Using Paid Editorial Reviews to Build Credibility as a Christian Author
In this post, you will learn the benefits of paid editorial reviews. You’ll find a listing of the most respected names in the industry plus their costs as of 2022.
We all want to uplift and bless our readers. We want to give glory to God. Our motives are typically excellent, and we work hard to produce fine products.
But . . .
Prospective buyers don’t typically know who we are, and they don’t know whether our books will be worth their time and money.
“Will this be any good? Does this person know what they are talking about?” asks the person looking at our cover on Amazon or while standing in a Christian bookstore.
Making the sale often comes down to credibility. “Who says this book will be good?”
Getting Editorial Reviews of Your Book
Like movie critics, editorial reviews (also called trade reviews or professional reviews) provide an important service to book retailers and readers. If they say your book is good, people will listen. Professional editorial reviews have major influence and credibility.
Organizations like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, New York Times, and USA Today are the most recognized but there are other reviewers that librarians and discerning readers recognize as well. If you can get favorable reviews from any of these top-tier organizations, you have a story to tell that people will listen to.
But . . .
The sad reality is that most books will never have a chance to be reviewed by any of the top-tier organizations. The volume of newly published books today is staggering. “By 2019, the total number of books published in the U.S. exceeded 4 million in that year alone” (Berrett-Koehler Publishing, 2020).
Today, most authors will have to pay if they want a guaranteed editorial review from big-name organizations like Kirkus Reviews, with prices ranging from $50 to $500+ for fast turnarounds.
You may have heard that paying for a review is unethical. Certainly, paying for someone to write a guaranteed positive review is unethical, but the notion that paying for an honest review from a qualified organization is unethical is outdated and false. It has become an accepted practice in a world full of self-published authors and ever-increasing new publications.
My Experience with Editorial Reviews
When I learned that I could secure reviews from highly respected organizations, I instantly chose to do so and never regretted it. I got major marketing mileage using excerpts like the ones below, which I displayed on my book covers, website, Amazon pages, advertisements, Facebook, etc.
Consider the impact of such quotes on a potential buyer as she looks at a book cover online or while standing in a bookstore. (Click links if you wish to view the full review.) Here are the reviews I got for my book, Healing the Stormy Marriage.
“Highly readable . . . superb . . . theologically sound and succinct. . . personable and energetic.” — BlueInk Reviews, starred review
“Eloquent and inviting. . . makes all the elements of [the Jesus] narrative feel fresh. . . bracingly enthusiastic.” — Kirkus Reviews
“For Christians dealing with the challenges of mental illness in their spouse, this is a must-read.” — BlueInk Reviews, starred review
“Empathetic . . . relatable . . . practical . . . a warm, inviting faith-based self-help guide for married couples seeking to understand and overcome their respective challenges and remain together.” — BookLife Review
“Highly recommended . . . neatly wound into Christian beliefs in a way that psychological perspectives alone can’t fully address.” — Midwest Book Review
“A moving work . . . practical and kind. . . A warm and comprehensive guide for mentally ill spouses and their loved ones.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Author R. Christian Bohlen and his wife Helen M. Bohlen address some of the most difficult problems a marriage can face with a resounding, positive note. Healing the Stormy Marriage is exemplary for being a cooperative effort, which is unique in the field of marriage self-help, especially for religious readers. This shared guide could serve as therapy for those seeking answers and who are perhaps reluctant to take further steps toward marriage reconciliation, and as a rich focus for marriage workshops within a Christian setting.” — Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★★
Occasionally, I received a review that did not have any compelling excerpts to pull from. For example, we received a four-star review from Foreword Clarion Reviews (out of a possible five stars), which is actually considered a very good review from them. But there were no stand-out quotes and it was clear that the reviewer didn’t agree with one of the core assertions of the book. That happens. It was still interesting to read another reviewer’s perspective. The review wasn’t negative, but it was lukewarm and not worded very usefully for marketing purposes, in our opinion. (You can read that review here, if desired.)
Honing Your Craft as a Writer
Apart from the marketing benefits, receiving a critique from a respected organization is a tremendous professional development opportunity and potential confidence booster. Personally, I was a bundle of nerves as I waited for the weeks that passed, looking for that magical email with my review attached.
In the past eight years, my editors lit a fire under me and humbled me many times. That was essential for me and the book as it kept getting better. But still, was my writing any good in the eyes of professional critics? Did this book have what it took to be accepted and loved? Could I look people in the eye and call my book a “high-quality resource” for learning about Christ?
The day came when I received my Kirkus Review on my first book, which was the first review I went after. I literally trembled and speed-read the whole thing. I’ve read it at least fifty times since then. The reviewer said some really positive things and the more I’ve read it, the more grateful I became. It’s humbling and faith-promoting to see what God made of me, because I was the most pathetic writer you can possibly imagine when I started this journey. (I have the early drafts to prove it. . . cringe-worthy!)
Sometimes reviews will not be as positive and there’s learning to gain there. I’ve never forgotten what I’ve learned from constructive critiques. They revealed my latent weaknesses and opened my eyes to opportunities for growth.
But behold and lo! The boost to a writer’s confidence upon receiving a positive review is a glorious reward! Then imagine receiving a “starred review” or “five-star” review, depending on how the organization manages their ratings.
If God blessed you with the means to do it, I recommend spending at least $500 to purchase one such review. It is worth it for your development, confidence, and marketing.
2022 Prices for Paid Editorial Reviews
The following table describes the most popular, respected editorial review organizations that will review your book for a fee, listed in alphabetical order. I’ve included my thoughts based on all I read and experienced in the last three years.
|Name of Organization||My Brief Description||Cost Range as of 2022|
|BlueInk Reviews||High-quality reputation, particularly with librarians. If you receive a positive review or especially a starred review, you can expect many libraries to purchase your book.Highly professional and easy to work with. They award a starred review to outstanding books with an offer to purchase a gold seal emblem that you can feature on your book covers, website, Amazon pages, etc.||$395 (regular)$495 (fast-tracked)$695 for a two-pack review including a Foreword Clarion Review|
|Booklife Reviews(by Publishers Weekly)||Booklife is the paid, indie review service offered by Publishers Weekly (PW), the premier name in publishing. When purchasing a Booklife Review, you can select the option to be considered for a PW review at no cost. But PW is highly competitive and unlikely to select your book. But it does happen.Booklife reviews are published in PW magazine, which is an outstanding benefit, as well as in Booklist magazine. Reviews include A-F grades for cover, editing, illustrations, etc. and a “lightning bolt” in the magazines for an outstanding book.||$399 (regular)$499 (fast-tracked)|
Note: Booklife website states “A BookLife Review is not a book review from Publishers Weekly.”
|Foreword Clarion Reviews||Foreword Reviews magazine is a respected magazine focused on indie books. From their website, “To be considered for a [no-cost] review in the pages of Foreword Reviews magazine, a review copy (printed or digital) of the title in question must be received in the Foreword offices a minimum of four (4) months ahead of publication.” This far-in-advance requirement has prevented me from submitting my books for the no-cost option, so I opted for the paid service, known as Foreword Clarion Reviews, which also provides a rating from one-five stars. The IBPA (Independent Book Publishing Association, which is a great organization to explore) appears to have a close relationship with Foreword.||$0 to be considered for a Foreword Review$499 for a guaranteed Foreword Clarion Review|
|Kirkus Indie Reviews||Considered by many to be as prestigious as Publishers Weekly (like Coke vs. Pepsi), Kirkus Reviews has a reputation for being persnickety, even harsh. But this works to your favor if you receive a glowing review. I always signed up for a Kirkus Review first because of their reputation and my intense desire to know what a “persnickety” reviewer thinks of my latest best effort. It is enormously rewarding when they greet your new book with accolades. Beyond words, actually. A starred review from Kirkus is highly desirable but about as common as the Snowy Owl.|
|Midwest Book Reviews||Certainly not as well known, Midwest is the most affordable and pleasant to work with. They are mentioned in Sarah Bolme Marketing Christian Books, which is how I learned about them. I had a very positive experience. The reviews are posted on a very old-fashioned looking website with no direct link to your review, which is a bit odd. But to obtain a favorable nugget to quote, hopefully, this can be great place to start at a low price.||$50 will guarantee you a review. You can submit at no cost, and they may review your book anyway.|
|Self-Publishing Reviews (SPR)||Last but certainly not least, SPR has a fine offering and high-quality reviews that may be a bit more favorable than some of the other organizations. They offer a great-looking starred seal that you can affix to your cover or website, which is wonderful if you earn a five-star review. SPR has a host of other appealing marketing services that can give your book a jump start.||$89 (Editorial)$159 (Jump Start)$239 (Classic Review, which is what I purchased)$329 (Lead Story)|
The above organizations include the most recognizable names. Securing a favorable review from Kirkus, Booklife, or BlueInk will go a long way to build credibility with libraries and retail bookstores.
Check out this outstanding article by a 25-year veteran book reviewer about how to get the most mileage from your trade reviews. Some points have been mentioned in here already but it’s worth at least a brief scan: 5 Simple Ways to Optimize Book Reviews (https://www.blueinkreview.com/5-simple-ways-to-optimize-book-reviews/).
There are lesser-known review organizations available as well. Marketing Christian Books, a guidebook written by CIPA founder Sarah Bolme, contains many of these free and lesser-known organizations that I have not used yet. But I intend to revisit that chapter! If you have not yet obtained a copy of Marketing Christian Books, save yourself years of wondering how to get traction in the market. Buy this invaluable resource.
Why We Write
We write Christian books to enrich lives and promote faith. More than anything, each of us felt called to stand up and be a courageous witness for Christ.
How desperately I wanted others to discover my books and take them seriously. Getting qualified reviewers like the ones mentioned in this article is a sure-fire way to get prospective readers and booksellers to take a chance on your work.
May you feel lifted and encouraged as you explore these resources. And may God’s blessing rest on your projects and readers.
SEE ALSO on the CIPA BLOG
R. Christian Bohlen is a professional communicator. He is the #1 Amazon best-selling author of Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine: The Story of Jesus and How It Applies to Us in the Twitter Era and an award-winning consultant to Fortune 500 companies, providing instructional design and human performance improvement services. He has been involved in ministry and church leadership for more than 30 years and worked for over a decade with juvenile offenders. Visit him at http://hislifeandmine.com. Learn more about R Christian’s and his wife Helen’s jointly authored book at http://StormyMarriage.info.