Welcome To The Seedy Underbelly Of Publishing: Paid Chick-Lit Reviews Site Silences Author

For decades, publishing consisted of two distinct landmasses separated by a deep, impassible chasm. On one side you had kids from Yale who became Associate Editors at the big six – the big houses – and then brought in their friends to write alternately blissful and horrible prose. Then, on the other side, you had everyone else. With the rise of the e-book market, however, a land bridge is growing between the two, built on copies of self-published techno-thrillers and religious self-help titles – and some great books are making it across.

But where there’s a bridge there’s always a troll and sites like ChickLitGirls – the self-styled Kirkus of the Bridget Jones set – is epitomizing the villainy.

Writer Michele Gorman submitted her “chick-lit” book to the site in good faith, assuming a site that advertised “Chick Lit Reviews” would supply said reviews without monetary persuasion. She received an email back:

Currently, we have so many requests for book reviews and promotion help, that we do have about a 3-4 week wait list. Because we have such a large amount of book review requests, we have had to start charging for them . So now we are now charging a fee of $95.00 per review and subsequent postings. That includes a nice review with the short synopsis that comes with your book, a picture of the book with a link to purchase it from Amazon.

What ChickLitGirls is actually selling is an advertisement, but they refuse to call it that. When Gorman balked, they replied that even Kirkus Reviews offers “indie” reviews for $425 which I suspect (and correct me if I’m wrong) is a way to make money off of the crackpots who submit books with titles like “Tuesdays With Jesus” and “How Gold Can Help You Be A Rich Person”.

Gorman was obviously turned off by the concept of an nonobjective review and tweeted about the interaction. Like all good web stories, it didn’t end there. A representative from the organization wrote:

Have you ever heard of kirkus, they charge $425.00 -$575.00 per review. There are a lot of companies that charge for reviews. Educate yourself before harrassing [sic] us next time. We have the ability to track IP addresses, so I would think twice before you begin to defame our name…That is illegal, and we will take action. Our attorney has been notified!And before you go accusing us of anything, open your eyes, our disclosure link is right there on our home page.

Backtraced, indeed. Gorman followed up but tried to stay out of trouble with ChickLitGirls. She redacted some of her statements but it still doesn’t change the fact that ChickLitGirls does not state, outright, how much they ask for reviews. Their page, instead, says:

This blog is a collaborative blog written by a group of individuals. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.

If it were truly being forthright, it would say “Give us $95 and we’ll write a review.” It’s sites like this that are the Plecostomus of the indie book pond. Publishing has always been about discovery, but if curated content placement is based on payment, there is very little trust that the curation is very good.

The inimitable Popehat has more on the story and DearAuthor digs deeper into the case but it will be interesting to see how this Internet lit-storm pans out.