Sunday, August 26, 2012

Should You Buy Your Book Review?

"Ravishing Romances 
is a news, review and interview site." 

The New York Times posted an article Book Reviewers for Hire Meet a Demand for Online Raves.

In this four page article, entrepreneur Todd Rutherford began the online business and soon earned $28,000 a month.  (This site has since shut down or changed its domain.)   
His business plan?  He will write one book review for $99, 20 online reviews for $499 and 50 for $999. 
Authors paid for it.   
The article goes on to discuss how Rutherford then placed an ad on Craig's List offering to pay reviewers $15 per review.  (I think per review, maybe $15 per several reviews of one product.  The article leaves this unclear.)   
The reviewers were told if they cannot give a 5-star review they would still be paid half their fee.  I quote, "As you might guess, this hardly ever happened."

So I took this to Facebook and received the following responses:

"Just one more reason people will stop listening to actual reviewers."

"What does that say about the author?  If you have to pay someone to give you good reviews maybe you need to redo the book?"

Both very valid points, and points I agree with.  But let's set that aside for the moment and look at this from a publicity and money-making standpoint.

It may discredit blogs (mine included) everywhere.  It may prove the author is morally inept.

But does it matter?  More importantly, does this strategy work??

The article leads me to believe it might.  It also quotes author Ronald Hughes, author of Infinite Exposure, who says he's spent approximately $20,000 on review sites and has yet to make the crossover from author - to recognized author.
Mr. Hughes, I am no publicist and I do not work in marketing, but perhaps a more attractive book cover and website font would boost your sales?  As a reader, I avoid works with covers that look like this. - Sallie
If reviewers can make a living writing honest reviews for authors who then use these reviews to make a living themselves - does it really discredit review blogs?  For 10 minutes I admit I didn't think it should, unless the authors and readers were vastly narrow minded.  I said as much on author Beverley Kendall's Facebook thread,

"I know I may get nailed to the wall on this.  But if you're paid for an honest review I don't see the harm in it.  Disclose you were paid, disclose the amount, disclose if you were paid for an honest review or for a certain star review."

Because in theory this makes complete sense.  Authors count on free work from bloggers and reviewers to boost their book sales.  If the blogger/reviewer can find a way to make an honest profit who am I to begrudge them?

Then I received the most articulate response from Mary,

"How can you ever know if it is honest if the person is being paid.  They may say it is an honest review, but in their mind they would be thinking if I give a bad review will that author hire me again. I don't think it can be an honest one and I don't want to try and figure out which ones are honest and which are not.  I just don't agree with it and I think most authors won't either."

...well reason with me in a practical manner, why don't you??  I don't know about most authors, but do believe that most valid authors won't agree with it.

There are many, many comments surrounding The New York Times's article, but Mary from Facebook says it well:

Once there's money involved rarely can people be completely honest - good intentions are not.

But now this begs the question - in a world where there are so many books, how does one get enough reviews to make an impact?

So what do you all think?  

Is it harmful for reviewers to be paid for honest reviews?  
If it's harmful, who is it harmful to?  
And does it matter if the blogging industry is discredited - since the majority of us run our sites and provide our services for absolutely free?

Ravishing Romances does not and has not received 
compensation for reviews.
Sometimes novels are received from the author, Netgalley or publishers 
in exchange for an honest review.
Ravishing Romances does not charge for site advertising, 
as stated here under "Advertisements."
Ravishing Romances does not give good reviews to "besties" or otherwise, 
as stated here under "Book Reviews."
Ravishing Romances will attempt to have your book reviewed by a reviewer who enjoys your genre.
This is not to guarantee you receive a good review, 
but to ensure someone doesn't say 
your historical sucks because they only read fantasy.  
Ravishing Romances feels that would be unfair.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, Ravishing Romances discloses whether the reviewed novel was paid for by the reviewer or received free of charge.


  1. I think it is harmful to the author and to the readers. For the authors I would think that part of why they write books is the great feeling they get from reviewers that love their books(whether it is bloggers or readers) and then write a great review. That has to be a great feeling. If it is not a good review, then it would hopefully be something they can learn from and then put that into their writing. I already of course stated above the harm I thought it would be for the readers. I think it is great for bloggers to be able, in some way to make money from their blogs. I just don't think this is a good way to do it.

    1. Mary I'm so sorry for not responding sooner! Somehow I missed this.

      You're absolutely correct. It's great for bloggers to make money. This just isn't the right way to do it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this--I can't believe that people would do this! Wait, no, I can believe it, which is pretty sad.

    As you, and others mentioned, this could very well make it so that reviewers are not trusted as much. Just the thought of writing a 5 star review for money disgusts me! And I bet they didn't even have to *read* the book, just turn in the review.

    But what's worse is I can't believe the authors that would hire people to do this! Really? Personally, I think that such authors must be in the business purely for the money or publicity (both of which I'm assumin they were not getting to their liking, hence the willing to pay for it), rather than authors who are doing what they love, sharing their work with the readers. I think we should dub them "mockauthors". Or "fauxauthors".


    1. You're right, Book Queen.

      One reviewer mentioned she was supporting her family at the time and was unable to read the books as she had to write several reviews to pay her bills. I think she said she spent about 15 minutes skimming before she wrote.

      OF COURSE authors would pay for this. They are people, too, and like people - not all of them are good. It just surprises us because the authors we know are good, upstanding contributors to the book community.

      I lock fauxauthor. We should make it a hashtag.


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