Can a fee-based review be trusted to be objective? The subject has spurred much controversy of late, but we are adamant in our answer to the question:
Fee-based book reviews can be trusted if the company delivering the review operates with utmost integrity — just as with any other kind of review.
Let's face it, all review ventures must find funding somewhere. Traditionally, print publications have been financed in large part by advertisements from the publishing industry, and there has always been an inherent tension between the needs of those advertisers and the goals of critical objectivity. The key to ensuring objectivity has been in maintaining a firewall between critics and advertisers.
We work under the exact same premise. As with print publications, we manage the inherent tension between the person funding the review and the critic by strictly maintaining that firewall between the two parties. Our critics have no contact with authors submitting books for review. And authors have no knowledge of which reviewers have been assigned to critique their books.
While we charge a fee for each review, the reviews are in no way influenced by that fee. (For example, authors cannot pay more to get a Starred Review or BlueInk Best Book Award — or even a few glowing adjectives thrown into their review for good measure.) Authors pay up front; no refunds are given unless the review contains substantive factual errors.
In producing our reviews, we follow strictly the same standards used by any reputable review publication.
Our critics — who come from the traditional publishing world and are well aware of traditional review ethics — follow written guidelines instructing them to craft objective, honest reviews and to note both the positive and negative points of any book. They are asked to judge each book on the merit of its content (not on the quality of its production) and to judge that content against the publishing world at large, not simply the self-publishing world.
They are also instructed to notify us immediately if they have any conflict of interest with a particular book so that we can replace them with a different reviewer.
Experienced editors oversee all reviews, with an eye toward insuring fairness and honesty.
Yes, we are following a non-traditional funding model. In the digital world, it has become a necessity to find new ways of supporting editorial ventures. But at BlueInk, we work hard to insure that our reviews adhere to time-honored ethical standards and are worthy of our web audience's trust and respect at all times.