Sending Out Review Copies

The book industry is geared around the notion of free review copies. When a publisher releases a book, they deluge the review community with free copies of their book in order to get some "talk" going about their book. If you are a self publisher, then you absolutely need to give this some thought. Reviewers don't expect to pay for their own copy. They look at reviewing as a "job" and in essence they are investing hours of time to read and then write up their thoughts, all for free. If it ends up being a good review, then they are acting as a free press agent for you. So to ask them to pay money on top of all of this would not make sense to them.

However, it would also be highly unethical for you to PAY someone to review your book. So there's an important line to maintain there. The industry-wide expectation is that the book will be completely free. Whether they choose to read it in paper form, ebook form, Kindle form, or any other form, they should receive their end result without any money being paid. At the same time, they should not receive any ADDITIONAL form of compensation either via money, product, or other promotion.

The FTC has put in rules to ensure that this situation is fully transparent with reviews. A person who writes a review on the web is required to say if they received that item free of charge. In addition, they are required to say if they have any relationship with the person in question.

Yes, one might say "Well I will fairly review the product even though I got it for free". That's fine, and that's normal! Again, the industry standard for decades has been that reviewers get free copies. That is the normal. So stating that you got your book the normal way won't add or detract from your review's credibility. People know this is normal. The FTC wants to make that clear, though, so you are stating you were not PAID to write this review.

And in addition, one might say "Even though I know the author, I still adore the book and its content". Again that's quite fine. But for full transparency and disclosure reasons, it should always be stated. And you can add a note to that effect in your review - "even though I've known Lisa for years, I honestly adore the characters and situations that are presented." People respect honesty. They do not respect when the first five reviews on an atrocious book are all glowing five-star reviews from friends of the author. That tends to make subsequent reviewers grumpy. Or when the only five-star reviews on an exercise device are posted by club owners who are quite friendly with the device manufacturer. It makes the reviews ethically suspect.

As the author of the book, it is your task to get the book into the hands of as many reviewers as you can. You must make clear that they should write a FULLY HONEST review - that you are not expecting any sort of benefit from them getting the item for free. You need to be careful not to make it seem like they'll "get anything" out of doing this review for you. There should never be any sense of "you write a good review for me and I'll write one for you" - that would be highly unethical. There should never be a hint of "You write this good review for me and I'll give you promotion / special mention / extra product". Your reputation can be tarnished in a heartbeat in our modern world. One Twitter post, one Facebook feed, and your fan base can dry up permanently.

It's also a good idea to gently remind the reviewer of their FTC obligation to state that they got the book for free. If the reviewer is known to you, you might want to mention that they should bring that up as well. After all, this is YOUR reputation at stake. It is your name on the line if reviews start to seem iffy. People won't remember that "reviewer X was shady". They will remember that YOU the author was shady, and they will stop respecting anything you send out.

Treasure your reputation, protect it, and treat it like the shining jewel it is!

Good luck :).

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