Reviewgate: Book Reviews for Sale and What it Really Means

Reviewgate: Book Reviews for Sale and What it Really Means.    Taste in books is as individual as the way we take our coffee or at least it should be. Remember when Americans took pride in being rugged individualists? Remember when achievement was it’s own goal?  Do writers have so little faith in their own talent that they cheat to inflate their sales?

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8 Responses to Reviewgate: Book Reviews for Sale and What it Really Means

  1. Joe Barone says:

    I just finished reading an article about a fairly well-known author who wrote reviews of his own and competitors’ books on Amazon under several names. He always praised his books and trashed the books of the competition. One reason I read regular blogs is that I get to know something about the taste of each blogger. I quit reading movie reviews in the KC Star because they had to lay off their regular reviewer. (At least I think that’s what happened.) Now the reviews are taken from sister papers in the same chain and might come from anyone. I can’t judge anymore what weight to give to the review. Most of the books I read because of reviews or recommendations come from trusted blogs.

  2. Joe, so many employees have been laid off at the Star that, after I wrote a letter to the editor, the call I received to confirm that I’d written the letter was made by one of the regular columnists. I didn’t realize the movie reviews had been outsourced as well.

    So far, I can’t tell if the paid-for book reviews are like the music business payola schemes of the 1950s, or are a response to the shift in the publishing business.

    • Beth says:

      Last weekend, the Guardian, a London newspaper, revealed R. J. Ellory is a sock puppet, someone who writes reviews under an assumed name. Sock puppets write glowing reviews of their own books and trash other authors. What is sad in Ellory’s case is that he writes very good books; he is a best seller in Britain. I think in the payola scheme radio stations were paid to play an artist’s discs in heavy rotation while ignoring other artists not in on the scheme. The record companies were responsible for paying off the radio stations and the disc jockeys.

      The sock puppets are authors or companies, not publishers, that have contracts with the authors to offer payments to reviewers. I was contacted by a company to write reviews for which I would be paid. Needless to say, it was more important that the review be positive than it be honest, This is unethical and it calls into question all reviews and reviewers. The review aren’t worth anything if the publishers, authors, or agents are dictating them to the reviewer.

      Amazon got caught in this web because reviews are published without oversight. Ellory wrote reviews under a few names. The positive reviews of his own books may well have convinced people to buy books that have been falsely advertised. The real tragedy in this game is that good books and good authors were tainted by the negative reviews. No one knows how many sales were lost, how many authors were ignored by readers because of a sock puppet attack.

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