What would you say about a service that charges you $500.00 for a prepublication review and then gives you the option not to publish it, in case the review is negative?

Is this a scam? How come they have so much prestige, when they charge money for reviews? Would you pay good money for this service? Does anybody take their reviews seriously?

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From what I understand, Kirkus charges for a review of self-pubbed books, but they don't charge for traditionally pubbed books. I think it's a way of keeping self-pubbed authors from flooding them with books, and to also manage costs of these additional reviews. If someone knows differently, please share. :)

And, yeah, Kirkus is considered the most prestigious reviewers in the industry, so when I book gets a star from them, book buyers and librarians sit up and pay attention. A favorable review is definitely a marketing boon. They're also known for shredding books, too, but I have no idea how that affects the rest of the industry.


Tabitha, I'm not sure the distinction between traditionally published books and self-published books is as clear as you are making it out to be. I am the owner of an independent press. I publish other people's books as well as my own. We are very small, but we do have our own account with Bowker. I still understand that had I wished to obtain a review from Kirkus for John Wheatcroft's book at Inverted-A Press, they would have charged me.

So in that case, what makes it traditional publishing? That you be one of a select number of big establishment publishing houses?

I believe the house needs to be established, but I don't know what benchmarks they use to determine who is established and who isn't. I don't think they charge Sourcebooks, for example, and they're an indie publishing house. But I don't know about other indie houses.

In any case, I don't think it's a scam. I believe they have a policy of only reviewing books from established houses (however they measure 'established'), but there is a workaround if you're willing to pay for it. You're not guaranteed a favorable review, so the work has to stand on its own. If it does, it could get a coveted star (that's why I don't see this as a scam). Unless I'm missing something, it seems like fair setup. Otherwise, they'd be flooded with far more books than they can review.

As I said before, if someone knows differently, please share. :)


Tabitha, thanks. This certainly is food for thought.

It may well not be a scam, but it has the effect of keeping those who are already established more established. A policy that would be fair would be to charge everyone the same. I think even the big houses would not be able to afford $500.00 a book, because they do publish an awful lot of books, so the price would have to be closer to what it really costs them to review a book, and then more indie publishers would feel they can afford to get their books  reviewed, too. Most indie publishers publish fewer books than the big houses, and I believe that the big houses publish as many bad books as anyone else.

Kirkus says on their site they do 500 reviews a month (is that is published reviews then they do more since negative reviews are given the option to not publish).  I am sure they have the reviewers to do many more books. 

Who are these reviewers?  Where do they get them and do they get any of this $500?  I would think they would and that in itself makes a review from them biased.  As much as they may honestly try to be objective, once you are paid for a review you cannot be.  Of course, with this option on non-publication, I guess it wouldn't matter how they felt.

I have not investigated the new Kirkus because it hasn't been on the serious radar screen for a long time. The key question is do bookstores take them seriously? I don't know. Here's an idea: Look at their archive of subsidized reviews. Do they appear to be objective? 

That's a good, sensible suggestion! I'll take a look.

What is this "new" Kirkus and what happened to the original?  What is different about them that they started something new or changed.  I have no idea about any of this new Kirkus.  Can you explain what changed, please?

The company went out of business. Someone bought the name and made it into a vanity reviewer service.

Why would anyone take a reviewer seriously if they knew they were paid for the review?  How unbiased a review are you going to get from a paid reviewer?  You are no longer an author equal to all others, you have become a customer. 

Customers are to be kept happy.  I think that is why you get the option of not having a negative review published.  That is wrong.  But, if negative reviews from Kirkus are published, authors and  publishers could be wary of sending in books.  But, knowing a negative review won't hurt anyone--including Kirkus, they can keep on charging this excessive fee. 

Does anyone know the number of negative reviews that do not get published?  Is it 25% of the reviews they do?  Do  you get a refund if the review is negative?   No.  Kirkus still gets the money and no damage to them with the negative review kept away from readers. Negative reviews hurt Kirkus-especially if it is for their Big 6 customer.  So they give you an option not to publish.  Who is going to publish a negative review of their book, if given an option not to. 

I think if a review is asked for, a review should be given and published, regardless of the outcome.  Anything less makes the whole thing lopsided.

 Does the Big 6 get the same do not publish a negative review or do they get guaranteed a positive, just not a starred, review?  Does anyone really know how Kirkus deals with them?  Except that there is no charge?

Question.  Where did the information about Kirkus and the Big 6 not being charged found at. On Kirkus, I could only find reference to the indie situation.

"Negative reviews hurt Kirkus-especially if it is for their Big 6 customer.  So they give you an option not to publish."

Actually, Kirkus is known for giving harshly negative reviews to the Big 6 houses if the reviewer doesn't like the book, and they don't have the option to not have it published. Historically, if you send your traditionally published book to a review house, there is no guarantee they will review it. And, if they do, there is no guarantee it will be positive. And, you have no say in whether or not the review will be published. It's a gamble, and you hope your book will be up to snuff.

They seem to have a different policy for self-pubbed authors (as in, they charge for a review), but they're an established and respected source of reviews. They don't need self-pubbed authors to be happy with a review of their work, so the traditional 'customer' relationship doesn't apply. That said, since a negative review could actually do damage to a book, and since a self-pubbed author paid for this service, I think it's fair to give them the option of not publishing a negative review. As the industry currently stands, self-pubbed authors and traditionally pubbed authors are in different categories, and Kirkus treats them differently. Maybe once things settle and the role of self-pubbed authors is established in the industry, things will change. Until then, I don't see this as a bad way for Kirkus to handle things. But that's just my opinion. :)

"Question.  Where did the information about Kirkus and the Big 6 not being charged found at."

I heard this from a friend of a friend, hence the reason I asked anyone who knows more to step up and share. :)

All I said is my opinion.  If a reviewer puts up more negative than positive, would you submit your book to them? 

I do not know how Kirkus treats the Big 6 either.  It seems they keep all of that information offline.  Which is why I had asked someone who knew more about Kirkus to explain. 

What is with this "new" Kirkus some are talking about.  Who are they and why are they new?  Did they put all the indie and self-pub into this "new" Kirkus and leave the original for just the established houses? I had no idea there was a new Kirkus.  But even Kirkus is calling themselves new.

You have been the one defender of Kirkus, so I thought you knew.


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