So, while I don’t review on here, I review for the website noflyingnotights.com. I take my reviews very seriously, reading the graphic novels more than once and spending a lot of time thinking thoughtfully and critically about the material. I don’t get paid per review- in fact, I don’t get paid at all. I do receive a free copy of the work, but for some ARCs that means a printed out copy or blurry digital file (sent from the publisher- I don’t do illegal downloads).
So, when I read about people that are paying tons of money to buy positive reviews, that really burns my biscuits. A recent New York Times article revealed the intimate details of selling reviews, especially for self-published work. While it may have had a temporary boost in sales (OK, so the sales are still better), I would hope that it would eventually lead to further discrediting of the works themselves. The thing is, it looks like this is primarily done by self-published works. Not that I’m not for self-publishing in some mediums. I will hit the “publish” button on this blog and feel smug about screaming my opinions on the interwebs.
However, I respect the publishing industry… well… I respect the increase in quality a work receives when it is vetted and edited by multiple sources. John Green, one of my favorite authors ever, has spoken multiple times about the impact editing has had on his work. Apparently, John’s books would be significantly worse, less epic, more boring, and less poetic and symbolic without the tireless work of the editors in his life (Just like that sentence with only me to edit myself).
Anyway, the point is that self-published works don’t have that editing filter which takes 75 pages of hide tanning text and turns it into hog hunting in Gutshot, TN. This means that they are incredibly likely to be worse than a novel from a regular publishing house. It’s just probability. That’s not to say that all works are understood in their time or that the wrong editor won’t crucify your beautiful work on the alter of trendiness. Most likely, though, it’s not brilliant yet and purchasing reviews may eventually bring people back around to saying that self-published works tend to suck. Definitely, purchased reviews tend to be more favorable of the work than from an unbiased source like myself.
However, in the meantime, it feels like my reviews mean less. No one is paying me for them. I work very hard to engage in a thoughtful discussion of the material, yet some guy getting paid thousands of dollars has just as much say. Granted, we’re not reviewing the same things, but still. Yet, I suppose that this is the classic librarian reason for needing information literacy and a large web presence from your own library. You have to know where the quality stuff is which you can do by looking at who is sponsoring the website, the professional credentials of the site, and a myriad of other details that any good librarian can tell you. But in a world where information literacy is low, it still makes me nervous.