I have always been suspect of over-eager online reviews for everything from nutritional supplements to televisions to books.
There seems an unnatural air about these reviews, as if the plethora of praise and exclamation points was stamped upon the page by the authors and creators of these products – sometimes they are.
And just recently it came out that Todd Rutherford was operating a book review service – the now defunct GettingBookReviews.com – that all but guaranteed 5-star Amazon reviews for any self-publishing author with deep enough pockets.
David Streitfeld’s article in the New York Times delves deep into the case of Mr. Rutherford and the business of purchased reviews.
He explains that Rutherford was earning $28,000 a month by offering positive reviews of books by self-published authors; of course, he could have given them negative reviews, but no one pays to be belittled and devalued.
In turn, many of these purchased reviews – which are digital word-of-mouth, the most sought after type – slingshotted sales; one such example, sold 1-million digital copies. Yet the reviews were ersatz, bundles of words that layered veneration upon books that Rutherford and his staff did not, or barely, read. But the results accumulated regardless, these authors were selling books that previously no one wanted to read.
And so, as aspiring authors, we arrive at a crossroads.
Do we allow fabricated and artificial reviews to buoy our works? To help us climb from aspiring to established to simply having our name mention all of our accolades? All done by those who have the highest stacks of cash.
I suppose there is a fine line.
Companies pay for product placement and reviews; publishing houses grease the palms of established authors to blurb about a newcomer; and athletes hawk goods and services for whomever writes the biggest check.
So is what Rutherford and countless others do so wrong? His only misstep was that Amazon does not paid reviews and the online giant culled a number of them before stopping Rutherford altogether.
What do you think? And what would you do if met with the decision of buying reviews or patiently waiting for real readers? Is it fair for those authors who can afford it and those who cannot?