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Book Reviewers For Hire

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Ankari, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    I was doing some research tonight and stumbled across this article in the New York Times.

    It showcases a guy named Todd Rutherford who owns the site gettingbookreviews.com. Every sentence made me more upset. The worst of it was when it talks about John Locke, the self published author who sold over one millions books through Amazon.

    To be fair, Mr. Locke stated that the reviews can be as honest as they wanted to be. The only problem I have is that when money is involved opinions become favorable.

    What do you think?
  2. Sparkie

    Sparkie Auror

    I think it's sickening.
    Wanara009 likes this.
  3. Wanara009

    Wanara009 Troubadour

    No, just no.

    I do some reviews myself (mostly on bad webcomics) in my spare time and I'm quite fond of the 'caustic critic' genre of review. If there's anything I learn about it is this: If you are paid to do review, do it on works that you have little to no connection to your paycheck. Remember that Kane & Lynch fiasco a few years back? That's what happen if you try to review something that help pay your check honestly.

    Also, people who pay for glowing review so their book can sell is just sad. We live in the age where the leader of the bleedin' CIA can't hide his mistress, so It's just a matter of time that someone will blow the whistle on you if you try to do this.
  4. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    People who pay for glowing reviews are astute marketers of their books. For anyone who really wants to hit the Amazon bestseller list for their genre, getting a large number of 5* reviews is critical, and some people are unscrupulous enough to do whatever it takes. There are sites out there where you can buy several Amazon reviews for $5, and for $10 the reviewer will buy the book and it'll show up as a verified purchase. It won't exactly be an in-depth review, but that doesn't matter. And how is Amazon ever going to police that? These are people with genuine Amazon accounts, with no obvious connection to the author.

    The whole Amazon review system is a disaster, virtually useless for readers. Goodreads is better, but still vulnerable to gaming. What's needed is a genuinely independent review site, properly policed, but I don't see it ever happening.
  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I definitely feel uneasy about the ethicality of paying for reviews, especialy in bulk like that. On the other hand, if I gained a reputation as a good reviewer and got so many requests I couldn't hope to fulfil them all, I might consider charging money to do reviews if only to cut down the requests, and in all fairness reading books and reviewing them takes time and effort and if people are willing to pay then why shouldn't someone make money from something they enjoy doing which gives benefit to the author? If the author is going to pay anyway whether it's a good or bad review, I'm not sure it is so unethical, because they're paying for a service, not for a positive review. So from the POV of an honest reviewer, I don't think it is unethical.

    To play the devil's advocate here, is the opposition of bulk paid-for reviews partly about other authors who can't aford to do the same feeling hard done by because they have to get reviews through other means and fight for each one, whereas the wealthier author can just throw money at it instead of time and hard work? It's easy to be resentful of someone who appears to be taking a shortcut you can't yourself take.

    All that aside, paying for a positive reivew is certainly unethical. It's paying someone to express an opinion they may not have, and to decieve potential customers in the process.
  6. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    One thing Amazon can do, especially if a Kindle purchase is verified, is check if the novel/book was actually read. I did an article a while back on my blog where I discussed how Amazon tracks if a book is opened, if it is read, where a reader stops reading, even how long they spend on a particular page.

    While this information would be invaluable to publishers/authors, it may be something that Amazon could use as aprt of its assessment in seeking to identify paid for/fake reviews.

    Here's the link to my blog article and to NPR's source article: Up Around the Corner: E-books: Are You, the Content, and Your Actual Reading being Tracked?
  7. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Though that wouldn't work for those of us who don't read the eBooks we buy from Amazon on Kindles. I transfer all eBooks over to my Nook.

    As far as the issue itself: It's just another marketing tool. Sure, it may be a bit dishonest, but so are a lot of marketing tools. Indie authors struggle to get someone, anyone to notice their books. If he's willing to pay for this kind of service, I'm not going to blame him for it. Especially since books don't get to be million-copy bestsellers if they don't have something going for them. Whatever he needed to do to light the fire is his business.
  8. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    And what would happen if you took money for an honest review, and you absolutely hated it, thought it was the worst written book ever? Are you going to take the hapless author's money and slag him off? If money changes hands directly, it's very difficult to write a truly honest review. And even if you call it paying for a service, the author is still going to expect a positive review. Plus, if you really are an honest reviewer, not many authors will risk asking for a review from you. There would have to be some sort of indirect system, as with magazine book reviews, where the magazine pays the reviewer, not the publisher or author.

    It's not just that. If an author buys fake reviews and people buy the book as a result (and a lot of people do buy based on lots of positive reviews), that author has made money under false pretences and that could be construed as fraud, which is a criminal offence. [Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer]

    Plus, the more fake reviews there are, the harder it is for readers to find the real ones, and the less use sites like Amazon become. Tripadvisor has the same problem. I totally understand why authors are tempted, but it's still wrong to put fake reviews up there, whether it's authors themselves writing them, their friends or family, fellow authors or paid strangers.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  9. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    Don't fool yourselves into thinking that Amazon and a few other web-based publishers are alone in this. The New York and Los Angeles Times have book reviewers who aren't above getting a nice kickback to write a glowing review for an author. And apart from that, the authors themselves aren't beyond getting a little something to write a shining intro or review for another author.

    I mean, if you wrote a novel and you paid G.R.R. Martin to write a nice little intro and your publisher said so on the cover, that alone will almost guarantee the sale of thousands of books.
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

  11. drumwvu

    drumwvu Dreamer

    Honest reviews are opinions. I don't see a legitimate business coming forth out of this arena. Once money or favors are injected the opinion is tainted. Are we to hire reviewers as we would editors or agents?
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    There are ways for a company to write paid reviews legitimately and fairly by separating the payment to the company from the incentives of the actual reviewer. You just have to create the right policies to separate the conflict of interest. It's really pretty common.
  13. Paid reviews are the norm within the publishing industry, not the exception.

    Read that again if you missed it.

    The NYT, Kirkus, and other "name" review programs have always been paid review systems. Publishers pay for ads, the reviewers review the publishers' books. Every so often, they review a book from someone not buying ads from them monthly, but almost all their reviews are paid for by ads, and those ads are paid for by the publishers whose books they review.

    Most of the bigger publishers routinely hire PR companies. Those PR companies then go and "get reviews" for the book. More often than not, the reviews for the book are fake reviews written by employees who have read a "cliff notes" style synopsis of the book. The company Locke hired was using the same business model as the companies Macmillan hires.

    Now, there's paid reviews, and paid reviews. There is Kirkus, which has managed to retain a good rep *despite* being a paid reviewer. They've worked hard at that.

    Then there are cases like those infamous indie writers who hired PR companies - the same way their competitors, the major presses, were doing. I think both the indies in question and the major publishers whose actions they were mimicking were out of line.

    I'm not above giving away free copies in exchange for reviews. ;) Again, that's a pretty industry standard practice, and one I feel much better about. But I stop cold at the idea of paying for reviews. Always have. Which actually is a good reason to NOT use a major NYC publisher - by going indie, I can maintain my ethical standards when it comes to reviews. As soon as one of us signs that contract, odds are decent we'd have that publisher doing for our book the same thing Locke did for his.

    And hypocrisy sucks. ;)
  14. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I wouldn't think that anyone would object to the process of giving away books for reviews. How would that conversation go:

    Me - "Hey, can you do me a solid and take the time to read my book, write up a thoughtful review, and post that review in a variety of places?"
    Book Blogger - "I'm kinda busy, but, since you asked so nicely, sure."
    Me - "Great. It's $5.99 on Amazon. Here's the link."

    It's hard enough, in my understanding, to get reviews when you give the book away.

    I'm a little less opposed from the standpoint of ethics/morality to the idea of paying for reviews than seems to be the majority opinion on this site. I tend to think of the issue in terms of economics and effectiveness.

    Reviews are basically the only form of advertising that seems to work for books. If advertising is cost effective, I think it's at least worth considering.

    My main question is how much paying for reviews is really going to help you. I just don't think that one additional review on Amazon is going to help you all that much.

    An appearance in the NYT, on the other hand, is going to vault your book well up the lists.
  15. I don't have an issue with a paid review in, say, Kirkus. Most people know those are paid reviews. I have more issue with corporations spamming paid reviews into what is supposed to be a space for consumers to voice their feelings. Basically, this is trying to overwhelm the voices of individual customers through spending bunches of money. Venue matters.
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Along the lines of this topic: I found a link to this site in a blog post - www.inkspand.com

    Apparently, you pay a fee ($29 I think, I didn't do much research) and have people "beta read" your book for you for $10 each. You can choose to have those reviews published on Amazon, etc.

    EDIT: Please note that I am not advocating the use of this site. I just saw it, hadn't heard of it or a service exactly like it, and was interested in what others thought. I don't really see a way to fit it in my marketing plan.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013

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