Sponsored book reviews are reviews paid for by the author or publisher. Most often, sponsored reviews are reviews of books that would otherwise not get attention in the shrinking marketplace for review publication. Usually, this means self-published books. By refusing to publish reviews of self-published books, review editors can avoid their share of the stigma attached to self-publication. They can also avoid having to consider books that – in many cases – do not meet professional standards. Most of all, they can save time by hiding behind such a policy. With so many books to consider, review publications – and reviewers – can simply ignore this category of publication, which grows larger every day.
There are, of course, many self-published books worthy of notice. What’s an author to do? Wait for word of mouth to click in?
Sponsored reviews are the answer. Some publications will offer placement of professionally written reviews at a price. Note that I said “placement.” The ruse is that the author is not being charged for the writing of the review (and thus, supposedly, the reviewer is not being paid by the author).
Fees are fairly standard for this kind of sponsored review (placement). Here is a link that explores the policies of one book review publication (print and online) that offers the sponsored review opportunity.
My own experience with the sponsored book review marketplace came during my attempt to establish a relationship with the San Francisco Book Review and its twin the Sacramento Book Review. The main editor/publisher of these periodicals needs a good number of freelance reviewers on hand to create the editorial copy required to serve its public, build circulation/viewers, and attract advertisers.
By sharing the proceeds of a sponsored review with the review’s author, the publication can please everyone.
When this enterprise (SFBR/SBR) circulated a list of books available for review, sponsored review possibilities were also listed. I decided to give it a try and put my name in for one of the sponsored review titles. I chose The Silent and the Lost by A. Zubair, I hoping that the book would turn out to be one I could address with honesty and objectivity. In fact, I was pretty sure this would be the case after doing a little research on the title.
The book arrived, I read it carefully, did my job (though writing in the extremely short form customary in such periodicals is neither my strength nor preference), and uploaded the review according to instructions. Then I waited for the review to appear.
It took longer than I expected (the paying author had some influence on the timing of when the review would come out), but the other day – there it was online. It was, honestly enough, labeled as sponsored review. What seemed odd to me, at first, was that I was given no by-line. Perhaps this was to protect me from the stigma of writing a sponsored review!
However, I approached the task in the same way I approach all my reviewing projects. I had reasons to admire the book, and I had no qualms about the arrangement. But do I trust other reviewers’ sponsored efforts? Hmmm.
Here it is: The Silent and the Lost | City Book Review
What do you think about sponsored reviews?