January 15, 2011

Craigslist: not just for jobs, but adventure, apparently

Book Reviewer: $150 - $1500 (Telecommute)

Date: 2011-01-13, 7:13AM PST
Reply to: XXXXXXX

Prepublication book reviews needed for literary novel.

I am an Author and Professor of English in Austin, Texas. I also own a small publishing company. I am currently seeking prepublication reviews for a novel set for publication at the end of next month (February 2011). If your review is favorable, I would like to include a blurb from it on the back cover of the novel.

I am an advocate of finding new and better ways to accomplish common tasks. The old way of seeking prepublication reviews is to send galley proofs (Advance Reading Copies – ARC) out into the abyss of the mainstream media to compete in the mailboxes of those organizations with the one thousand other books they received that day. To me, that sounds like the definition of insanity.

If you are a book critic, an author, a university professor, a member of the media, a blogger, a review writer, a representative of an independent bookstore, or anyone with high literary credentials, I will pay you between $150 and $1500 for your review. Those with higher credentials will receive a higher stipend.

Of course, your review should be honest. Just because this is a paid review does not mean that you have to review the novel favorably; however, I certainly hope that you like the book. If your review is negative, I will not be using any portion of it on the back cover of my novel, on my website, or anywhere else.

Although I will not reveal the name of the novel or the synopsis in this ad, I will tell you that it is literary fiction in the vein of Lolita, Blood Meridian, and Steppenwolf. The novel challenges organized religion and is left-leaning, but the overall message of the novel is one of peace, tolerance, and unity. The novel has been described as Less Than Zero meets Dead Poet’s Society.

I would expect you to read the novel and write a thoughtful evaluative review that is somewhere between 500 and 1500 words long. The review should not be merely summative. It should evaluate the novel, pointing out its strengths in the areas of style, theme, narrative, characterization, etc. It should also compare the novel and writing to other major writers and novels. Remember, this is a pre-publication review, so I am looking for blurbs to include on the back cover of the novel accompanied by your name and organization. Keep in mind that you must be authorized to use your organization’s name. I will also use your review and organization name on my website, in promotional materials, and I will ask you to post your review on Amazon.com.

If you feel you are a qualified reviewer and you are favorable to the type of novel outlined above, please respond to this ad with a list of your credentials. If I feel your credentials are adequate, I will contact you with the full details of the novel, and we can negotiate a stipend amount and a timetable for completion.

Although I will have to verify your credentials, the entire process will be confidential. No one will know that you were paid for your freelance review.

Eeevery once in awhile, people point things out to me on Craigslist that really make me shake my head.

Now, we as bloggers review books - for our blog, eventually once again for The Edge of the Forest Children's Lit Journal, some of us for print magazines, or for the School Library Journal, but the largest percentage of us do it because we like the book, not for a paycheck.

This gentleman offers not only a paycheck, but a word count.

He wants 500-1500 words, which is really an essay. And he wants to check out all of your credentials. My question is, what about his credentials? We have only his word for it that he's a professional. Further, if he's truly a professor, surely he can find colleagues to review his book?

Ever since I read about the MFA Program/James Patterson Frey (thank-you, Brian) writing mill, I've wondered, Who does this kind of stuff??

And now, reading this, I find that I'm confused. It seems obvious to me that this is a bad deal. (I mean, Steppenwolf, and Lolita AND the Dead Poets Society?? Really?) But, I imagine a writer who is broke would be more than tempted.

I guess it's a question of how much one values one's skill. Am I worth too much to be tempted by a purchased review? Or is my writing good enough that I should be paid for it, no matter what I'm writing?


(P.S. And as for "nobody will know that you were paid;" well, that's a bit disingenuous as the Federal Trade Commission has some funny notions about disclosure for bloggers... I daresay this will have to show up somewhere...taxes, at least...)


Brian F. said...

FYI, It's the James Frey, not Patterson, writing mill. Just sayin'.

Doret said...

Halfway through this I couldn't help but think Editorial Anonymous is going to love this.

You know this person is going to make this a required text for their students.

C. K. Kelly Martin said...


Gail Gauthier said...

I'm looking at this from a totally different point of view. The guy's credentials and whether or not I should be paid for my writing aren't the big issues for me.

For me, the issue is: If producers (publishers/authors/agents) paying reviewers directly for reviews were to become a standard practice, it would make reviewing meaningless. Even with the system we have now, of the review publication paying the reviewers instead of the producers doing so, I wonder if it isn't in reviewers' best interests to write so-called positive reviews. They are the bulk of what I see in journals and if it's what journals publish, aren't they going to prefer reviewers who write them? Aren't reviewers who like everything going to get more work than reviewers who don't?

If producers pay for reviews, you can be sure we'll be seeing far more positive reviews, no matter what the book is like. The people writing the checks are going to seek out reviewers who like everything in order to get the most bang for their buck. And even if they inadvertantly end up paying for a less than glowing review, they don't have to use it. We don't use less than glowing quotes from reviews at our websites, do we? And we don't even pay for those. At least, most of us don't.

When all books are well-reviewed, well-reviewed doesn't mean anything. It will make choosing books that much more difficult for readers.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Exactly, Gail. From a reader's perspective, an honest opinion from someone whose opinions I trust--because they have EARNED that trust through a thoughtful perspective--is a lot more valuable to me in choosing my reading material.

tanita✿davis said...

I was attempting to point out the non-obvious issues with an author on Craigslist soliciting reviews - in the JOB section, with payment offered...

I have a feeling that for the most part, reviews are useless anyway. Do you trust the word of random bloggers? Do you trust print reviews more simply because they're in print? Or do you most of the time take book recommendations from word-of-mouth, "my best friend just read this and says it's great" types of things?

And the idea of "reviewers who like everything" brings up again the specter of blog reviewers who never say anything negative -- and the question of whether or not, or how much we bloggers tend to pander.

All good thoughts - uncomfortable ones, but good ones nonetheless.