You can be a reviewer without having to become a ‘professional’ reviewer. Although the terms are bit slippery at times, a professional reviewer, for the most part, is a reviewer who is regularly paid for her work. Examples: reviewers who belong to the staff of newspapers and magazines, such as The New York Times. There are also professional reviewers who do regular freelance work for journals, magazines and online sites. But these are usually freelance writers who not only write reviews but also articles, opinion pieces, interviews and other things. As I mentioned before, making money as a reviewer is a tough job.
Then you have the serious reviewers who don’t get paid but are fully committed to their craft and who have been reviewing for a long time. These reviewers may review for established publications, such as Library Journal; online publications such as Salon; review sites such as The Compulsive Reader; or may even have their own book review blogs. Sometimes these reviewers call themselves ‘professional’ reviewers. I’m not here to say whether or not they are–as I said, the lines are often fuzzy! The ‘professional’ reviewers I put in the first category are often elitist and don’t like putting themselves in the same group as the non-paid reviewers. For this reason, they’re viewed as snobs by many. In fact, these ‘professional’ reviewers often refer to ‘serious’ reviewers as amateurs, but I don’t really agree with this statement.
Then you have the ‘amateur’ or ‘reader’ reviewers and these can range from the terrific to the very bad. These reviewers will review once in a while, often posting their opinions on Amazon, their own blogs (which is why they’re often called ‘blogger’ reviews) and online book clubs. Depending on their skill and commitment, they may write reviews ranging from the long and thoughtful to the short and fluffy. These reviewers may graduate to become the ‘serious’ reviewers.
At the very bottom of the pile you have those people who don’t really write full reviews but who will write a short opinion or endorsement on sites like Amazon. Sometimes what they write is a couple of sentences. Their views are placed under ‘customer’ reviews’ along with all the other reviews. But these aren’t really reviews. That’s the thing with Amazon. All the reviews/opinions are grouped together under one category.
Before there were mostly professional reviewers, but the internet changed all that with the emergence of online book retailers, blogs and review sites. This is definitely the age of reviewers!