book reading

A Complete Guide for How and Where to Get Paid to Read Books

There’s no bigger dream for a bibliophile – a person who loves books – than to get paid to read books. Being able to sit at home, doing something they already love, while supporting themselves is a massive draw, and it’s surprisingly marketable.

Many agencies are more than willing to pay you to read books. From review sites to busy literary agents, there will always be an opening for fast-reading reviewers who can sum up a read in 1500 words or less. Anyone can get paid to read books if they know exactly where to look.

Want to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about how and where to get paid to read books.

How to Get Paid to Read Books

It’s essential to clear up right away that you’re not getting paid to simply read a book. No one will pay you to just read it and move on; instead, companies will pay you to read books and give your thoughts on them in one form or another. There are a few different ways you can do this and several vital skills you’ll need to get into the industry.

Jobs Where You Get Paid to Read Books

“Getting paid to read books” is nebulous – it doesn’t refer to a particular job that needs to be done. Instead, it covers a category of work inside the publishing industry. Some of these jobs require more specific training or skill sets, while others are perfect for entry-level readers. Here are some of the ways you can specify what you’re doing.

Beta Read

An under-recognized part of the writing process is beta reading. Beta readers are a small group of people who read a manuscript when it’s in its drafting and revision stages and offer constructive criticism on all manner of details, from the plot structure and characters to general style and story.

Beta readers also offer screening for potentially upsetting materials and may include feedback on making a piece more inclusive, sensitive, or culturally appropriate. This is especially important for authors writing characters of ethnic and cultural groups outside their own. They wish to include a realistic and fair representation and often rely on outside help.

Beta reading can either be paid or unpaid. Authors can choose the readers, or certain freelance agencies may select certain people. This type of job will typically include answering surveys and questionnaires, as well as offering general feedback.

Write Book Reviews

Book reviews are tools used by other potential readers, from those who might pick a title up off a shelf to booksellers who decide whether to put that book on their shelves at all. They’re essentially a shorthand way of telling someone whether or not a book is worth investing their time and money into.

A standard book review ranges between 500 and 1500 words and sums up a book’s central themes, plot, characters, and overall quality. They will typically dive into the things that the author did very well – excellent characterization, unique perspectives, a captivating style, etc. – and the things that they did not execute properly – plot holes, poor writing quality, offensive or distasteful writing, etc.

Reviews may or may not contain major story points (spoilers) and can be positive, negative, or relatively neutral. Many reviews utilize a five-star scale, with five stars being the best possible rating.

Book reviewers can either work with agencies or independently as bloggers or social media reviewers. Independent reviewing means people will likely see you as trustworthy and that you can build a substantial following. However, it also means that, at least initially, your earnings are going to be negligible at best. At worst, you’ll lose money paying for books to review until you become fully established as an independent reviewer.

Agency reviewers have the benefit of being paid consistently but usually don’t have control over their workload. They typically have to follow a style guide when writing reviews and may have short deadlines to read and process books.

Both options can be viable, and you can even do both at the same time. You may write reviews for an agency, then adjust and republish them to a private blog or social media account. Just be sure to check whether you are allowed to do this in your contract.

Screen for Publishers

Unless the author chooses to self-publish, a publisher must select and promote a book before getting anywhere near a general audience of readers. Authors can do this either by direct submission or through literary agents.

Because of this, agents and publishers must sort through hundreds of manuscripts per day from authors of all calibers. They may receive significant amounts of spam or manuscripts that do not fit their publishing niche at all. Organizing these manuscripts can take up huge portions of their working day and make doing their actual job of getting manuscripts ready for publication more difficult.

And this is where screeners come in. Screeners go through the initial pile of manuscripts and read them, then decide whether or not they are worth passing on to the publisher themselves. These people will weed out mismatched genres, poor writing, and manuscripts that are simply not interesting enough for their publisher to pay attention to.

Screening can be a complicated process as it’s highly individualized; every agent and publisher is different, so understanding exactly what they find interesting can take lots of time and practice. This is why many screeners work with a single publisher or agent for a long time and are often employees. You can freelance as a screener; it may just be more difficult.

Record Audiobooks

The strange thing about audiobooks is that they’re almost certainly not going to be read by well-known voice actors unless they are for high-profile titles. Audiobooks are frequently recorded by the authors themselves or by freelance recording artists.

As such, audiobook recording is a viable way to make money by reading books. You don’t even need a massive recording booth or tons of expensive equipment – all you need is a high-quality microphone, a quiet place to record, and audio processing software on your computer, all of which are available for relatively cheap.

It’s not necessarily an easy job, though. You will have to read the book once to understand the story, again as you’re recording, and another time as you’re checking your takes for accuracy. You may have to record one section several times to correct the wording, intonation, and pronunciation. They may also request you do several rounds of re-recording.

Still, it is a more accessible field of freelance reading work than most people think.

What You Need to Get Paid to Read Books

Whether you’re a reviewer, a screener, or a recording artist, you’ll need specific skills to get paid to read books.

Solid Writing Skills

Nearly every job to do with reading requires good writing skills. This prerequisite especially applies to reviewers who have to condense entire books into two pages of essential information. Screeners also must possess excellent writing abilities because they need to briefly explain why a manuscript is or isn’t worth their boss’s time.

Having a background in writing is a bonus, though simply proving you’re capable of constructing a solid review can often be enough. However you plan to go about this line of work, it’s a good idea to create a portfolio of written samples to show employers. Many review sites and agents will require them as part of the interview process.

The Ability to Stay Organized and Work Well Under Pressure

As mentioned, being paid to read books often means having to read them on a tight deadline. This timeline can be as long as a month or as short as a week, and it may be consistent no matter the book’s length.

In this profession, you need to be able to read and respond quickly. You may also be required to manage multiple projects simultaneously, which can often mean keeping detailed notes of which plot points go to which book or which book you are reviewing for which client and when they are all due.

Keeping yourself well organized and relaxed under short deadlines is a crucial part of being a professional reader.

Time and Patience

No matter how fast you are, reading still takes some time. You can’t force yourself to read any faster, nor can you force a book to be more exciting or have fewer pages. Sometimes, you will run across pieces that are absolute slogs to get through – so you need to be prepared for that.

Understand that being paid to read books means you’ll need to read bad books, and you need to have the patience to get through them to give a fair and honest review in return. You also need to ensure that you only commit yourself to a quota of books that you can reasonably read and review with the time that you have, whether this is your full-time career or a side job.

Where to Get Paid to Read Books

Now that you understand how to get paid to read books, you need the means to do that. Here are the best places on the internet for professional book readers to find work. Most of these sites are of the book review variety, though there are a few where you can find a job as a screener or a recording artist.

Upwork

Upwork is a freelancing job listing board that caters to a variety of industries. It’s relatively simple to set up a profile there that functions as a live resume, which you can then apply to various jobs. They have a simple search function that can allow you to look for specific work.

It’s easy to set your own hourly rate on the site, but it’s also relatively easy for scammers to set up fake listings and skip out on paying you. As long as you’re consistent about checking the quality of the job poster, though, you can easily find long-term work as a reviewer, screener, or recording artist.

Kirkus Media
Image credit: Kirkus Media

Kirkus Media

Kirkus Media is one of the most popular book review companies in the publishing industry. They work not only with the major five publishers but also with smaller presses and indie authors. They’re responsible for the blurbs on many covers, which can help boost their popularity and make marketing easier.

Kirkus has positions for reviewers in every genre. Each one opens for applications periodically. Their reviews are usually 350 words long and might be for multiple languages (currently, they’re looking for English and Spanish-language title reviewers). They require applicants to send a resume and writing samples to their indie editor, David Rapp (Drapp@kirkus.com).

Reedsy Discovery

Reedsy is a publishing company that works to promote author independence and education by supporting authors through the entire publishing process with writing tools, workshops, networking, and marketing assistance. One of their major programs is Reedsy Discovery, which offers marketable reviews for pre-release titles.

Reviewers work on a tip basis, as in they can be tipped by review readers, though there’s little information on whether the tips are substantial enough to be a driving factor for using the site. Still, their application process is relatively quick and straightforward, so it’s worth trying out.

Casting Call Club

Casting Call Club is a freelance job board for voice actors and sound engineers. It’s free to sign up for a profile, where you can display samples of your previous work as well as what equipment you have to record with, which lets others know exactly what they’re working with.

Projects there can be listed as either paid or unpaid and are usually managed offsite once cast. You can filter which jobs you want to look at and apply for them by directly submitting an audition recording. Their pay varies from listing to listing, from about $5 to more than $60 per session or project.

US Review of Books

This option is another industry-standard review site that works with individual reviewers on a freelance basis. Essentially, you choose a list of preferences for which books you want to read. As titles come in, the company assigns them to reviewers who are the best fit.

US Review of Books pays their reviewers monthly on the fifth. They pay about $25 per review, which is a decent rate of about $0.08 a word. These reviews are about 300 words long and usually include a quote and information about the author. You can apply via email through their contact page.

Women’s Review of Books

As the name implies, this is a review service run by and for women through the Wellesley Centers for Women. It’s a literary magazine that’s been around since the 80s and runs a new issue once every two months. Most of the titles available for review are feminist pieces, though they cover a variety of genres.

To review here, you need to send a review pitch, including the title, publication date, author, and your angle, to their editor, Jennifer Baumgardner. The pay is $100 per review, though there is no specified length for each piece on the website.

Publishers Weekly

Possibly the most influential magazine in the book industry, Publisher’s Weekly frequently posts reviews of upcoming books to inspire bookstores worldwide to stock them. It’s viewed as a highly trustworthy source of literary information, which means, of course, that it has stringent standards for its reviewers.

Potential reviewers should send a sample of about 200 words along with a resume in an email with the subject “Book Review: [category]” to reviewers@publishersweekly.com. The pay is not specified beyond that there is a “modest honorarium” given per published piece.

ACX

ACX is an online audiobook production site that connects authors, agents, and other book creators with narrators and audio engineers to help them create a quality audiobook to sell directly on the platform. It works on a freelance basis to make audiobook creation more accessible.

Creating a profile is free and simple. It works in much the same way that many online voice acting profiles do in that you can post short samples of your reading style and experience. Narrators can choose to be paid either per hour or in royalties. The site even offers virtual training and educational resources to help you improve over time.

Tyndale Blog Network

Tyndale is a popular Christian publisher based in the United States who runs a Reader Rewards Club program. This program offers readers points for reviewing books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which you can redeem for free.

It’s important to note that this program does not pay money for reviews at all. Still, it does let you get more free books, which is great if you want to get into the habit of reviewing but don’t necessarily want to get too serious too quickly.

Booklist Publications

Booklist Publications is run by the American Library Association and helps librarians around the country choose what to stock in their particular branch and which books to recommend to customers. These reviews are typically concise, less than 200 words each.

Applying here means that you are familiar with their publication outlets across the internet and can write in their style. You can submit writing samples and a resume to an editor through the Booklist website. Pay is on a freelance, case-by-case basis.

Instaread

Instaread, in contrast to some of the other review-specific sites on this list, focuses on short book summaries. It’s used to get accurate synopses of books when certain readers can’t afford the time to read them in full. They cover both fiction and nonfiction.

While they’re not open to submissions right now, they do run through popular literary submission aggregate Submittable, so all you need to apply is an account there, a review draft, and a cover letter. They pay $100 per accepted summary.

getAbstract

This site is very similar to Instaread, but getAbstract specifically targets creating keypoint summaries for nonfiction books used by news media, executives, and similar readers for quick overviews of recent information in fields like science and technology, among others.

To apply as a reviewer, you can submit a short application on the getAbstract website that includes your contact information, topics of interest, and a sample summary. Pay for this site is on a freelance basis, changing from project to project.

get paid to read books - Writeful Books
Image credit: Writeful Books

Writerful Books

Writerful Books is an author services company, meaning that they help authors develop manuscripts for publication, though they may not publish themselves. They include things like editing, proofreading, beta reading, and pre-release reviewing.

You can apply directly to the site with a previously unpublished review. You’ll also be asked to provide contact and social media information, as well as any previous reviewing experience and samples. The pay varies and is on a semi-freelance basis.

Conclusion

When people think of the publishing industry, they often remember roles like authors, editors, publishers, and agents. They don’t tend to think of readers as a part of the industry; rather, they consider readers to be the end goal for bookmakers. Readers are considered passive observers.

But that’s not true. It’s actually very challenging to get a book off the ground without a series of pre-release readers offering feedback and giving their seal of approval to a new manuscript. Getting paid to read books is a viable career option for avid readers if done right.

As long as you’re willing to put in the actual work as a writer as well as a reader, and you’re active about finding work in genres that suit your interests, you can do well. You can develop not only a decent living but also a following of like-minded bookish people.

Related post: How to Write an eBook in 9 Easy Steps

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