Pay for Play: A new twist on getting a review at Amazon

by | May 19, 2008 | Book Marketing Basics

Reading Time: ( Word Count: )

Did you hear about the author who needed a review and couldn’t get one? Well, maybe she could but she wasn’t taking any chances. Recently it came to my attention that she got her self-help book published and, in need of reviews, made the following request from her blog:

“As you probably know, the key to kicking ass on Amazon is reviews. My book has only recently been added to their list, so I have no reviews. I need them, and I’m willing to pay to get them. I am NOT saying I am willing to pay for puff pieces. I’m talking real reviews-good or bad. One complication is that unless you’ve been a frequent reviewer at Amazon, they won’t let you review a book you didn’t buy from them. So, if you want to participate in this, you’ll probably need to buy the book from Amazon. However, if you do, and you submit a review that gets posted-and it is clear that you actually read the book-I’ll send you $50. I have $500 set aside to do this, so once it’s gone, the deal is over. My preference is to pay through PayPal, but I’ll send you a check via snail mail if that’s what it takes. Just be sure to let me know you’re submitting a review before it goes up.”

So there you have it, a new twist on paid reviews. My take? Stick with the process. Even if you pay readers to post reviews for you there’s still a credibility issue of the reviewer. Yes, people like what other people like but readers also want to know that the person reviewing your book isn’t your mother.

Technorati Tags:

, , , , ,


  1. Susan Alexander

    “The process,” as you call it, is simply a less straightforward method than that which this author has employed. I applaud her directness: she hasn’t solicited positive reviews; she has simply solicited reviews, which are, traditionally, “paid for” in a myriad of other ways, including phone calls from old boys’ (and girls’) networks, schmoozing, meals, mutual backscratching, calling in of favors, etc.

    The real difference here is that this author is offering a cleaner, simpler deal. I was surprised that she wasn’t offering to buy the book for the reviewers — something established publishing companies do all the time (sending the galleys, etc.). And do we suppose that these established publishing companies send the book out to those who will write bad reviews? And, if they get a bad review, do you suppose they use it as a blurb on the book cover?

    Give us a break and be honest — you could have started a real revolution here and helped to open up the field to those whose (intelligent and educated) voices are constantly silenced by the big guys.

  2. Penny

    Actually, let me clarify – first off publishers do send review copies and no one knows what someone will say when they review a book. Bad reviews have been known to sell books, there are tons of stories about this. What I meant with this blog was simple: getting reviews from “just anyone” doesn’t really count, you have to get them from people who matter in the industry you’re specializing in. No one knows who “Mary Alice” is unless she’s an expert or author in the field. I applaud the author for being creative, however getting any review doesn’t matter. Getting the right one does. The “right” ones won’t be swayed by a $50 offer.

  3. Jackie Griffey

    I can certainly sympathize with this writer. I’ve been a little (well, ok – a lot behind trying to get some reviews of my things too) and I do need them, everyone does. I too applaude her directness and I feel sure she’ll get dome good reviews. One review I got several years ago that I didn’t thing was a good review turned out (I think) to be a good one. The reviewer griped about things that got in the way of the romance (It’s a historical romance-suspense) but when I was cleaning out my files this morning (long over due also) I read this review again and smiled to myself. The things he was griping about were the subplots and braking events of that exciting time (just cleaning up the mess after the war between the states and the onset of the yellow fever epidemic. My research was thorough and enjoyable (the research is as exciting as any fiction novel) and the some of the things he referred to were an attack by river pirates, fleeing the city (Memphis) as some of the refugees from NOLA and a friend accused of murder. All the ladies who let me hear from them loved it, murder-pirates-and all. I’m thinkig of (?) submitting it elsewhere to a larger publisher but hesitate because all myu things are G rated, I don’t write ‘sexy’ historical or erotica. Don’t know if I’ll get up the nerve or not. But it made me smile that his ‘questinable’ review made my book sound intresting. The name of it is MEMPHIS IN OUR HEARTS. Anyone can Google Jackie Griffey’s books or go to my web page if you want to comment. I’d love to hear from you, readers, writers et al. And good luck getting your reveiws!

    Cyber hugs and best wishes,

    Jackie Griffey

  4. Kelli


    I totally agree with your post. Paying for reviews may be creative, but it also smacks a little bit of desperation, and that can be a turn off to the influencers that count.

    Case in point, the Indonesian author who recently threw $10,000 out of a plane window to a crowd gathered below. The stunt was meant to create marketing buzz, and, indeed, the story was included on various news sites. But the people who scored the cash from the drop? When asked if they’d use the money to buy the man’s book– said: “No.”

    Another example is Microsoft’s new, vastly decried “We’ll pay you to surf using our site” initiative.

    Bottom line: In this age of social media and full disclosure word of mouth marketing, people are suspicious of paid ads and paid reviews–good ones, or bad ones.

  5. Penny

    Kelli I would agree with you – people are very suspicious these days and more than ever, the power of the “crowd” is what matters. Also, as I pointed out we can get anyone to review our books but the reviews that will lend credibility are ones that are written by people who actually review books.

  6. Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Credibility. Ethics. Some wise person once said that our reputations are all we have. I liked that the author you quoted said she would pay for bad reviews as well as good. The thing is, paid reviews are less likely to be critical. It’s a psychological thing. Beyond that, the reader is less likely to believe a paid review. And one step beyond that, it isn’t really relevant whether the average reader knows the reviewer is in the employ of the author. That she is is problematic and, in the long run, discredits the entire review process.

    Now here’s the kicker. No author has to pay for reviews. Just ask your readers. People love to pass along good news. They’ll be happy to do it for you. They probably just din’t think to do it on Amazon. So ask. And send a nice thank you afterward.


    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

    Blogging at

  7. Cara Lyle

    If the book is non-fiction then I would say a review by a known personality is nice. And probably necessary. But I have to agree with Carolyn when it comes to a fiction book. Fiction is so subjective. Time, place, mood, the weather, indigestion all these play into whether the reader likes it or not. What I like today I don’t always care for next month. But if I were asked to review a historical romance (which I like), I’d rather be free to give an honest opinion and not be ‘beholden’ to write somehting – anything – because I was paid. It isn’t fair to the writer either. I would hope that the writer is able to cull out the outrageous and the vicious reviews, or even the ones that simply gush praise.

    The trick is to find people and then get them to write something constructive. Like the heroine protests just too much – a pet peeve of mine.

    Sincerely Cara

    PS I’m still working on my website.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *