Buying book reviews: Valid marketing tool or false advertising?

Todd RutherfordThe New York Times has a story on the rise and fall of, a service owned by Todd Rutherford where, for a fee, authors could commission several dozen 5-star reviews and get them posted on Amazon and other online markets.

“I was creating reviews that pointed out the positive things, not the negative things,” Mr. Rutherford said. “These were marketing reviews, not editorial reviews.”

In essence, they were blurbs, the little puffs on the backs of books in the old days, when all books were physical objects and sold in stores. No one took blurbs very seriously, but books looked naked without them.

One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.

The system is enough to make you a little skeptical, which is where Mr. Rutherford finds himself. He is now suspicious of all online reviews — of books or anything else. “When there are 20 positive and one negative, I’m going to go with the negative,” he said. “I’m jaded.” went out of business in 2011 due largely to Google suspending its advertising account, and Amazon removing most of its reviews from their site.

So, authors, would you pay for book reviews? If so, would you pay extra for 5-star raves knowing their honesty was dubious at best?


  1. I see plenty of people writing one or two line 5-star reviews on Amazon. I’m immediately suspicious (I see some of those names repeatedly) and always vote them down as unhelpful. I don’t think it does much good but I’m not sure what else one can do.

    I’d be tempted to pay for a review, but it would have to be honest. I’d want to know that I earned a 5-star review. I would never pay extra for it. I’m a bit “frugal” so paying would depend on whether or not the reviewer was high profile enough to garner any attention for my work. In all likelihood, I probably wouldn’t do it.

    By sending reviewers a copy of our books (whether ebook or paperback), we are, in a sense, paying for the review. That’s one less book sold. Of course it can be rationalized away as an “investment” in the hopes that the review will inspire others to buy the book.

    You should consider cross-posting this at Podler, with the caveat that we aren’t planning on charging authors for reviews. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *