Monday, September 12, 2022

Why I Ended my Association with the Online Book Club


I did reviews for the Online Book Club for the past two years. Initially, despite my frustrations with their editorial process, it was an acceptable side hustle. I got free copies of books and the review payments averaged around $25.

Within the past year, there have been far fewer ARCs, Kindle gifts, or even books available via Kindle Unlimited. Online Book Club expects a lot from its reviewers. While I can't fault them for having high expectations of quality, some of the things reviewers have to go through are ridiculous considering the low payout. 

For instance, if the review does not fall into the volunteer category, the reviewer is expected to write a summary to prove they "actually read" the book. While Online Book Club claims the reviewer need only write about three sentences, every time I tried to do that, the author or publisher stated it wasn't enough proof. Most of my summaries were at least as long as the review. I've never heard of another review site that demands such a thing of their reviewers.

Reviewers are expected to keep track of spelling errors and to note the first instance of profanity in the book. I didn't mind this too much because I enjoy proofreading. However, if I'm expected to proofread, I should be paid as a proofreader. The reviewer is also expected to determine whether or not the book is "professionally edited." I've never been sure how I'm supposed to know that, and it always set wrong with me that writers who can afford to hire an editor are seen as being superior to those who can't.

Like many independent authors, I'm also my own editor. I have a very meticulous process. Each of my books undergoes at least three edits. I am confident enough in my skills that I would be willing to edit for pay. However, I cannot afford to pay an editor. I don't believe that should keep me from publishing my work.

Online Book Club tends to move the goalposts on their reviewers. For instance, they recently added the rule that if there are no errors in the book, reviewers are expected to write that the "editing was exemplary." I don't read books so I can critique the editing. I read books to critique the story. I got dinged for forgetting to put this phrase in my review, which I found ridiculous.

Now comes the proverbial straw that broke the owl's back. The people who edit the reviews are level 6 reviewers. These reviewers really are not superior to reviewers at lower levels. They are simply more likely to engage in activities such as promoting the book of the day on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter. Perhaps it's the old union mentality from the days when I worked at the Denver Post and UPS, but I didn't sign up to do social media promotion. I signed up to write reviews.

I did get to Level 6 at one point and attempted to review the reviews. I didn't feel comfortable doing this and I didn't enjoy it. We were told that we were superior to low-level reviewers, but I didn't feel this was the case. Also, some of the reviewers who engage in this process find fault like there's a prize for it. I disputed one critique because the "editor" had a problem with me writing my summary in the past rather than the present tense. There technically was nothing wrong with what I had written. 

In another instance, the "editor" insinuated that I was guilty of plagiarism because my review was "generic." I stated that while the book was written for older people considering a career change, it could also benefit younger readers hoping to discover what career to pursue. Hence, the book was a good choice for a wide audience. I'm not sure how that's "generic" or smacks of plagiarism, but I was done. If putting up with emotional abuse is part of my job, I expect to be properly compensated for it. 

There are those who have said that the Online Book Club is a scam. It isn't. They do pay. However, what they pay is not worth the headache that doing reviews for them delivers. I honestly thought I was unable to write reviews anymore. However, I enjoyed the most recent independent review I did. It's not me, it's them.

Also, if you are an author, I would suggest doing extensive research before considering Online Book Club to promote your book. A simple search will reveal a concerning number of negative comments by authors who have used the service. 

~Ornery Owl Has Spoken~

Ornery Owl Reviews Things
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