BookCrash is a books-for-bloggers review program. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) began the program in June 2011 with the intent of helping our member publishers receive wider exposure and more reviews for their books.
The program operates on the premise that bloggers agree to give a fair review of a book on their blog and on one retail site (Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, etc.) in exchange for a free copy of a book. BookCrash allows bloggers to request books that they are interested in. The program does not require that a given blogger read any specific book; rather, bloggers are free to choose books that interest them. The idea behind this is that bloggers are more likely to enjoy and write positive reviews for books they want to read and are interested in.
As with all such programs, there are pros and cons to the system.
Some of the cons include:
- CSPA cannot force bloggers to review a book they have requested, since the agreement is based on goodwill. The only leverage BookCrash has is that the bloggers cannot receive another book until they have reviewed a requested book. Over time, we have had some bloggers who have received a book that never wrote a review.
- Since bloggers are allowed to pick a book they are interested in, not all books in the BookCrash program receive the same interest. Some books are highly requested, while others receive only a handful of requests.
- BookCrash does not require that bloggers give a positive review, just a fair review. BookCrash bloggers tend either to love or hate a book. Therefore, opinionated negative reviews are sometimes given.
Overall, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Some of the pros include:
- Increased exposure for a book. Each blogger has a regular reading audience. These range from 10 readers to over 20,000, with an average of 1,250 readers. When a blogger writes about a book, the readers of the blog are exposed to the book.
- Positive reviews can bring sales. Blog readers tend to trust the opinions of the bloggers they follow. Therefore, a positive review can result in the blog’s audience purchasing and reading the book.
- Increased reviews on retail sites. Having customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites is important for shoppers (see my previous blog post “Are Reviews Really Important?”). Reviews on retail sites increase consumers’ confidence in the product, resulting in more sales.
- The cost to list a book as available for review on BookCrash is affordable. CSPA does not charge a large fee because we want our services to be accessible to all small publishers, but also because the BookCrash program does not guarantee that bloggers will want to read any given book or give it a positive review.
The important thing to remember is that a review is an opinion. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien said of his trilogy Lord of the Rings, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
Opinions vary from person to person. BookCrash has had bloggers who have loved the illustrations in a children’s book and others who have thought those same illustrations were amateurish and uninspiring. When it comes to Christian books and theology, there are many different views. Hence, any book with an opinion on Christianity or a Biblical passage is going to be met with people who agree and those who disagree.
The bottom line is that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) will continue to offer our BookCrash program as long as we feel that the benefits of the service outweigh the negatives. Any author or publisher who places a book on BookCrash does run the risk of receiving negative reviews.
If you are only looking for neat, tidy reviews, then BookCrash is not the program for you. You would be better off paying $300 or more for a professional review by a review service such as Kirkus or ForeWord’s Clarion Review. Of course, you only receive one review for your money, the review is not a consumer review, and you do not receive the same exposure as a blog review.
The choice is yours.