Of course professional reviewers are paid and many have the freedom to review only books that they are fairly sure they will like. But apparently many reviewers are paid to write only a glowing review and are not necessarily expected to actually read the book. Flash: Amazon (and other retailers) reviews are not necessarily written by unpaid, regular readers.
The title of this post defines book reviews that convince us to read the ‘product’ being reviewed. It is also the criteria for reviews commissioned by authors and written by ‘professional’ reviewers, placed in various places on the internet, appearing as if from ‘regular’ readers.
My title comes from a fascinating article by David Streitfeld at the NY Times called The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, which focuses on Todd Jason Rutherford and his reviewer-for-hire business GettingBookReviews.Com. Rutherford was in the business of writing and paying others to write 4 & 5 star reviews on independently published books. According to one of Streitfeld’s sources, “…about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake”.
Despite policies against paid reviews on sites like Amazon and U.S. Federal Trade Commission guidelines, the practice is apparently widespread. Presumably the Canadian Fair Trade Commission and possibly the RCMP’s Internet Fraud Division and other country-based regulatory bodies would have similar standards. It is unlikely however, that enforcement is practical.
Disappointingly, although not particularly surprisingly, John Locke, the first self-published author to sell one million ebooks on Amazon omits this important step in his later published “How I Sold One Million E-Books in Five Months”.
As one commenter puts it, “…And to now think that people could question the validity of those reviews is just so deflating. Self-published authors work so hard to get the word out and compete with the big boys. Now I feel like we’ll have to work even harder.”
Rutherford, whose business collapsed after being exposed also commented on the article.
“The sad thing is that 1,2, and 3 star reviews can be just as fake. There are people who advertise they will post negative reviews on your competitor’s products. I did the right thing in being honest with Streifeld about the mistakes I made with the review business in the past. The service I offer now is a legitimate, affordable way for self-published authors to get real reviews and exposure.”
Other people who commented on the article accept the scams as business-as-usual in our capitalist economy and some suggest that Steinfeld is merely adding to the stigma of independent publishing by suggesting by omission that this type of dishonesty only exists on that side of the industry.
As in all transactions, ethical practices can never be assumed. Sadly, skepticism can be one of the most useful human qualities in the consumer’s world.