I've been keeping an eye on a recent trend in the indie publishing community -- paid reviews (and family/friends reviews) and the controversy surrounding them. But I fail to see why it's such a hot topic.

On one hand, when I see people asking the question of whether or not it's okay for authors to do this, the answer's clear. I want to scream "of course not!" But what makes me want to scream even more is the fact that this conversation is happening at all. That's especially true when we're talking about online reviews, which we often are.

I get that indie publishing is still new for most authors. But if you're going to use the Web to publish or promote your books, have the basic sense to understand the arena you're entering first. Paid reviews are an ancient topic in the Internet age. So let's just boil it down to the basics in case you missed them:

  • Paying for reviews is stupid from a marketing perspective. As an author the only feedback you should care about is honest feedback. And you'll never know if you're getting honest feedback when you pay for that feedback. Even if you don't insist on a positive review, not all reviewers are going to tell you what they really think. They're too afraid of how you'll react or they're afraid others won't pay them for the same. There are ethical paid reviewers out there. But you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. And you can't improve your product or your marketing strategy based on a bunch of bullshit.
  • If you pay for reviews and you do insist that all published reviews are positive, you're a pathetic unethical schmuckPeriod. If you aren't ready for honest feedback, you aren't ready to publish.
  • Not only are there strategic and ethical issues with paid reviews, but you can also have your ass handed to you by Google. They don't like paid reviews. You can be penalized if you're caught. (And you probably will be caught.) Again, this is old news. And if you're an e-book author, this can be especially problematic. Not only can you lose search traffic to your author or book website (and therefore direct sales), but if people find you somewhere else like Amazon and they want to learn more about you before buying, they might be SOL when they search for you and can't find your penalized website.

Seriously folks. It's this simple. Question: "Should indie authors pay for book reviews?" Answer: "Hell no!" There. All settled.

Just in case you can't tell: laziness and a lack of common sense are major pet peeves. There's really no excuse for this to be such a big topic of discussion. Maybe authors in favor of this really did miss all of the hoopla about paid reviews just a few years back. Or maybe it's just my hypersensitivity to, and no bullshit tolerance for, spin given my background. Either way, it's not enough to write. You need to make sure you understand the business side of publishing if you want to go it alone. If you don't get the problems with paid reviews, you haven't done your homework.