For better or for worse, Amazon sells more books than anyone. In an attempt to prevent writers from buying bogus reviews (a practice that at one time was prevalent), Amazon has strict review policies. One of their rules is that a review cannot be paid for. If you’re given a book for free, you’re supposed to state that in your review. If Amazon’s records show you purchased the book from them, they’ll give it their “Verified Purchase” seal of approval. But if you didn’t buy it there, they reserve the right to remove/refuse your review.
You’re not allowed to “swap” reviews. That is, you can’t agree with a fellow author to review one another’s books. Of course that happens all the time — being an author, I know a lot of authors, and I’ve reviewed some of their books and they’ve reviewed mine. But if Amazon gets a whiff of your relationship, they can take down a review you posted of a friend’s book.
Though every author loves having others praise their work, getting Amazon reviews isn’t just a matter of pride. The more reviews you have, the more your book sells as people read the reviews and think, “all these readers can’t be wrong.” Also, the more reviews you get, the more Amazon recommends that book on their site. I believe the magic is supposed to start happening once you get 10 reviews. (Which is why I’m a bit frustrated that The Last Toqeph has been stuck at 9 reviews for months now.)
And then there are the paid reviewers, like the much-vaunted Kirkus. You can spend several hundred dollars on a paid review, but all that gets you is the right to use a quote from your great Kirkus review on your promotional materials. You can’t post it to Amazon, and you can’t use it to pay your electric bill.
The fact is, I don’t put much thought or effort into book promotion. I don’t track sales (other than to record the few bucks that are automatically deposited into my checking account each month). I don’t try to figure what marketing effort brings the greatest ROI (return on investment), seeing as how nothing seems to bring much return. (But then, I don’t invest much.) I pretty much do what I can without going broke and/or knocking myself out over it, and let come what may.
For that reason, when I saw a message on one of the Goodreads authors’ forums on which I lurk, I took notice. One of these organization that produces paid reviews (“like Kirkus” is the way it was worded) was running a contest in which they would give five winners a free review. “A $300 value!” (Or whatever the quoted cost was — I don’t remember the number for sure.) I took a closer look, and, seeing no danger involved in entering, I gave it a shot and then forgot about it.
But a couple weeks later, I received notice that I’d won a free review from Entrada. Huh? Oh, yeah, I entered that contest, didn’t I? Hmmm… pretty suspicious. I never win anything. Even more suspicious? Someone else on that Goodreads forum said he entered and won. Is it a case where five people entered, so everyone won? Adding to the sense of unease, if you google Entrada in general or Entrada Reviews in particular, this organization doesn’t show up on the first page of results. (It comes up if you search for Entrada Book Reviews, but I didn’t include the word “book” when I did my initial search.)
My unfounded guess based on nothing in particular? It’s probably a start-up company whose internet presence and reputation in the publishing world is not yet established, and this contest is a way to get their name out there. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially since they asked for no money from me — not for entering, and not for winning.
The only thing I was asked to send them was my ebook (so the reviewer could read it), a headshot and short biography — a typical request. As I sent the book file, it occurred to me they might try to sell the book on the black market or something, but who cares? My purpose in writing it was to allow people to read it, not to make money. So even black market sales will further my purpose.
So I sent what they asked for, and they delivered what they promised. Their review of The Story in the Stars is live on their site. It’s a good review — I’m happy with it. And I can use it (or excerpts therefrom) on my Amazon author page, my Goodreads page, or on any promotional materials I create.
I’m still not sure how reputable it is for a company to charge big bucks for reviews. But since I got this one for free, I’ll try to figure out how to use it. Gotta get my money’s worth, don’t ya know.