So you’ve got a book that you know is going to be a bestseller and you’ve decided to try your hand at book reviewing. Congratulations! Now, how much can you expect to be paid for this, professionally speaking? Let’s take a look.
The Short Version
If your goal is to simply get paid to read books and give your honest opinion on them, you can expect to be paid anywhere from $2 to $6 per review, depending on the qualifications needed to be considered a ‘book reviewer’. You won’t get rich, but you will earn enough to help pay your rent and buy your groceries.
The longer version is that if you aspire to be a professional writer or have other full-time jobs, the number can increase considerably. If you’re looking to earn a living as a book reviewer, here’s a quick breakdown of the qualifications needed to be considered “successful”:
1. Experience Required
While it would be great to have tons of writing experience, the truth is that not all reviewers are created equal. If you want to be compensated for your opinion, you’re going to have to show the industry that you’re capable of being a reliable and objective reviewer who can provide both quality and quantity of content. To be considered for a book review gig, you’re going to need to have at least a few pieces of published work behind you. Ideally, you’ll be able to point to a few reviews that you’ve done for reputable publications such as:
- The New York Times
- The Wall Street Journal
- Self-improvement blogs
- Magazine articles
The key takeaway from this point is that if you’ve got talent and can consistently produce high-quality content, you can expect to be compensated handsomely for your efforts. Remember, this is also the case for traditional journalists, so don’t feel like you’ve got this all sewn up for you.
2. Be Genuine
One of the most valuable things that an editor can have is a reviewer who is willing to be completely frank and open about how they truly feel about the book being reviewed. In these cases, it’s a win-win for both the editor and the reviewer because they can feel comfortable expressing their opinion while also being compensated for their efforts. To start, be genuine about how you feel about the book.
For example, let’s say that you’re reviewing a book on urban homesteading and you’ve got a strong feeling that the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. However, you’ve also got a feeling that this could be a great book for someone else. Instead of sugar coating everything and saying that the book is “average”, you can be completely honest about your opinion and still get the exposure that you’re looking for. For instance, you could say:
“This is a great book for people who want to learn how to homestead, but it’s definitely not for me. I’m not interested in living in a cabin in the woods, no matter how romantic the picture the author paints. I don’t see myself as a pioneer, wandering the plains with my dog, looking for land to homestead. While it’s an excellent opportunity to spread the word about homesteading and share your expertise with people who are interested, I wouldn’t ask anyone to follow my lead on this one. If they’re looking for practical advice on how to live simply and cheaply in an urban environment, they’ll have better luck finding it elsewhere.”
The key takeaway from this point is that while it’s never fun to give your opinion on something that you feel is sub-par, you’ve got to remember that at the end of the day, this is still a business. Sometimes, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and make a negative review, but as long as you’re being honest and can back up your claims, there’s no reason to sugar coat things. Besides, sometimes it’s worth it to speak your mind and let people know what you really think. You never know, you might just save someone some trouble down the road.
3. Be Objective
Another important quality that an editor can have is an objective reviewer. Even though you might feel strongly about a book, it doesn’t mean that your opinion is going to be worth much in the grand scheme of things. After all, you’re still going to have to convince someone that you’re an expert in your field and that your opinion is worth listening to. To do this, it’s important that you can separate your opinion from the facts at hand. In these cases, it’s best to look at both sides of the argument and see how well the author supports their claims. For example, let’s say that you’re reviewing a book on wine-making and you notice that the author doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but they do have a very high opinion rating on GoodReads. In this case, you could say:
“While I’ve never been a big fan of wine, I feel that this is a classic example of a situation where the author’s opinion is definitely not based on fact. The ratings on GoodReads alone don’t prove that their opinions are objective or that they are qualified to give advice on wine. With all the biases that people have when it comes to discussing their personal experiences with wine, it’s clear that not all that glitters is gold. This book doesn’t deserve a 10 out of 10 rating simply because the author had the good fortune of finding a good winemaker who was willing to answer their questions. If they’re going to publish a book on wine, they should either do their research extensively or they should get a really good drinker to review it for them.”
The key takeaway from this point is that while it’s always nice to have an opinion, you’ve got to keep in mind that not all opinions are created equal. If you’ve got a good grasp of the facts and you can provide both sides of the argument, you’re going to be able to write some incredible reviews that will stand out among the rest.
4. Be Creative
Above all else, book reviewers must be creative. This is an area where professionals can really shine because they’re not only allowed to be creative but they’re expected to be. To begin with, always ask yourself questions to get the best review possible. You’re not just reviewing a book, you’re also building a brand for yourself. One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to come up with some great questions that will engage the reader and make them want to come back for more. For example, if you’re reviewing a book on wine and you feel that it’s a bit of a chore to read because it’s so technical, you could ask the author some questions about how he or she feels about wine and how they go about making it. This could lead to some great interview material that you can use to spice up your review a bit and make it more interesting to read. Some examples of creative questions that you could ask:
- “What would your ideal customer be like?”
- “What do you feel is the biggest obstacle facing women in business today?”
- “What would your advice be to a woman who wants to make it on her own?”
The key takeaway from this point is that when you’re brainstorming questions, make sure that they’re creative and fit for book reviewers. At the end of the day, this is still a business and you’ve got to treat it like one.
5. Build A Portfolio
Now that you have a few pieces of published work under your belt, it’s time to start building a portfolio. Just because you have some experience behind you doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself to book reviewing. You might feel like you have something to offer in other genres as well, so don’t be afraid to try out new things. Some examples of other areas that you could cover are:
- Mildly interesting articles about topics such as wine, fashion, or science
- Mental health pieces for the New York Times
- Literary criticism for the Wall Street Journal
- Short-story collections for the Anthology Club
- Criticism for a popular blog
If any of these seem like a good fit, don’t be afraid to pitch yourself as a book reviewer and see where things go from there.