Paid Reviews and Non-Disclosure

I hate blatant lying in reviews. Not the fact that a review may be paid per se, but hiding it.

I’ve been initially torn about a particular case, of Brae Wyckoff’s LRP Book Reviews site. Let me come in the open with the facts I know about, here. Make up your own mind.

Summary
I think it’s a good thing that people try new ways to assist indie authors, because there is a need, these years, to create new business models, new ways to tackle the complexity created by the multitude of books being published today, by the advent of the internet, by the technology creating ebooks so easily.

But, in the end, I don’t think we have anything new in LRP business. It’s as known and old as paid reviews under the guise of dishonest lack of disclosure. Your opinion may vary, let me know of your arguments then.

The backstory
LRP Book Reviews belongs to the publisher of this book, and it’s run by the author of this book, Brae Wyckoff. The site offers, apparently, a service to authors: for like 20 bucks per review, LRP finds a reviewer for your book. The author’s money are money for the reviewer to BUY the book (like a “standard” customer…), plus 10 bucks extra for writing a review.

LRP intermediates the exchange and take its cut; it assures that the author doesn’t know his/her reviewers beforehand. Authors know the text of the review, and refuse to have it posted on their book if they don’t like it.

Function of your optimism for the human race (also known as naivete), you might want to believe the practice can be honest so far, if all stars align right. I did want to see all sides here. Although, the refusal of the review is tying the hands of the reviewer. I assume they promise contractually that they’ll never post the review. With all good intentions, I think they’ll feel pressured if they review badly more than once.

The core problem
Unfortunately, there is more to this.
LRP Book Reviews has no policy of disclosure to readers that the reviews are paid for.
The reviewers for LRP will NOT disclose that they’re paid for their review.

I’ve checked the website, there is no information about a policy on disclosure. It could be easy, just say that they’ve worked with LRP and paid for writing their reviews.

But then, I found out that GoodReads and Amazon don’t allow paid reviews on their sites.
From the LRP website:

the review will be posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

My conclusion: the reviewers via LRP will pose in normal customers/readers of the book (!), and don’t disclose they receive their money back for the book, and monetary compensation for writing their review.

Honesty and legality
I think the ethical issue here is the main problem. But, as far as I know, this is not only an ethical problem. Non-disclosure of monetary benefits contravenes FCC guidelines.

That’s why we see reviews on GoodReads, state if the book was received for free for an honest review. The reviewer discloses that information. The reason is common sense: readers have to be informed.

Speaking for myself, I do not believe LRP and their reviewing contractors disclose *THIS*: their affiliation with LRP, and monetary compensation received for writing the review. I would be happy to be proven wrong, but I don’t see how: they couldn’t “offer” packages for reviews on Amazon and GoodReads if their reviewing freelancers would disclose honestly their monetary benefits.

What do you think?

In the media…
I’ve recently seen this article on paid reviews:

http://spinsucks.com/communication/fake-reviews-fined-pr-firms-beware/

My personal suggestion for LRP is to make a clear policy on disclosure, and post the contracted reviews on their own site, not on GoodReads.

I believe that if you’re honest to your readers, they will make their own mind about this situation, and that’s fair. A disclosure would be for example, like “look, our reviewers have been paid for my time to write this review, no matter what they write in it”. Explain all you want, why you think it’s “good”. Convince people, if you can; but be open about it.

Let the community around you decide. In an informed way.

Note to GR/Amazon (on GoodReads site): this is in relation with the book
Frankly, I’ve been asking myself what I believe, knowing the background of LRP and Brae Wyckoff, about the GoodReads reviews for the fantasy books of the author himself. I enjoy fantasy, and I wanted to know others’ opinions. I’ve looked over the reviews, to figure out if they sound canned or not. The result is, I haven’t seen any that seems illegitimate.

I think LRP may have been created after most of these reviews have been posted, both on GoodReads and on Amazon, so they have no connection with the (newer) paid reviews business.

I have started to read the first book in the series of the author, but I’ve been put off by the use of the language. I was thinking to come back to it some other time.

Though, I don’t know if I will come back. I support self-publishing, independent publishing, small publishing houses at most, and I’d love to have time to read and in particular take time to review in depth self-pub works, to find the gems in the sea, the well written, well edited, worthy of a try.

Random, independent, community readers and reviewers, are the next gateway between authors and readers. Which is why I don’t know if I’ll come back to this book.

The unethical business of LRP attacks the very foundation of community reviews.

View all my reviews

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One thought on “Paid Reviews and Non-Disclosure

  1. I agree with you that if you pay for a review that somewhere within the midst of that review it should be specified. I know most people who are reviewing my book via NetGalley put that they received a “Free copy of the book for an honest and fair review.” Not leaving some sort of disclaimer is no good.

    The problem is is that many people who are small presses or self-publishing (like I am) have a hard time getting major literary sources to review our works so that is why we need to pay for reviews. If you are an author who doesn’t have any work out there, and who is self-published, this is really one of your only options to gain more exposure. I consider it part of a marketing budget honestly. And, like most websites say, you are paying for a “honest and fair review” not necessarily a good review. That’s important to know.

    What you described above though is definitely a breach of that trust by reviewers. Great post and something I don’t think gets talked about enough!

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