Avid readers may perk up when they hear that there’s money to be made in their favorite pastime. Not only can you get free copies of books, you can make money writing short reviews. It’s not a path to riches, but if you enjoy reading this could be a great opportunity.
Write Real Reviews
While looking for work as a paid book reviewer, you may come across several types of opportunities. Some sites connect you with publishers or authors that offer you a free copy of a book in exchange for a review. Other times, a company will assign you a book and pay you for a review regardless of the review’s content. With major publications, you may need to pitch your review and share samples of your work before the editor hires you.
However, there are also some services that guarantee authors good reviews and only pay for positive reviews. If you’re looking for a long-term opportunity, it may make sense to these arrangements. Your reputation as a reviewer could be tarnished. The Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guides may cover your book review as well. If you’re paid or given a free copy of the book as compensation, you should disclose this within your review.
Get Sent Books for Free
If you’re looking for free books in exchange for reviews, consider joining Book Look. To become a reviewer, you’ll need to have a personal blog where you post at least once a week as well as at least 30 followers on a social media network. After reading the book, you’ll post the review (which only has to be about 200 words) on your blog and a retailer’s site, such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
But, once your blog is up and running, you can reach out to self-published authors or publishing houses directly and ask if they’ll send you a copy of a book in exchange for a review. Author Media has a long list of publishers that may agree to the arrangement. ProBlogger has an example of how to find a publisher and request a review copy. This way, you’re able to request the types of books you most enjoy.
Earn Some Extra Cash
In addition to getting a free book, you can also make money by writing reviews. Consider starting with the followings sites:
OnlineBookClub.org – Online Book Club is forthright in that you likely won’t get rich writing book reviews, but you can make some good side-income getting paid $5 to $60 for each review. You’ll also get the book for free. If you don’t finish the book, perhaps because you didn’t like it, you won’t get paid for a review, but you can still keep the free copy of the book.
The pay depends on your experience reviewing books on the site, your involvement on the site’s forum, and the particular opportunity. To start, you’ll need to review a few books for free and post in the forums to increase your “level.” Then, you’ll get access to the paid opportunities. Reviews must be at least five paragraphs and 400 words.
Any Subject – Any Subject will send you a summary of a book in a genre you’re familiar with and if you can decide if you want to read and review it. Pay depends on the length of the book. At this time (April 2016) they’re not accepting new book reviews, but you may want to check back in a few months.
Craigslist – You may also be able to find the occasional book review gig on Craigslist. There may be one-off opportunities, or job postings for reoccurring review work.
Take the Next Step
You may want to turn your passion for reading and reviewing into a legitimate side-gig and become a professional critic. There are major publications, both newspapers and journals, that regularly publish book reviews. The reviews may be used by libraries, booksellers, or literary agents to find new talent and determine which books to buy.
You might want to use some of the online opportunities or start with lesser-known publications. Once you have a few examples of your work – clips – you can use these to apply for freelance positions or to get your foot in the door when you submit a pitch.
Local Newspapers – You can also look for opportunities to submit book reviews to local newspapers. For example, D.C.’s Washington City Paper accepts 500 to 2,000-word reviews of books, movies, theater, and art shows. Pay ranges from $15 for a short blog post to $2,000 for a cover feature.
Niche Journals – You may also be able to find niche opportunities that suit your experience or interests. For example, Dovetail Institute is a journal for Jewish-Christian families that publishes four themed issues a year. They pay $15, plus a free one-year subscription, for 500-word book reviews. The book should match the journal’s and issue’s theme.
Move Up to Some of The Big Players:
Kirkus Reviews is currently looking for freelance book reviewers. You’ll need to submit a resume, writing samples, and list of specialties to apply. Each review must be about 350 words and they ask for a two-week turnaround on assignments.
Booklist Online – Booklist is part of the American Library Association, and many of the book review writers are, or were, librarians. Reviews are also written by writers, English professors, and journalists. To apply, you can contact the editor of the appropriate section directly with samples of your work.
Library Journal – The LJ doesn’t accept unsolicited reviews, but you can apply to become a reviewer by filling out a questionnaire and emailing it, along with the signed contract, resume, and two sample reviews in LJ style, to Annalisa Pesek at firstname.lastname@example.org. Libraries use the reviews, often 175 to 200 words each, to determine which books to buy.
Washington Post – You can contact the editor at Book World by phone, 202-334-7882, or email email@example.com
Los Angeles Review of Books – According to a recent report, the LA Review of Books paid a critic $100 for a 2,000 to 4,000 review. To contact the book review editor and pitch your idea, email firstname.lastname@example.org with queries. There is also a Book Review Query Procedures page, that highlights the types of books that LA Review features.
Where you start may depend on your goals. If you’re looking to make a little extra money, the online book review sites may be a good option. The pay can be minimal, but you may not need the level of expertise or experience that more well-known publications require. If you’re just in it for the free books, starting your own site may be the best avenue because after you’ve got some traction, you can request the types of books you enjoy.
Taking the leap to the big league and getting published in major newspapers or journals can take dedication to creating a portfolio and building relationships with editors. You can save the above list of publications that accept pitches from freelancers and use Rebecca Skloot’s guide to help you navigate the process.