Imagine that you’re an influential book reviewer, and each week publishers send you boxes of their books in the hope that you’ll sprinkle some of your fairy-dust over one of their titles and write it a wonderful review. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
How do you think that book reviewers reach such an enviable position? By reading widely and then writing honest, informed responses to the books that they have read, so that their readers know that they can trust them.
When a trusted reviewer praises a book, many of their readers will go out and buy it right away. If they enjoy the book, they’re more likely to buy the next book that the reviewer recommends. However, when readers don’t enjoy books that they’ve bought as a result of a reviewer’s recommendation, not only are they likely to stop reading that reviewer’s work, they’re also likely to avoid any other books that the reviewer recommended.
Book reviewers can only react honestly about books when their opinions have no impact on their financial health: if they’re paid by newspapers or magazines then their reviews will generally be candid and reliable; but if they’re paid by a publisher or writer, their reviews will be written with their paycheque in mind because if they write a negative review, that publisher or writer is unlikely to hire them again.
So, if you want a book reviewer you can rely on, make sure they’re independent. And if you’re looking for people to review your work remember it’s not normal for reviews to be bought and sold. If they’re not free, they’re not worth the paper—or pixels—that they’re written on and no one with any sense will take them seriously.