Saw news article about how a self-published author got reviewed by Kirkus, which led to movie people hearing his book and bought rights, and then upon hearing the movie news, a traditional publisher bought his book to re-publish.
An important part wasn't mentioned in the headline: It was a paid review. Kirkus does NOT guarantee favourable reviews, even for payment.
But it reminded me how people's financial situations can lead to further opportunities. If the author hadn't been able to afford the $425 minimum cost, the movie people wouldn't have seen it, and maybe the publisher wouldn't have, either.
Have heard arguments that it's all a matter of budgeting, and if your career is more important than having food to eat, you'd shell out the cost. You'd scrimp and save...
I'm not a writer, but I imagine it would be difficult for most writers to cough up $425. Having an income, having savings, gives you opportunities that others may never be able to afford.
There should be nothing wrong with pointing that out.
This is not like Fiverr, where you pay explicitly for the purpose of a favourable review. But a paid review is still paid, and even if it's so common that all publishers, publicists, and authors pay for them - this is fine. But it's important to disclose this upfront, even if it spoils the fairytale of a respected business in the industry "somehow" finding out about your self-published novel, and deciding to review it.
The $425 minimum bought the author the opportunity of visibility. This is nothing to be sneezed at. And if there's nothing to be ashamed of about paying for a review, then it shouldn't bother you when people mention it. It happened. It benefitted you. That's OK.
I'm pretty sure the author considers it money well spent. Money gives authors a leg-up. Being able to afford $425 gives you opportunities that poorer people can't afford.
But it's no secret that privilege - in all its various forms - is often rewarded in this industry.
Kirkus Indie charges $425-$575: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/indie/how-it-works/
RT Review Source charges $425-$500: http://www.rtreviewsource.com/frequently-asked-questions/