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Palantean Writer

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Hi guys,

I'm thinking of opening a reviews service and have a few questions for you guys.

The basic idea is that you can pay to have your story (or art, or Youtube video, or music, or whatever else you can think of) reviewed. I can offer substantial reviews of at least 200 words, and will have a team working with me so you can have several reviews of the same piece of artwork if you so choose.

Can anyone help me out by telling me what you think?

- What do you think of such a service?
- What would you be prepared to pay for it?

So... any thoughts?

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I would not be on board with this. Firstly, ethics. Reviews of creative material are always going to be biased, that's just the nature of creative media, and we don't know you. We don't know the sort of material you like. We don't know the sort of material you produce, we don't know the sort of bias you will have. That, right there, is a problem. Secondly, ethics. How are we to know that a review, that we pay for, will be fair and honest? You're being paid to offer reviews, you have a vested interest in making those you review feel good and want to recommend your services. That's not a good thing. And when we already have access to free services in which reviews and critiques are exchanged, such as scribophile, where we are at least guaranteed to get multiple opinions, I wouldn't feel comfortable paying for a single, likely biased opinion. Thirdly, value. How much are you charging? because I'll say right now, 200 words is not very much. I often write comments of that length just on my friends stuff, for free, and suggesting a flat wordcount is already kind off iffy. Not all media is produced equally, writing a 200 word comment on a 1000 word fic isn't the same as writing a 200 word comment on a 100,000 word fic, or a one hour film, and you've mentioned nothing of your rates, which suggests that you really aren't as prepared for this as you could be.

My suggestion is to just, not. This is throwing up a lot of red flags, and without some real qualifications or references, I don't think anyone would feel comfortable paying you for this kind of service.

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While I am always happy to applaud initiative, review services have come under a great deal of scrutiny recently, thanks to the services that offer a set number of reviews for a flat fee, aimed at works published for sale. The problem is that the reviews are so generic as to be applicable to any book or novella or short story, and therefore are quite obviously being used solely to boost a story's review count and sell more books. In fact, the presence of one of these paid reviews is often a kiss of death in terms of sales, since readers are put off by them.

The reviews that sell books are reviews from verified purchasers, or from people who clearly disclose that they received an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Readers put more trust in those reviews, and therefore authors are better served by having fewer reviews of that nature as opposed to filling a review board with paid reviews.

So, the challenge for you and your team would be to create reviews that clearly show you've read the material. All of it, and not just the marketing blurbs we all struggle so hard to write. No one wants plot spoilers, but there has to be enough in the review to indicate familiarity. I'm not as bothered by the length of the review, since a pithy 200-word review that comes from someone who read the book is just as useful as a long review as a sales tool from the author's perspective, if the reviews are positive. If not, well, then it should be a clear wake-up call to the author to consider what readers find lacking, yes? :)

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This service you speak of will get your accounts banned on a lot of sites. Amazon actually has a very harsh policy not just for people who give the paid reviews but the people who receive them.

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This service you speak of will get your accounts banned on a lot of sites. Amazon actually has a very harsh policy not just for people who give the paid reviews but the people who receive them.

Exactly, those are the flat fee for review sites. They leave a generic review on the line of "Great book! Couldn't put it down!" which tells you nothing and is never from a verified purchaser or disclosed recipient of an advance review copy. I hadn't been aware the author accounts were getting banned as well, so thank you for that update. I've never wanted to pay for reviews myself, so I don't think I have to worry, and when I review on Amazon, it's as a verified purchaser.

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Hrm, I think everyone has covered nicely the red flags we're seeing, so I'll just toss out a suggestion. Your aiming your profit generation the wrong direction. Honestly, we all like reviews. Hell, I wouldn't mind bad reviews (I still thank you restraint, oh mighty AFF readers!), but no review is truly valid, in my mind, if there is some backroom deals being made and no review service is worth it if it fails to be entertaining these days. So review anyway. Do maybe 2-5 minute reviews on youtube, point out some stories you love or think have promise, and use ad revenue. Or you could work up a following in the hope to get a sponsor. Build up a service your providing that way, that can be tailored to provide a service and useful tool to like-minded readers, with bells and whistles they can appreciate and pay for if they like it enough.

Just my two cents. Worn, moldy two cents.

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Hrm, I think everyone has covered nicely the red flags we're seeing, so I'll just toss out a suggestion. Your aiming your profit generation the wrong direction. Honestly, we all like reviews. Hell, I wouldn't mind bad reviews (I still thank you restraint, oh mighty AFF readers!), but no review is truly valid, in my mind, if there is some backroom deals being made and no review service is worth it if it fails to be entertaining these days. So review anyway. Do maybe 2-5 minute reviews on youtube, point out some stories you love or think have promise, and use ad revenue. Or you could work up a following in the hope to get a sponsor. Build up a service your providing that way, that can be tailored to provide a service and useful tool to like-minded readers, with bells and whistles they can appreciate and pay for if they like it enough.

Just my two cents. Worn, moldy two cents.

Yes, this. If this is something you are keen on doing, this is the way to do it. Youtube is a great platform for independent content producers, review type shows do extremely well, game reviewers are a case in point. Otherwise you could consider a blog or a podcast type structure. It might be hard to get off the ground, but if you can get it going you'll have a much better product and a regular revenue stream from advertisments, and througfh things like merchandise sales, and sponsor programs like patreon. Check out what people are doing over on channel awesome, linkara in particular, or normal boots if you want to get an idea of how these shows are structured and presented, done properly they can not only be informative, but extremely entertaining in their own right.

Edited by LockedBox

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Ha - okay, that's all interesting stuff. Thanks, by the way, everyone here for responding with such useful, constructive stuff.

As it so happens, there's been a few incorrect assumptions here - I've no intention of making this an Amazon thing, it's actually just meant to be a way of guaranteeing that you get a review, rather than submitting your work to a free review service and hoping they decide you'll get one or two. It's about getting the feedback and learning what someone else thinks of it. The service is paid to put you in control of the fact that you actually get a review. Personally, I've worked hard to get reviews for my own works but not always got them, so I'm putting out feelers to find out if being able to just pay for a review would be a wanted service. I've had a lot of skepticism in return, but I think I can still make something useful.

I'm going to put together a team of people for this, hence there'll be a range of preferences for what each reviewer wants to read, so I can give match each story to a reviewer I think is likely to actually enjoy reading it.

If it turns out not to be wanted, then that's fine. But I'm going to make a go of this and see where it goes.

Thanks again for your constructive comments, everyone! Oh, and if anyone else has more to add, please do, because I'll check back over the next few days.

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