NYT article on book reviewers for hire.

Todd Jason Rutherford says that he is now suspicious of all online reviews, whether of books or of anything else, and I don’t trust reviews or Likes anymore on Facebook either because so many Amazon authors are begging other Amazon authors for recognition and Likes. It’s become a circus.

Todd Jason Rutherford is the same man authors clamored after for 2 years; to write reviews for them.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50.

There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.

“The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago, whose 2008 research showed that 60 percent of the millions of product reviews on Amazon are five stars and an additional 20 percent are four stars. “But almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created.”

Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.

Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake. Yet it is all but impossible to tell when reviews were written by the marketers or retailers (or by the authors themselves under pseudonyms), by customers (who might get a deal from a merchant for giving a good score) or by a hired third-party service.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere over how this affects traditional book reviews.

I’m on Linkedin and every day, every single day, I see hundreds of Amazon Kindle authors begging other authors to review their work, to sway reviews of their work, to Like their Facebook page, or Like their author page.

Amazon likely isn’t the only retailer with authors begging for reviews, but on Linkedin it is mainly Amazon Kindle authors begging for reviews.

Write a good book in the first place, then write another. Quit asking people for reviews or swapping reviews with other authors and get back to writing. All these ‘reviews’ and ‘Likes’ are ruining a good thing.

Read the complete New York Times article here.

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