While you may have written a book review in school, chances are it bore little resemblance to what a professional book critic does for a living. Critics do not simply summarize novels and non-fiction works they've read, at least not the good ones. Instead, they provide a short summary accompanied by objective critiques of the book, an analysis of the book's elements in the context of its literary style and an judgment of the book based on years of experience in the business.
How much money you can make as a book critic largely depends on your employment situation. Critics can earn as much as $300 from high-paying publications, while many beginners may have to start "selling" articles for free, according to professional critic Patricia Ann Jones in a 1999 article for business advice website, Businessknowhow.com. Many book critics work on a freelance basis; their yearly earnings are subject to how many reviews they can sell and the pay scale of the publications buying them. Those hired full time by a newspaper or publication may do better. The median annual salary for a journalist nationwide in 2008 was $34,850, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. According to Salary Expert, dedicated book critics may even make more than that. The average salary for a book critic differs by state, but in some states average salaries are as high as $46,297 in Florida and $50,166 in Colorado.
A book critic's yearly salary is influenced by how much work is available. Experienced critics may get their byline in The New York Times and receive a good rate for their work, but there's no guarantee the Times will come calling every week. In the meantime, reviewers must continue reading and sell their reviews to a range of other publications. As such, much of a book critic's time may be spent pitching publications on book reviews, not reading the books themselves.
Book critics do receive a number of perks, whether they're employed with a publication or work freelance. Often, critics are sent free books, which subsidizes the cost of titles the critic may have bought anyway. Critics also get to read books and write about them for pay, meaning these individuals can likely mix their work with their hobbies.
For budding book critics, the yearly salary may amount to nothing. The Internet is changing the way publications approach book criticism. A book critic may be required to establish his name by writing book reviews on a blog or a website for little or no pay to gain exposure. The ability of anyone to review a book on sites like Amazon.com means that book critics must also bring special skills and a deep knowledge of literature to the table in an effort to give an audience more value than a run-of-the-mill book summary.