Star!" the book review gushes, but deep down, you wonder whether
it's real. Welcome to the world of fake book review service, where enthusiastic
reviews are bought and sold like any other two-bit market commodity.
The New York Times has the story of the rise and fall of one such service:
[Todd Rutherford] was part of the marketing department of a company
that provided services to self-published writers — services that
included persuading traditional media and blogs to review the books.
It was uphill work. He could churn out press releases all day long,
trying to be noticed, but there is only so much space for the umpteenth
vampire novel or yet another self-improvement manifesto or one more
homespun recollection of times gone by. There were not enough reviewers
to go around.
Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a
client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review
himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that
it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change
your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to
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.
(Photo: Nick Oxford for The New York Times)