Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buying book reviews: Valid marketing tool or false advertising?

Todd RutherfordFirst, let me emphasize that New Podler Review of Books does not and never has charged money for book reviews. The only payment we get is a copy of the books we review. So the following article and questions are simply posted for conversational purposes.

The New York Times has a story on the rise and fall of, a service owned by Todd Rutherford where, for a fee, authors could commission several dozen 5-star reviews and get them posted on Amazon and other online markets.

“I was creating reviews that pointed out the positive things, not the negative things,” Mr. Rutherford said. “These were marketing reviews, not editorial reviews.”

In essence, they were blurbs, the little puffs on the backs of books in the old days, when all books were physical objects and sold in stores. No one took blurbs very seriously, but books looked naked without them.

One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.

The system is enough to make you a little skeptical, which is where Mr. Rutherford finds himself. He is now suspicious of all online reviews — of books or anything else. “When there are 20 positive and one negative, I’m going to go with the negative,” he said. “I’m jaded.” went out of business in 2011 due largely to Google suspending its advertising account, and Amazon removing most of its reviews from their site.

Authors, would you pay for book reviews? If so, would you pay extra for 5-star raves knowing their honesty was dubious at best?

Originally posted at Quarkfolio.


Libby Cone said...

In addition to reviews-for-sale by individuals, we also have Kirkus to contend with. A few years ago, Kirkus Reviews started an offshoot, Kirkus Discoveries, which, for a price, would review your self-published book. A visitor to the non-prepaid Kirkus site would see paragraphs of disclaimers dissassociating it from the Discoveries branch. Discoveries has turned into "Kirkus Indie," which charges $425 ($575 for express service) for a review. "Regular" Kirkus doesn't even try to distance itself from it anymore. I think that's why librarians are dropping it.

Rob Steiner said...

Paid-reviews seem like such a conflict of interest to me. If you're a reviewer getting paid directly by an author for a review, your natural instinct is to please the person paying you (i.e., the customer), even if you've already warned the author you're going to be honest. Reviewers could write the most honest review ever, but the 'appearance' of a conflict of interest would be enough for me to doubt the review's honesty.

DED said...

We recently received a submission where the author mass submitted his book to several reviewers. One of those reviewers did a "reply all". Turns out he was charging for reviews. Here's what he wrote:

"Hi Jerry,
Warm wishes!
I would love to go through your book and write its review. I usually charge $11 per 5 star review posted on and $5 extra for posting reviews on additional sites like
Best Regards,

I've sent an email to Amazon with hopes of them banning the guy.

Rob Steiner said...