We’ve spoken before about reviewers charging for book reviews - as well as guaranteeing positive reviews - and the many reasons why we consider this to be both unacceptable and damaging to online reviewing.
And I don’t think we can discount just how very important reviewing has become, especially as ebooks become more and more dominant in the market. Increasingly, we’re no longer going into a book shop and buying books, speaking to book clerks about what would be the best choice (assuming we ever did) or being able to physically pick up the book and skim through it to see if it suits us.
There are many things that have tried to replace this - but a synopsis, blurb and even an excerpt are often carefully chosen to show the book in the best possible light - quite possibly a rather inflated light. With the huge and wonderful proliferation of authors out there - with mainstream presses, indie presses, small presses and self-pubs, I don’t think we’ve ever seen this many choices when picking a book to read. So how do we make that choice?
Well, other than the word of mouth of people we trust, a lot of that choice is based on reviewers (which is, in effect, more of the word of mouth from people we trust). I cannot count how many books I’ve started reading now - especially new authors or ebooks - based on an online review from a person I trust. But trust is the key here - and reviewers selling positive reviews undermine that trust not just for themselves, but for all reviewers.
From our point of view, being a Social Justice blog as much as a review blog, we also believe it is vital to review the genre we love to ensure the problematic portrayals and erasures are called out - and the gems we see where they author gets it right are duly praised. Again, we feel this requires trust and it requires honesty - we already have a culture that habitually excuses even the most extreme forms of prejudice and the most awful portrayals - to be dishonest about the problematic or prejudiced portrayals in a book is to contribute to that dismissal.