Kirkus Reviews: Is it worth the money?

Kirkus Reviews: Is it worth the money?

Kirkus Reviews Logo - Worth the money?


money in the trash throw away money

The moment your book hits the market, you have to switch gears from writer to book promoter. From artist to business man. As a business man, you’ll have to spend money to market and promote your book, which is no longer a book, but a “product” for public consumption.

That’s a cold way of looking at things, but that’s (unfortunately) how publishers look at the books they release to determine the perfect equation for profit.

When I released “Amidst Traffic,” I became starry-eyed and giddy by the idea of getting my book reviewed by Kirkus, one of the major book reviewers in the industry. I thought for sure that Kirkus would love the book, pick it for Editor’s choice, show it off to hundreds of thousands of unique web visitors, and I’d make a killing.

Heck, I might even score a starred review, I was so confident.

Not only was I starry-eyed, but I was also impatient. Instead of paying $425.00 for a review that might take 9 weeks, I decided to fork over the extra money and paid $575.00 for the 4-6 week review.

Once the review was published, however, nobody saw it. It got tucked away three or four layers deep into the Kirkus labyrinth of thousands of reviews, and you wouldn’t find it unless you searched for it specifically.

I thought that by getting my book reviewed by Kirkus, I’d get immediate coverage and exposure.


Only an extreme select few books get selected by their editors for a featured review, and even fewer (literary greats) actually get a star. They don’t give those things out like kindergarten teachers, you know.

Before I go further, please know that this article is not a criticism of Kirkus or their reviewing system. I think they’re extremely fair and objective, and that’s what they OUGHT to be.

My point is that if you’re an indie author, their review is not worth investing your money. You have to invest the finances you have like a business man, and in this case, Kirkus Reviews is a poor investment. That is, unless, you’ve been reviewed so many times and by so many objective reviewers that you KNOW Kirkus will love your book (and therefore feature it to their massive audience).


How to better spend that money:

With a little bit of patience and wise discernment, I could have spent that same $575.00 and gotten a lot more out of it.

Here are some objective book reviewing companies that charge a lot less:


San Francisco Book Review: $125.00 (8-10 weeks)

Portland Book Review: $100.0

Readers Views: various review services (2-4 week turnaround)

Indie Reader: $225.00 (2-4 week turnaround)

(Note: When I first wrote this article and purchased a review from Indie Reader, it cost only $150, and it included submission to their award competition. They have since raised their prices and separated reviews from their awards submissions)

Midwest Book Review: $50.00 (14-16 week turnaround)

ForeWord Book Review: Requires book submissions 2 months before release date


Depending on how much you want to spend, you can have a handful book reviews instead of just one, which means five times as much exposure and credibility for your book. Plus, the bonus with purchasing a review with Indie Reader is that your book will be enrolled in their Indie Reader Discovery Awards if your book scores four stars or more!

Kirkus will try to take your money by convincing you that their website receives hundreds of thousands of hits a week, which is true, they do… but the problem is that, as an indie author, your book is unlikely to get any exposure at all. It will never appear on their front page unless it scores extremely highly. And with more and more indie authors looking to buy reviews, the Kirkus website is flooded with books that they have to cycle through them quickly, therefore less exposure time for each one.

My personal assessment, in hindsight, is that you’re better off not wasting your money on this giant. Support some of the smaller, more independent reviewers out there. I’m sure the list is growing of legitimate review companies that charge between $100 and $150, which is a fair price tag.


What about you?

Do you have any book reviewing services to offer or recommend? Feel free to provide a link or two in the comments below!


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About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer


  1. Thanks for recognizing San Francisco/Sacramento/Portland Book Review as a better option than Kirkus. I think, with Kirkus, you’re buying credibility. They’ve been around for a very long time. However, libraries and book stores rely on Kirkus reviews for purchasing books — and neither of them purchase self-published/indie books. SFBR/SBR has tried to make our services affordable for the indie author, and we also offer the ability to trade an unfavorable review for an ad in one of our publications. We are the only U.S.-based book review magazine (eZine) now in Apple Newsstand — so we’re in the forefront of technology (coming very soon to Kindle, iPhone, and Android).

    • Thanks for your comment Heidi! If I could do it all over again, I would definitely have paid for a San Francisco and Portland Book Review instead of Kirkus. I did submit “Amidst Traffic” to you guys for a free review, but I haven’t heard back on whether it was selected or not.

      Either way, I would highly recommend you guys to any new author looking for an objective review for promotion purposes.

      God bless!

  2. This is an interesting article. I appreciate the info!

    I just want to add something–I’ve used for reviews and they’ve been very helpful and professional. I was pretty happy with their service. They charge $199 for a review with a bunch of “extras” but I’ve found that they are worth the money and will give discounts if you join their mailing list or as the editor of the site for a promo code…

    Hope that helps!

    Love the blog!

  3. Michel, thanks for the great, informative post! Worth taking to heart.

  4. I totally agree. Kirkus Reviews is a poor investment. I have royally burned my fingers. Thought the review I received was very biased and amateurish. My book isn’t exactly great. But at least say something about the book. Whoever reviewed the book, just retold my story in his/her own few uninspiring lines. I could write a review on that review and be more insensitive. But instead I will FORGIVE and FORGET. :)

    • I know the feeling Sindhu. I tried not to be bitter about the Kirkus Review, but I was rather disappointed by how useless it served to be from a promotion persepective. That’s why I wrote this blog, to help other authors from making the same mistake I did.

      The important thing is to spend your money wisely…

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