Should I Pay For A Kirkus Review?

by Hash Milhan. Entitled: Books to be returned…

That is the million dollar question isn’t it?

Having read and researched a multitude of sites and forums and speaking with authors, I have come to the conclusion that it depends entirely on your objective and understanding the service which Kirkus provides. There are a resounding number of disappointed and even angry authors out there who have felt extremely short changed by Kirkus.

I whole heartedly believe if you decide to enter into this venture, you have to understand a few fundamental facts. This will alleviate some of the negative experiences.

Let’s first understand how the Kirkus Indie program really works and why, despite so many unhappy customers, it continues to be a prevalent force within the industry.

  • The Kirkus Indie program is a paid review service dedicated to self-publishing authors. A standard service with a 7-9 week turnaround will set you back $425.00 whilst an express service costing $525.00 will get you your review within 4-6 weeks.
  • They review approximately 3,000 self-published books every year
  • A typical review is about 250-350 words with majority of the review being a summary of the book. The actual opinion about the book is usually only one sentence of about 15-20 words and Kirkus has known to be overly harsh.
  • The magazine is published twice a month and is distributed to over 5,000 industry partners including agents, publishers, buyers, librarians, film executives and foreign publishers. In the publication, the editors will select two Indie reviews to feature. These selections are based entirely at their discretion and have normally been nominated based on receiving the strongest reviews within their genre.
  • It is every self-published authors dream to gain a Kirkus Star, which is awarded to books of exceptional merit. A Kirkus Star is one of the most revered designations in the industry. An average of only 2% of the 3,000 books will actually gain this prestigious recognition.
  • Should you receive a negative review, you have the option of not having it published.

It is important to understand what the program does NOT do.

  • A positive Kirkus review will not give you immediate boost in sales. It is not a promotional website designed specifically to sell your books. Many have been disappointed that it had not and claim to have wasted a substantial amount of money.
  • The review itself will not produce a lengthy opinionated appraisal. It is very short and to the point. Don’t expect anything else and you won’t be dissatisfied.
  • The target audience of your review in the first instance is the publishing industry, not your readers. Understand the bigger picture and how eventually that will benefit you from a customer’s point of view.

My research has shown me a few repeated personal opinions of why authors shouldn’t engage in a paid Kirkus review. I felt it important to share these sentiments to aid in the decision making process.

  • The reviews are completely subjective. I know I am stating the obvious however, the minute one is paying for a review it would seem that is no longer an acceptable notion. There is a sudden expectation of objectivity.
  • Paying for a review is considered to be publishing faux pax. It has been argued that once you pay for a review, there is a biased expectation that the review would be positive, to please the client.
  • It is expensive. No doubt! Only you can decide for yourself if your marketing budget will allow for such an expense.
  • The review is more a summary than an opinion. This is consistent throughout their website, for every book they have reviewed. You have to decide for yourself if that one sentence could change your status as an author and bring you much needed exposure
  • Kirkus reviews hundreds of books on a monthly basis and therefore your book is easily lost in a mass of others

Just as there are a plethora of arguments against Kirkus, there are just as many who defend the service and what it can potentially do for self-published authors.

  • What you are actually purchasing when you pay for a Kirkus review is credibility. What you do with that credibility from a marketing perspective is only limited to your self-promotion capabilities.
  • The most beneficial thing about getting a paid review is that you actually receive a review in the stipulated timeline. There are many review sites who no longer accept books simply because they don’t have the time to read the thousands being sent in.
  • You are also getting exposure and professionalism. The reviewers are literary professionals and Kirkus is a well-known reviewing body. I believe it is important to gain a portfolio of reviews from many different sources to please the many different levels of consumers and readers.
  • Self-gratification. It’s about validation that your book is a winner!
  • It is possible for a self-published author to get tremendous exposure from a Kirkus review. With one million page views monthly, you never know what could come from it if you never try.
  • A positive review enables you to extract that blurb for every marketing opportunity. It should be used in editorials, blogs, media kits, book forewords, email signatures etc. It is reputable enough for consumers to recognize the significance of a positive Kirkus review.

It is imperative to keep in mind that you are paying a business to review your book. These literary professionals have to be remunerated somehow! You are not forking out a large sum of money for a random reviewer with no credible profile.

The ultimate outcome of utilising this service is to get a Kirkus Star and the book becomes well recognised in the publishing industry and it turns into a profitable contract. The likelihood of that happening is not impossible but it certainly is difficult. Unless you give it a go, how will you know if your book is up to par? How will you know if you are worthy of the coveted Star? How will you know your work won’t get noticed?

Kirkus is but one of many book review sites. There are many different avenues you can pursue, paid or unpaid, to get a book review. It’s just a matter of whether you believe Kirkus would give you greater credibility in your review repertoire.

Good luck in your decision making process!

2 thoughts on “Should I Pay For A Kirkus Review?

  1. I paid for a Kirkus Review and the reviewer made errors which I pointed out to Kirkus,,,so they checked back my manuscript and realised that I was right, their Reviewer mentioned in the review several things that were not in the manuscript….I dont respect their review. I told them that they should refund me, as they did not review the book based on the agreement, they refused…they are very high handed yet they gave me a review with inaccuracies…i have emails to substantiate it.

    Liked by 1 person

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