As an author the value of getting reviews for your novel, and decent reviews, are of the utmost importance. A consumer doesn't generally want to buy a product without getting someone else's opinion, word of mouth, in this case reviews. Below is my advice for "free" reviews: (note the quotations, free reviews are not really free)
1. If you don't have an author support group, find one. Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ are great places to get started. My support group started with my sister/ author and since has grown to a group of several authors. We support each other, and in many cases promote each other as well as honest reviews and criticism.
2. Friends and family can be a support as well, although I have found other authors are a cornerstone for me. My friends and family mostly support my endeavors until I get so caught in writing they feel I'm ignoring them. Sound familiar to any other authors out there? Be mindful, to give is to receive.
3. Check out various blogs, not every reviewer charges a monetary fee. Be willing to give them the book free and swap reviews or promotion. If you are an Indie author this is crucial. Network.
This takes us to paid reviews:
A topic in which everyone has an opinion. I have read quite a bit that says "Steer Clear" of paying for a book review in bold flashing neon letters, and before I started doing reviews I felt the same way. There are people who assume if a review is paid for, it will come out as a 5 star glowing review. That assumption is an assumption and not always true. I'm sure there are companies and reviewers require that but not all do.
As a reviewer, my name is attached and I don't want to give a glowing review to a book with flat characters, horrible grammar and typos, aided by a non existent plot. If I come across a book that stinks really bad, I find I can't read it. I need to be intrigued. I also like a wide variety of genre's. When I complete a book review I look for the following:
Editing- a handful of slight grammatical errors or typos is allowable as most books, indie or publisher, have them. Editing is a grueling process that takes a team to make it happen.
Plot- Is my interest peaked, do I look forward to picking the book up again and reading? Do I sneak time in when I should be doing something else to read the next chapter? Can I put the book down or does it own me until the last page is turned?
Characters- Do they have depth? Do I feel for them such as love, despise, wish I could beam them over the head with a two by four to knock some sense into them.
Description- I am a visual person who seeks great visual detail when I read. Not everybody is visual but a story needs to appeal to the readers 5 senses.
Flow and readability- What is the novels target audience? The book should be appropriate for that audience. A 700 page suspense novel should have some complex text while a 150 page young adult novel should be limited in complexity, a few big words here and there.
Author's Voice- It doesn't matter whether the book is first person, third person or a combination (combinations need to be structured giving clues to the reader of the coming change). The voice needs to be relatable, appealing, and thought provoking.
To sum everything up if you decide to pay for a review it's not a bad choice nor should you be scorned for it, do be careful though. Check out the website, blog, e magazine , or where ever first. What do their reviews look like? How do they promote the review? Understand you are responsible for the promotion piece as well.
It's your money spend it wisely. Do they pair up reviewers who prefer the genre of your book? If not, the results are many times disastrous. There is nothing worse, well almost nothing worse, than reading a book in a genre you don't like. Don't be shy, research and ask questions. Think of it this way: when you need to take your car in for major work, do you pick the closest mechanic to your house? Maybe the cheapest? Or do you ask around, maybe get an estimate or two before making your decision.
Take the effort and time to finding the appropriate reviewers for your book.