The more I think about it, the more I am in favor of paid book reviews, with a set of very important caveats.
My reasoning is this. Self publishing is exploding. The ability for each title to get a review is going to continually decline, I don’t care how many give-aways you have. Additionally, 90% of reviews are weak. Yeah, I stand by this, they are not in depth, nor are they consistent. The bloggers (who are crucial and I wish we had more reader-bloggers) disappear, their following is modest, life interrupts. Goodreads? Yeah, it’s not bad, but it is owned by Amazon (conflict of interest) and even there, 90% of the time it is a sentence or two and a star rating.
A lot of heavy readers want some filters. At least I do and as I grow older I realize I’m just not that damn unique (but my writing is, really <grin>). I think we need a couple of big, serious, review sites and I think a bunch of newspapers should get in on the action–as paid reviewers.
One is, you pay for a review and it is posted, no matter how bad the review is. This doesn’t eliminate the free reviews that occur, but it starts to dig through the pile.
Don’t go on about how unfair this is to authors who can’t afford it. I get the broke author bit. First, that same author probably paid for cover art, possibly editing (if you didn’t, think about it, you probably need it), and possibly even paid to get it all formatted. Pay for the review also (if my idea ever gets implemented).
Two this only works if there are some big players on this. Players that are not Amazon (although, I could see Amazon FUNDING this, or investing as a minority stakeholder, where they can’t influence the reviews, but they can see the benefit).
Three the stigma has to get lost. We pay for everything else in the U.S., where the religion of “free market” dominates. Why is this different? The key is that these are HONEST. The readers will soon figure out which venues are paid garbage quality reviews.
Four the paid review sites can comb a number of blogs and put them on their “trusted” list. These bloggers have the opportunity to become employees of the paid site, but simultaneously, they probably will want to still do some free ones.
Five the review has to be well done. Some of the Publisher Weekly and other paid review places, I have seen a lot of complaints (with reason) of bogus reviews. Speed read the first few chapters and write a review. No, the reviewers are not going to get rich doing this, but really good, avid readers, can contribute to the ecosystem and make a few bucks along the way.
So as various venues experiment with paid reviews, I say “Bring it on,” I’ll pay.