On August 25th, the New York Times ran an article on Book Reviews for Hire. As always I'm a day late and a buck short on keeping up with the news.
To short of it:
A man by the name of Tod Rutherford charged authors $99.00 for one review, $500.00 dollars for 20 reviews and $1000.00 for 5o reviews.
To get some perspective. Kirkus changers about $500.00 for one review. The difference is Tod Rutherford, guaranteed positive reviews and Kirkus charges for the review but you are not buying the reviewers opinion.
Eventually Amazon caught on to what Tod was doing and removed his reviews. His website Gettingbookreviews.com was blocked by Google and he now sales RV's somewhere in the Midwest. He does not hang his head in shame.
I understand the ethical issues but what is the difference between paying MR. Rutherford $99 dollars for his opinion on your book and lets say paying Joe Namath to promote Noxema. Well, there are two differences: Joe got paid a lot more and his review was via commercial. It's the latter that probably matters. People know that when they seen a commercial that it is an add. That the celebrity is being paid for their opinion.
Well sort of. If you ask most people if they believe x product that y celebrity is selling is a good product, they'll say yes. They'll say they trust in the celebrity's opinion.
And of course we have infomercials which are commercials disguised as purveyors of information. Testimonial of testimonial will be given by members of the audience who will also oo and ah over the product of the hour. And this is a legitimate form of advertising. Take away the commercial, and you have left is a bunch of bought reviews.
So what really is the difference between a review given freely and one paid for? It comes down to customer expectation. Customer reviews have largely been written by actual customers where commercials and infomercials have not.
What do you think? Is it unethical for writers to purchase opinions in order to sell books?