Kirkus Book Reviews: more on paid reviews.

kirkus-reviewsI continue to refine my thinking on paid book reviews, starting with a recent post.

I still stand by the thought that paid reviews by companies like Kirkus will matter and be worth it, but we’re not quite there yet. The YET is key to most people considering paying for the review.

It all boils down to this, self publishing is EXPLODING. As stated before: A million TITLES last year!

Additionally, and why we shouldn’t trust some aspects of Amazon, reviewers, and filtering, is the various scams out there.¬†Readers need some filter. More than reviews by essentially unknown, anonymous, readers. I am NOT saying eliminate those. The stellar ones will continue to contribute and arise, but we need more filters.

To those who complain about the price of a Kirkus review. REALLY? Let bread this down. For purposes of back of the napkin calculations.

Time to read a book (say of 100K words) is about 7 hours.
Time to write a 250 word (one double spaced page) 1 hour

The reviewer is an EMPLOYEE (even if independent contractor) of Kirkus.

So, lets call it $425 for the review (suggested retail). Lets pay this review $25 hour. 8*200.
Now “fully load it.” This means cover all the administrative costs and other things (taxes, etc.). This is about 30%. We are up to $260.
Now add the cost for publication and marketing of the company (not your book, the company). Go low, say about 20%. We are up to about $310.
Now, look at the standard discount if you wait for the at least semi-annual sale. That is $75 off. That brings the price down to $350. So, Kirkus is making GROSS profit about $40 per review.
Gross profit is not net. I would guess, NET, they make about $20.

That is not an egregious amount to make per review. It is not a scam. If they lowered the price TOO much, they would lose money. If they hired cheaper reviewers, the reviews would be EVEN WORSE than they currently are (which I grant is not stellar all the time).

NOW, is it worth it? I think it WILL BE in the future. Most Amazon reviews are nearly garbage. There are some stellar reviewers out there, no doubt, but how many books OUT OF A MILLION do you think a few hundred good free reviewers are going to get to?

RIGHT NOW, the studies show that product reviews (yes a book is a product) are almost always neither a good, nor bad, indicator of the actual quality of the product. Additionally, the studies show that for SALES it is the *number* of product reviews that counts. Humans are herd-like in this respect. We’ll buy what other people are buying, even if they have bad reviews. I don’t need to hear about individuals who say “I never do that.” I am talking statistics. *In general* there is a correlation, if not a proven cause and effect.

So, is it worth it from a sales perspective? No, probably not. Is it worth it for the future of indie publishing? I think so. Is it worth it for the consumer? It should be, but it isn’t yet. Will it help you as a writer, to hone your craft? Maybe, but the current reviews are too short and too weak.

Amazon (and B&N and a consortium of retailers) should push, or even fund with no strings, a trusted paid review source. Part of being trusted is that even the bad reviews will get published. Not all indie authors are going to like that (including I am sure me), but it puts the trust in the review back.

A good indie author SHOULD be paying for cover art and editing (yes there are exceptions). You pay for both of these because someone is devoting time to this. Many even pay CreateSpace and BookBaby to format and covert files (which is 99% automated these days). Reviews are not automated and they take time. In the U.S. we pray to the god of free market. Generally, that means paying for time.

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