Disclaimer: I have used the following review services: Kirkus Reviews, Literary Titan, and Military Writer's Society of America. I have received no compensation from them or any other third party for the following blog entry. The opinions contained within are my own.
I've been seeing a Facebook ad for Kirkus Reviews popping up and been reading the comments. It seems like a lot of writers are attacking the service for it's "pay to play" indie reviews and are under the impression that this makes a Kirkus Review less prestigious. I disagree with these comments. I've used Kirkus to have my second book, Broken Hearts & Other Horrors reviewed and my next book is currently being reviewed.
Which begs the question: should an indie author ever pay for a review?
The answer depends on what your writing goals are. Are you doing it as a challenge or something on your personal bucket list? The answer is probably no. But if you're doing it as a potential career/business? The answer is yes.
But shouldn't reviews be free? Like to keep the reviews honest?
No. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but look at it from a different angle. How many people do you want reading your books without you seeing a return on investment (ROI)? Traditional sources of book reviews make their money off of advertising and selling their products to a specific audience.
The ROI for indie reviews is going to depend on the reviewer's audience. In the case of Kirkus, their audience are professionals in the publishing industry. This is very important to keep in mind when deciding to buy a review as an indie author. To receive a positive review, your book is going to have to meet or exceed industry standards.
Is a Kirkus Review right for your book? That depends on how much you want to invest in your book. Is it professionally edited and designed? Then it's something you should consider. If not, you're probably going to receive a negative review.
Keep in mind that in the case of Kirkus you're being compared to traditionally published books in a review targeted for industry professionals. This does not mean your book isn't worthwhile.
There are other review services and awards that are aimed at indie authors. These services will be comparing your book to other indies.
A service I've used is Literary Titan. At $79 a review, this is much more budget friendly for the indie author. They also award a Silver Book Award for those books that achieve a 4 Star review and Gold Book Award for 5 Star reviews. I've used the service myself. The Hidden Lives of Dick & Mary received a 4 Star rating. Broken Hearts & Other Horrors received a 5 Star rating. A Mother's Torment, my third book and first novel, is currently going through a review. Following each review they do an author's interview for their blog.
A positive review and award will help your marketing efforts and reassures readers that your book is well written and produced. You can use them in ad campaigns on Amazon, BookBub, Facebook, or whatever social media you get the most bang for your advertising dollar. It also elevates your listings on places like Amazon that lets you edit your book's listings.
However, keep in mind that the review your book earns will be relative to the effort and investment you put into its production.
Other services that provide awards and/or reviews primarily/exclusively targeted to indie authors:
Independent Book Publishers Association Awards