A newish idea for a book review site

I posted this over on Kindle Boards a few moments ago, though I’d like to get some feedback here as well.

Most people are bound to agree that indie writers and indie readers both need real book reviews. I don’t mean product reviews; I mean critical reviews that cover all the essentials. I know good critical reviews play a major part in my decision, and being able to go to a review site that caters to the kind of thing I read would be ideal.

The problem, however, is that the traditional business model—a magazine or online publication relying on ad revenue and subscriptions—doesn’t work in the new self-publishing world where authors aren’t backed by deep pockets to pay for ads, not to mention that people want online content for free.

Ultimately, indies have to rely on hardcore fans for reviews written on their own time and dime. The people who would and could to do it for a living are forced to remain amateurs, only doing a smattering of books. (I’m not knocking people who do reviews now. I’m just pointing out the reality of the situation for them: you can’t eat free books.)

The usual solution to this problem—paid reviews—is no solution at all. No reader trusts paid reviews and the majority of writers feel at least a little dirty paying for them. Some writers on KB even refuse to patronize Book Rooster on principle, in spite of the (admittedly very short) arm’s length relationship between reviewer and writer. (Again, I’m not knocking anyone, including Book Rooster; I’m just pointing out the situation.)

Now, it might seem as if a better solution is for the reviewer to sell e-books directly through his site on the same terms writers get everywhere else.  It’s a win-win for writers, of course, since they get a free review and another venue for their work.

But it doesn’t work for reviewers or readers. If the reviewer pans most of the books he receives (the likely scenario), he waste a lot of time, won’t make a dime and he’ll alienate writers to boot. If he praises every book he receives, he’ll be perceived as a shill and alienate his readers.

There is, however, a way out. A reviewer could operate by selecting only books he likes or that he feels are worth reviewing (out of all books submitted) and post them for sale with his review. Naturally, the model would have to be made perfectly transparent to readers at the outset. You’d have to declare repeatedly that it’s a “picks” site, not a pure review site—all the gate-keeping was done off-stage.

The value-added for readers should be obvious. If the reader shares the tastes of the reviewer or finds the reviews informative, he’ll buy on site and come back again. It’s still win-win for the writer as well: he’s is either accepted and well-reviewed or rejected before getting panned. On top of that, it’s all above board. There’s nothing unethical in the model itself.

Now, someone may already be doing exactly this. If so, I haven’t seen it. In any case, I’ve been mulling it over for awhile, so I’d be curious to know what writers (and readers) think of the model.

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