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Customer Discussions > fiction discussion forum

Incentives for Reviews? Frowned on or Normal PR/Advertising

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Showing 1-25 of 95 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Oct 2012 11:16:33 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
You go to a supermarket and you get loyalty points because they want to keep your custom.

You use a credit card and you get cash back or air miles because they want to keep your custom.

You use a catalogue and they offer you a discount to use them again because they want to keep your custom.

You get emails in your inbox about companies offering vouchers to use them because they want to keep your custom.

But if an author offered an incentive for a review of the kind:

leave a totally honest review and get another of my books free, or get a voucher or something or a reward of some kind

then would it be totally frowned upon as a heinous act of a ruthless mind hell-bent on corrupting the non-existing free market forces that are Amazon and book forums around the world?

I just wondered what people on here think about it.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 11:27:55 BDT
Ethereal says:
Honest review by non-author (so no tit-for-tat) sounds fine to me, but presumably the review has to appear before the reward is given. Not sure readers would feel confident posting a poor review if they want to get their reward!

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 11:31:54 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Oct 2012 11:32:11 BDT
gille liath says:
If the author is the one offering the incentive, that's hardly an encouragement to impartial opinion is it? It's what they call conflict of interest.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 11:37:14 BDT
Ethereal says:
Better than offering freebies in return for reviews though, not only for the author's sake but having spent money the reader should be more objective.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 11:44:51 BDT
I Readalot says:
I really can't see the link between the list of reward givers listed above and an individual author offering a reward for a review. Effectively the author would be offering payment for a review, in the case of supermarkets etc the customer has already spent their money before getting a 'reward', which would already have been costed in to the price that products are sold for anyway. Personally I wouldn't trust a review posted in this way and I doubt if many other people would either, although chances are we would be unaware that a reward had been offered in the first place.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 12:05:34 BDT
monica says:
Oh, these downtrodden soi-disant authors . . . but come to think of it, I should be pitied as well. Neither M Zola nor Paul Auster has followed up on promises to pay for my reviews; the former had mentioned a credit voucher and the latter said he'd send me copy of his autobiography Over-rated, Moi?

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 12:16:21 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
Ethereal says:
Honest review by non-author (so no tit-for-tat) sounds fine to me, but presumably the review has to appear before the reward is given. Not sure readers would feel confident posting a poor review if they want to get their reward!

Well, it could be at point of sale. I think the only way it would work is if it was a completely honest review. Otherwise it is just cheating :)

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 12:20:28 BDT
Let me start by making it clear that I don't offer any incentives for reviews. Unless you're the TLS you're unlikely even to get a free copy from me. Them's the breaks.


All the current hand-wringing about fake reviews, bought reviews, sock puppets, and the like is actually quite funny to anyone who's ever worked on a magazine. Any magazine you care to mention will tell you that their editorial's integrity is beyond reproach, but the fact is that a PR person's job is to undermine that integrity by getting positive editorial coverage for their brand/client/product. And... there are a lot of PR people out there. Just saying.

My killer anecdote on this concerns the 2005 film "Goal!". I worked for a contract publisher that sold the advertising space on, among other titles, cult football zine When Saturday Comes. A media agency paid for a full page advertisement for the film, on the strength of the magazine's target audience, and also because they'd heard we were going to run a review of the film.

When the issue was printed, and the film's backers and media buyers found that the review included gems like, and I quote, "Shot on the streets of Newcastle, like the director should have been, Goal..." I could hear my colleague fielding angry calls from three desks away. Well, we knew they probably wouldn't be delighted, fine. But it was the entitlement that got to us. "How DARE we..." as though just paying for an ad gave them the right to dictate our reviewer's opinion. This was a rare foray into the world of film marketing for us, and I was left with the distinct impression that they were used to getting their way, and let's not forget that Empire Magazine gave the universally ridiculed Batman and Robin three out of five stars and ended on the sentence "The succession, and the franchise, are secure." Advertising revenue is one of the biggest incentives of all and has been used for decades without attracting much undue comment.

So when Amazon reviews are found to be influenced by sharp practice of varying sorts... well I'm disappointed, and I lose all respect for those who've done it, but am I actually surprised? Not so much. Reviewing is riddled with commercial pressure, and as soon as armchair reviewers began having an impact on a book's bottom line, it was only a matter of time before those commercial realities were translated to customer reviews.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 12:24:24 BDT
Ethereal says:
"Well, it could be at point of sale."

Then you're trusting the buyer to give a review and after they've paid for the book there's no obligation for them to do that.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 12:26:59 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
I Readalot, it happens already. There are websites where you can offer incentives for readers to download and read someone's work. And many reviewers who are bloggers do also get a free copy of the book itself.

Maybe I didn't think it through to the logical conclusions :D - that's the benefit of the forum.

(BTW I don't see any difference between a supermarket trying to sell thousands of products and an author trying to sell their books -apart from the financing!)

I have taken part in the kdp select promotions for all my books now and have 'given away' hundreds of copies now, I just wondered what it would take for some of these people to actually read the thing and write about whether they liked it or not.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 12:29:44 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
Whatabout the nefarious practices of the recent release of the Casual Vacancy? Squashing bad reviews?

What I wanted to know was would people actually think it was sharp practice or just a normal marketing strategy. I knew full-well that I was asking it in the wrong place probably.
The emphasis is on 'honest' reviews...

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 12:35:08 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Oct 2012 12:35:42 BDT
Ethereal says:
What "nefarious practices"?
I saw a number of 1* reviews for CV which were complaints about ebook price from reviewers who hadn't even bought the book. Have they been "squashed"? In those cases I'm not surprised.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 12:49:43 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
Ethereal, did you hear about the embargo on publishing any pre-release reviews? and making the reviewers sign convoluted contracts?

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 14:00:05 BDT
I Readalot says:
CV was shrouded in secrecy, it wasn't just the reviewers that had to sign convoluted contracts but booksellers as well. I could understand the embargo with the HP's but this one was definitely over the top. Maybe a few pre-release 'bad reviews' would have had a detrimental impact on sales or something, I do know that a few people who had pre-ordered it from the shop I work in decided they didn't want it once they found out what it was actually about.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 15:23:02 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
So what kind of incentive would get readers to leave reviews? I suppose if you really hate something then the offer of another book from the same author would be a turn-off :)

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 16:00:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Oct 2012 16:01:45 BDT
There's a difference between giving a reward after a person chooses to buy at a certain chain, and offering an incentive to influence a customer to buy at a certain chain.

Giving a reviewer a book to review is common practice; after all, the reviewer can't review a book without reading it. Offering the incentive before the review has been posted is a bit odd. You can always send the reviewer another book when s/he really enjoyed it as a personal thank you, but never lure him with it.

What if the honest review comes out as: 'Doh, can't write for toffee'? The reviewer will hardly be interested in another book from that author.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 16:18:06 BDT
I Readalot says:
I suppose that the main incentive to write a review is reading a book you feel strongly about, either you love it and want to spread the word or hate it and want to warn others against it. However it basically comes down to the fact that some people enjoy writing reviews and don't need an incentive and there are others who would never write one even if there was an inventive. When free copies of proofs are sent out by trad publishers they are not sent at random, but to a select group of people and it is not with the understanding that they will be reviewed, some may not even be read at all.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 16:31:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Oct 2012 17:10:06 BDT
Ethereal says:
Occasionally I get a well-known writing magazine and I've seen numerous articles pushing first-time authors especially to self-publish. There are tips about editing, creating covers, formatting, uploading onto Az kindle, pricing, marketing via websites, blogging, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter ... but none I've read warning about how hard it is to get noticed and make sales or attract reviews. It seems only those authors who are making it work are writing and getting articles on their experiences published. I guess writing magazines don't want to put wannabe authors off and thereby decrease their readership. But it's giving a false impression which must add to a saturated market.

ETA - Strangely, I don't remember any of them mentioning Az forums including MOA even when discussing promotion. Seems telling ...
Oh, I even read an article recently which mentioned sock puppets and seemed to be advocating its use, as well as getting friends to review. I wanted to yell noooo!!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 18:57:16 BDT
Raven says:
Totally agree I Readalot! I have a blog and submit reviews to various sites all for the joy of reading new books which is my biggest passion. I would never allow my reviews to be incentivised- far too strong minded for that and like saying what I really think!

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 20:32:45 BDT
Booktigger says:
I personally see a review as my way of paying for a book. I'm not interested in any payment, but do appreciate being given a free copy.

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 21:03:24 BDT
Just so you know, if ANY payment is made for a review, Amazon will delete the review. Amazon does not allow "for pay" reviews and this includes the paid reviews by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, etc. There's a reason for it as someone mentioned: "Conflict of interest." It has nothing to do with WHEN the payment is made either. If I give out enough bad reviews (honest or not) I'm not going to be approached very often by those "paying" for reviews. They are going to naturally hunt out reviewers who focus most often on the positive. And if I want to continue being paid, there is going to be a little voice in my head thinking, "I don't want to be too hard on this or I won't get paid/asked to review the next book. And I need the money/prize."

A lot of book reviewers would love to be paid --and they can be. If they find a publication willing to pay them for their reviews. Then the author and publisher are not in the pipeline and they are being paid for their actual content rather than in exchange for a specific book.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 22:02:46 BDT
Oracle says:
Casual Vacancy currently has 84 1* reviews compared to 77 5* reviews.

I don't think the bad reviews have been squashed...

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 22:09:42 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
You are right up to a point Maria, but I have seen a lot of websites, (probably can't name them here) where people are paid to review books. The payment is made up front when the author uploads their work, then reviewers can choose which books to read. I have seen plenty of 1* reviews on these and rightly so.

I do not have the cash personally...

But how Az police this policy, I'm not sure, external reviews in product descriptions, inside the sample, in the blurb - it will be the mainstream books which will be the greater culprits here and I don't think they will be targeted or removed.

I was not really thinking of a payment to a professional reviewer, more an incentive for the everyday reader. But I see now that it would not be allowed anyway.

If the people who download the freebies and the people who win the giveaways on good reads, might be incentivised in some way, some honest, win-win way, then...

Posted on 10 Oct 2012 22:11:37 BDT
A. B. Syed says:
Hi Oracle, these reviews are from people who have purchased through Amazon. The squashed ones were pre-release, handcuffs for reviewers and book-shop owners as far as I am aware.

But then it was unfair to single this one book out. I think that it is a fairly common thing, now, reading further around the topic as they say.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2012 12:02:51 BDT
I Readalot says:
I think that CV was singled out purely because it was such a high profile release. Giving 1* based on the Kindle price was completely out of order, after all the RRP for the HB was £20.00 and due to competition everyone was/is selling it discounted, the publisher has no control over that, when it comes to the Kindle there is no competition. Besides the final format of a book whether HB, PB or ebook is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to costing, what about the authors royalties, editing, proof reading and publicity? With ebooks there is the cost of the technology, staff needed to convert to the format and check for errors (in printing and formatting) not to mention the IT bods needed to service the hardware and software and they don't come cheap. As a lot of people have said, if you want to read a book and the HB is the cheapest option why not buy that?
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  16
Total posts:  95
Initial post:  10 Oct 2012
Latest post:  11 Nov 2012

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