Book Reviews for Sale: Tomoson

Tomoson LogoHere at IU, we do our best to stay up-to-date on sites that are helpful to indies, whether that’s advice on writing, lessons learned on self-publishing, or ways to market and promote books. Keeping our finger on the pulse is difficult, however, just because the digital world changes so rapidly. Since we’re not dealing with brick and mortar stores anymore, businesses can (and do) change their operating procedures at the drop of a hat. We’ve seen it over and over: a site starts out giving free information, but then suddenly a paywall goes up and you have to ante up to get the good stuff. Or a site offers free promotions, but then switches to a paid process. We all know it costs money to keep a business going, so moving to a paid service is not surprising. But like everything else online, the important thing to consider is: are you getting value for your money?

Back in 2012, Jim Devitt mentioned the site Tomoson in one of his posts. I came along a year later and gave it a try, then wrote a post about my experience. At that time, it was free to offer my book to a large pool of bloggers who were eager to review books and products in exchange for receipt of a free copy. My experience wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and it seemed that the bloggers who reviewed were more tuned into products than books, so I said in my post that I would not use the service again. Since it hadn’t cost me any money it was worth a try, but it ultimately did not have the value I was looking for.

Recently we got a letter in our mailbag from a woman who found the earlier articles about Tomoson and thought it sounded like a good fit for her. She duly went to the site to create an account and was dumbfounded when a pay page came up during the process. She noted that she had seen the advice frequently on our site about NOT paying for reviews, so needless to say, she was confused.

I don’t blame her.

So what’s up? Well, obviously Tomoson is one of those web-based businesses that has changed its business model since its early start-up days. Now, using the site is free for the first 30 days; then there are monthly subscription fees based on usage. Tomoson declares that it represents over 20,000 “influencers,” bloggers who get the word out to their large followings. Here’s the way they figure the cost, as noted on their webpage:

For sponsored campaigns Tomoson recommends multiplying an influencer’s total reach by .002. This is the industry suggested budget price. For example:  an influencer with a total reach of 100,000 multiplied by .002, the suggested rate is $200. Pricing can be negotiated up until the influencer is approved.

Total Reach is the sum of an influencer’s social channels.

Total Reach = website visitors + Facebook friends & likes + Twitter followers + Youtube subscribers + Instagram followers

I have to say, I’m not sure where this “industry suggested budget price” comes from; I’ve certainly never heard of this. I understand the formula, but have to wonder how effective a promo would be to YouTube followers as opposed to Twitter followers. Seems like apples and oranges to me. And obviously it would be up to the client (you) to do your research on those influencers, to make sure they’re influencing the right audience for your book. Blasting the word out to people who have no interest, even if it’s to 100,000 of them, does no one any good.

So here’s the rub: at one point, some of us said Tomoson might be a good thing. Tomoson has now changed. It could still be a good fit for you; or it might not. That’s something only you can decide. The takeaway from this is that, no matter who recommends a site to you, no matter what the process, what the reach, or what the cost, only you can decide if it sounds like a good deal and it fits into your promotion plan. And if the site’s offerings have changed since it was recommended to you, do your homework. Make sure you know what the changes are, and how it might affect your plans and your pocketbook.

Now, that second thing, about not paying for reviews? Most of us here at IU, I believe, still hold fast to that. Paying for reviews is chancy, may not be the value you think it is, and it’s very possible that you could be breaking the usage rules for Amazon, which could get very ugly. Do you really want to take a chance on being banned by the biggest bookstore on the planet just to rack up a few more reviews? As always, it’s up to you how you answer that question. All I’m saying is: be aware. Be a smart consumer. Check out the businesses before you buy. Do your homework. Do diligent research. In the end, you may find that you’ll get more value from the time you spend doing that than from the “great deal” you may have been offered.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

17 thoughts on “Book Reviews for Sale: Tomoson”

    1. I don’t know, Gordon. I call that a slippery slope. We all know reputable review sites that never charge an administration fee. Some could still construe that as “payment,” some could still expect a good review in return. I would just have to say, again, do your homework and see how it feels. If it feels slimy, don’t engage. Personally, I think I would steer clear as a general rule.

    1. Yup. It’s questionable ethics, and chancy all around. I have a couple of my older books that still have no reviews, but I still think no honest reviews are better than questionable reviews. At least I’ll take my chances that way.

    1. It does sound a little weird; could have a connotation of manipulator. I would say Indies Unlimited has a huge influence, but I would never call us influencers. Just kinda makes it sound like people don’t have free will.

  1. This sounds horrendous to me! I agree with the consensus at Indies Unlimited that an author should never pay for a review.

    Thanks for the information, Melissa!

  2. Thanks for digging in on this subject. Your info is invaluable to us as we move forward with our marketing and distribution.

  3. There seems to be an ever-increasing number of sites offering a certain number of reviews from their ‘readers’ for an admin fee, supposedly in line with Amazon’s TOS, but I’ve always wondered how you are supposed to know that the readers who request your book are genuine. And while you are not technically paying those readers for the review, you are still paying to get reviews which you would not have otherwise got – so what is the difference?

  4. That’s exactly the issue, Mel. How do you know if services are on the up and up? I think it’s safe to say that anytime you’re paying any fees for reviews, it’s not a good idea. They may try to find ways around it, but it pretty much boils down to the same thing.

  5. Indies talk about never paying for a review but that’s exactly what the big publishing houses do. Kirkus Reviews aren’t free. Neither are Writer’s Digest or most of the other large literary publications. If you can manage to get a newspaper reviewer to read your book and write about it, that doesn’t cost, but just about every place else does. Same for getting your book on a table at the front of the store or featured in a catalog. None of that is free. While they don’t review, having a promotion approved by EReader News, Fussy Liberian or especially BookBub is an approval nod and indies pay big bucks to have their books featured on those sites. I’ve never paid for a review, but I think we shouldn’t be too quick to say it’s something we should never do or that an author is wrong to do it under the right circumstances. Most reviewers, the ones who have a reputation to protect, have to be honest in their reviews or why would anyone rely on them. That said, what kind of a business model is it if no one is paying them for their service?

    1. All good questions. I think here we have to differentiate between paid reviews and paid promotions. I believe we all pay for some promotion, whether it’s BookBub or any of the hundreds of others out there (there are plenty for free, but they don’t seem to have the same results). Acceptance by any of these could be seen as approval, or not; seems more like approval of the $ and not necessarily the book. But reviews are definitely approval (or not) of the book itself. At any rate, I would never tell anyone to absolutely not do anything in their business plan; my goal here is to remind people to dig in, do their research and be aware of what they’re getting for their money. Personally, I would never pay for a review, but that’s just me. Other authors, obviously can do it if they think it will be beneficial. I just feel it’s a slippery slope.

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