails or prisons, local youth charities, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.

Book bloggers don’t seem to know their value.

Why are book bloggers working for free? I’ll tell you right now that lifestyle bloggers (like me) don’t work for free. We don’t promote products or companies without being compensated for our time, effort and creative marketing. Fashion bloggers don’t work for free. Beauty bloggers don’t work for free. Business bloggers don’t work for free. Parenting bloggers don’t work for free. Why do book bloggers?

The publishing industry is reaching out to bloggers because they know the value of going viral, generating a web buzz, and having online reviews. They know that bloggers are important but the bloggers aren’t recognizing their own importance and they are selling themselves short.

I asked…

I reached out to a few friends that I have in the book blogging world. I told them that I did a book review earlier this year and, in exchange for that review, I was compensated with a free copy of the book and $200. I did not guarantee a positive review but I was investing a lot of time and effort into the post. In total it took me 11 hours to read the book and complete all of the requirements negotiated between me and the publisher. I was paid at a reasonable rate of $18.18 per hour.

I asked my friends if they charged for reviews and, if not, why not? Every one of them told me that they do not charge but only because it is frowned upon in the book blogging community and they knew they would receive a lot of harsh backlash if they tried to charge. It made me sad to see these wonderful, educated, talented, and important friends working for free because their own community doesn’t recognize their own value.

Help me out book bloggers. I don’t understand why you’re working for free. I don’t understand why you aren’t demanding compensation in exchange for the service you provide.

You’re important and you’re valuable! You deserve to be compensated.

Do you believe that bloggers should work for free? What’s your opinion on bloggers being compensated for promotional posts? 

Comments

  1. I think you make some really good points. When you break down your time in exchange for a free book, they definitely end up ahead while you are not being compensated fairly.

    I think it definitely depends on the bloggers motivation for blogging about the book. Are they trying to make money? Are they just enjoying reading free books? Are they trying to make contact in the publishing world because they are working on their own book?

    I started out reading and reviewing free books on Goodreads. I did it just so I could get some new books that I wouldn’t usually read (mostly because I’m too cheap to buy a book and the library wouldn’t have them). I liked having new books and thinking that I could help spread the word for an up-and-coming author in my small way. I recently found out about Blogging for Books and usually select a free book that goes along with the topic of my blog (I’m not a book blogger, I’m a crafter and all around blogger). I see it as trying out a new book, seeing if I can learn any new techniques from them, and see if I can share some good tips. If I was strictly a book blogger, it would be different. I would expect to be compensated fairly for my time.

    On one of the blogging groups I belong to, product reviewers find the same problem. Companies don’t want to pay them for their review of something because they figure another person will do it for free.

    • You make great points Aliza and the motivation behind it does have a lot to do with it as well. I have friends that are authors and I’d be reading their books anyway so I wouldn’t charge for those, nor would I charge for the books I specifically requested because they were on my reading list. I wouldn’t charge for vegetarian cookbooks or (in your case) for crafting books.

      When I was book blogging it reached a point where I was receiving 5 – 10 requests per day requesting reviews. I had books I wanted to read, and that I intended to review. When a request came in asking that I put a book on my reading list because of a marketing campaign or because it was due to be released and they wanted to increase the buzz about it then I was being treated as a marketing tool. Marketing tools cost money.

      If I was a fan of the author, and would read the book anyway, then it’s my choice. If I’m doing it because I was hired to do it then I’m a business expense.

    • I’ve reviewed books for years and only charged when there was a deadline. I agree with everything you have said. However, Amazon, Goodreads, B&N etc. do not want your review if you were paid. My reviews run 250 to 300 words. They are honest and and unbiased. Would I like to be paid…of course but the industry is against us. I owned a company that charged only for express reviews. Even that is frowned upon. I do not have an answer to this dilemma. I wish I did. My request Que is running over.

  2. This is interesting. I’ve seriously considered charging authors who contact me for the purposes of a review. In fact, I think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to review a book if you make me feel like I’m just another name on a list. Charging an author when writing a book review is an excellent way to prevent the “just another name” syndrome.

    There are a lot of book bloggers who work for free, so if an author really wants MY opinion and wants to reach MY audience — I’m available. While I love reading books (who doesn’t?), reviewing them takes a lot of time. It’s a real job, even though it’s something I love. Why not pay me, reasonably, for it? I plan to charge a flat rate, depending on the length of the book. I’ll also deduct the cost of the book and shipping costs (if applicable).

    (I also like to post quotes from the book as well as talk about it on social media and Goodreads, while I’m reading a book. It’s fun for my readers, and you’re absolutely right, it gets the book exposure.)
    –Abby

    • That’s precisely how I feel Abby. You’re being asked to market the books for an author, publisher, publicist, etc so why should you work for them for free? I wouldn’t charge anyone for a review of a book that was on my TBR list but if I’m being recruited for publicity then absolutely I would.

      They pay for book cover art, copy jacket writing, editing, formatting, and publishing so why not pay bloggers for marketing?

  3. I hadn’t really thought about it before now. I just choose books based on how much time I have to read and review them, and whether or not they are something I think I would like to read. Getting the book for free has been compensation enough for me so far, but I don’t do a LOT of reviews.

    • Hi Victoria! Those are completely fair points and if you are being highly selective of the books you accept and you only read the ones that you would have sought out anyway then I can see the book alone being enough. I’m glad you’re finding new books to read and I hope you’re enjoying them.

  4. This is so true. I post book reviews every once in a while and a few of them were books that the author or publisher asked me to review. I did it for free… or I guess for the book. 2 of them I didn’t even like. I really should have charged, but I honestly didn’t know to. I will definitely ask for compensation next time, although I’m not sure publishers will give it to me. :/

    • You’re right Logan, they probably won’t give it to you but that’s because there are hundreds (or thousands?) of people out there who are willing to give their time and effort away for free. If it’s a book I want to read anyway I’ll pick it up and read it on my own schedule, in my own time, and write about it (or not) if I want. I don’t promote other companies or products for free, why should a book be any different?

  5. You bring up some good points here. I never thought about charging for a review. Most of the time people do it out of support for the author. Either way is not bad at all. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re right Siedah and I did a lot of reviews out of support (and love) for the author. I averaged about 3 books per week and it was my love for those books that led me to book blogging in the first place. I still read for pleasure and those books I review for free simply because I love them.

  6. You definitely make some good points Ashley. I am not a book blogger, but I think people just don’t realize how much time blogging in general takes, no matter what your niche is. And I don’t think that wanting to be compensated for your time (even if you are doing something “on the side” or you started out merely doing it “for the enjoyment” of it) is wrong. I know my time is valuable, and it sounds like you feel the same way! Thanks for your thoughtful post!

    • Thanks Justine! You’re right, people don’t realize the time commitment. I’ve seen a few people around the internet today talking about people ‘selling their reviews’ by charging for the post but I disagree completely. It’s not the review that’s being paid for, it’s me. I’m charging for my time, my commitment, my opinion, and my web space. The review may or may not be positive but that’s a risk you take. It’s a cost of doing business. There’s no obligation to pay me to read the book and share my space. There are plenty of other bloggers to approach and I have plenty of other books to read. I simply do not work to promote others for free.

  7. You have some good points but I guess it depends on your motivation for writing the review/blog post. I’m such a new blogger I feel that my perspective will be different from those more established. I like to add a book review onto my blog, about once a month, but they are my choice and more of a recommendation or my thoughts on a current popular book. Food for thought though

    • My motivation for writing the review was always to share my love of books and help support the author. In the beginning it was easy and I read what I loved but as your blog becomes more known in the literary circles and you start receiving author pitches, PR pitches and requests from publishers it becomes more of a job and less of a hobby.

      When you’re adding book reviews to your other content (as I do) it becomes less about fees and more about sharing what you love. It’s more about the focus of your blog and the obligation behind the reviews being requested.

  8. These are great points and I totally agree. I’ve only ever reviewed one book for a publisher and they compensated me with a gift card to Amazon. I thought it was pretty fair. All the other books I review are for myself and my readers that I do on my own time. I wonder if book bloggers like Modern Mrs. Darcy get paid because she’s a huge book blogger or if she does it for free?

    • That seems fair to me, especially if it’s a book you were interested in reading on your own anyway. The majority of the books I review on AST are books I read for myself because I love reading. When I do a sponsored review I disclose it but they are few and far between (and not always positive).

      I’m not sure about Modern Mrs Darcy. I’ve never heard of her but I do know that of all the book blogging friends I have (some of whom have been blogging 5+ years or longer) all blog reviews in exchange solely for the book.

  9. Great Post, Ashley. Here’s my perspective as an author who has sought out book bloggers to review my books. First, I’ll say that I agree with you. There is a lot of time and investment that goes into what book bloggers do to promote a book. And it’s something that we authors rely on because it’s difficult to find other ways to get people to know about your books if you’re a new author.

    I do believe one of the biggest challenges is the perception. As you noted, it is frowned upon in the industry, but not just by publishers, other bloggers, and some authors. Readers (not all, but many) also frown upon it because they feel that it generates a biased review – even if the blogger states that the compensation doesn’t affect the review. Because there are some authors who do pay for bogus reviews, and people who accept the money to give them, it kind of ruins it for the rest. The entire perspective needs to shift. It can be done though, as several established industries do offer paid reviews. The difference is that they promote their services as a business, not a blog – as you point out.

    The other comment I’ll offer is that if book bloggers do decide to charge, it might be beneficial to consider different package levels. There are many of us indie authors out here who can’t really afford $200 per blog review, and I know I don’t expect graphics and quotes to go with a review. A tiered package level, where you charge more for more services, would still provide the opportunity to the indies and small publishers.

    Good luck to all you bloggers out there, and thanks for all that you do for the authors!

    • I agree w/ all points Carrie. In fact, I had you and a few other of my author friends in mind when I wrote this post. The one review I did for $200 was in exchange for posting on a specific date, including 3-5 original images, a pre-determined number of social media touts as well as a minimum of 350 words in the review. It was a negotiated price. I’ve done other reviews for smaller amounts because my commitment was reduced.

      As for perception, I agree but I don’t see how it’s any different than sharing a review of a movie in exchange for an advanced screener, free tickets and paid compensation; a fashion blogger who receives free clothing as well as paid compensation for reviewing and sharing specific fashion items; or a beauty blogger who receives free beauty products as well as paid compensation for reviewing make-up and skincare products.

      It really comes down to the blogger to build their reputation as being honest and fair. It also helps to share both the pros and cons of a book (they all have at least one) and to admit when a book just isn’t up to snuff.

      There can also be agreements made in exchange for shared promotion. It’s amazing to me how many books I (favorably) reviewed and then had an author refuse to share the review from my blog. I had one actually say to me, “I’m not here to promote you.” In that case there was really no benefit to me after all of the time I put in to their book.

      I just don’t like seeing book bloggers not being paid for their time and work when it seems as though the bloggers in every other niche are being compensated.

  10. As a blogger and an indie author…I would not pay for book reviews, largely because I think it’s really important to maintain the integrity of reviews in the world of indie authors. Because we have no big publishing house backing us up, I want us to be seen as authors whose writings can stand on their own merit, who will be written about and publicized just because our readers naturally want to share a generally good book, not because we’ve managed to be able to afford to have a lot of big-name reviewers talk about our works.
    Once an indie author is known to “pay” for reviews, even if both author and reviewer swear up and down that it’s all honest and legit…I think there is a risk to the reviewer that their credibility goes down.
    I will ask people who I know have already bought and read my book, and have told me they enjoyed it, to write reviews if they have the time–explaining that public, online reviews really help authors, and a good percentage of these readers go on to write a review. I was the editor for an ebook that was published 2 days ago, and I just looked at its site, and found that it already has 2 5-star reviews from actual readers, not paid readers, and to me, that means a lot more.
    I know, I’m an idealist (probably why I’m an author), but I do tend to believe that the more we can keep paid advertising out of my beloved world of books by unknown authors, the more honesty and better display of art we really achieve. Obviously publishing companies probably have advertising budgets, and if they choose to use bloggers, they probably ought to use that advertising money–but we indie authors are already so ‘far behind’ the traditionally published that we can’t afford to let our credibility be perceived as compromised.

    • I completely understand your perspective on this topic and I expected that authors would feel that way. I know that there are authors and readers who feel that paid reviews cannot be unbiased but that is a perception that really should change. It results in people being expected to work as a marketing tool, for free. It’s one thing when readers read a book because they are interested in it and, on their own free time, decide to pick it up and read. It’s another when they are reading a book out of an obligation to do so for an author, publisher or publicist.

      If you ask people who you know bought, read, and enjoyed your book to review it that’s completely fine. I’d expect that and I’d hope those people would review the book anyway. Good luck to you and your books. I hope you find much success with your writing.

  11. Honestly, I love reading. And, I prefer using my blog rather than Goodreads. I honestly believe that free books, in exchange for a review, is enough. I only like hard copies though…also, I already review the books I buy at stores, anyway. I use BooksForBloggers, and they just want a review with the link/HTML copied on their website. They even provide pictures and links for you!

    • I love reading too and I still publish book roundups here on AST. The difference is that I now blog only about books that I purchase or that I have sought out. If I go through a site like BooksForBloggers or NetGalley and I request a book then I’m doing that on my own, in my own time, and for my own reading pleasure. I don’t expect to be compensated in exchange for those reviews. When someone contacts me directly and says they just wrote a book and want me to review it then it’s a different situation. It becomes work rather than pleasure.

  12. This is such an interesting comment to me. I do book reviews sparingly on my blog as I feel like it. But you’re right, they do take time. I kind-of see them as all of my other posts though as it’s not the primary basis for my blog. I think because there are free sites out there, like Goodreads, where so many people are offering their opinions for free of charge, publishers may not always see the need.

    BUT, I think if you are a book blogger that has a significant following and some credentials in that world, it would absolutely be worth it to monetize. Have you spoken to more than that one friend? Do you know anyone that makes a viable income off of book blogging? I would be very interested to hear about that!

    Thanks for the post … really enjoyed it!

    • HI Rachel! I did speak to more than one friend. I spoke to about 5 – 6 of the book bloggers I’m still friends with and they all responded the same way – that they would charge, and feel as though they’d be justified, but they think they’d be pushed out of the book community therefore they do not do it. Right now they only monetize through something like AdSense and through affiliate links to Amazon (where they make a few pennies per book if a sale is made from their page). I don’t know anyone who makes a viable income from book blogging unless they sell additional services.

  13. I swung by because of Shannon’s post (River City Reading). I think you should pop by her post and see the comments that this discussion is now generating. Very interesting discussion!

    • I agree Ashley. The only reason that bloggers are sought out for reviews is to be a marketing tool. The reviews are needed (wanted?) and the best way to get them is by recruiting bloggers to read the books and share their reviews. It’s a marketing service and should be treated as such.

  14. I think many book bloggers blog with a different mindset or for different reasons, which just makes being paid for their reading unappealing. But I’m glad you were able to recognize something that wasn’t working for you and find an area of the blogosphere that does. Your post gave me plenty to think and write about, even beyond the idea of being paid for reviews, so thanks for the starting point!

    • You’re welcome Shannon and thanks for coming by! I know that bloggers all blog with different goals and motivations but I hate knowing that so many of my friends in the book world would monetize by charging for their reviews but feel that the community would ostracize them for it. It’s funny to me that when I was a book blogger I received pushback when I told a publicist or publisher that there was a fee for a review or promotional post but now, as a lifestyle blogger, I don’t receive any negative pushback at all. It’s just an odd perception that I don’t fully understand.

      I’m glad I was able to inspire new post ideas for you and thanks so much for coming by!

  15. It’d be fabulous to get paid for reviews, but there are so many bloggers out there I agree you would probably be ignored by the publishing houses in favour of those who do it for free. I have so many fantastic books I want to read (for me, the time – and it’s a lot of time – you have to spend writing a review is the downside!) And I know I’m probably too generous with my reviews. When you first start blogging, the free books are wonderful, but as they pile up the whole thing can become very stressful – which obviously taints the enjoyment of blogging altogether! I feel terribly guilty about all the books I’ve yet to review. I’ve decided to opt out of blog tours, which are huge in the UK. They don’t seem to get me any extra traffic, and it’s added pressure when

  16. Sorry – hit post by mistake – you feel you’re being held to a deadline. Personally I think it’s publishing houses’ way of ensuring you do read the book when it comes out. And I’m sorry, but I’ve got a life too! Thought-provoking post and comments – thanks!

  17. Wow. I am a book blogger and I am honestly feeling all of this! I realized how much I’m selling my self short as a book blogger. I have thought of monetizing my book blog for so many times already but Im more convinced now. I wish I found this post earlier! Youre right about everything!

    • Thanks Mica. I know that not everyone agrees but book bloggers invest A LOT of time into reading, reviewing, and promoting books. Doing all of that work for compensation of only the value of the book is just insane to me.

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