Book Reviewers for Hire: What does that Mean for Bloggers?

I read an article from the New York Times about a new trend – book reviewers for hire. The article tells the story of Todd Rutherford, a man who started his own business by charging authors for gauranteed positive reviews. For about $500, an author can expect 20 positive reviews, and for about $1,000, 50 positive reviews.

Now, as an aspiring writer myself and a former intern at a publishing house, I know what good reviews can do for a book. It would be wrong of me to condemn this idea wihtout admitting that I hope someday I can have 50 positive reviews of a book that I’m trying to sell. However, I would hope that those reviews would come from real, genuine readers, not some sycophant service.

And maybe calling it that is too harsh, because in terms of business, this was a brilliant idea. There was a need for positive reviews that spanned multiple websites, and Rutherford stepped in to deliver. But as someone who enjoys reading and loves to discuss books – all aspects of them, good or bad – I couldn’t help but shudder as I read about this service.

When Rutherford had too much business to handle, he hired freelancers to write reviews, but most freelancers were taking on so much work that could only read a small portion of every book they reviewed. Nonetheless, they had to give a wildly positive review, or take a pay cut. Rutherford himself called them “‘artificially embellished reviews.'”

To me, that just sounds wrong. But, I guess it eventually stopped working for Rutherford when a customer gave his business overwhelmingly negative reviews because she didn’t get her reviews fast enough. A backward taste of his own medicine?

As a book blogger, I hope to give real reviews, praising the positives but also outlining the negatives in a book. That way, my readers can make informed decisions about what they want to read based on my truthful opinion of the book.

(Speaking of reviews, more will be coming soon. I’ve read so many books lately that my list to review is getting long enough to look intimidating)

What do you think? I encourage you to read the article and even poke around Rutherford’s website, although it looks like┬áthe domain name is for sale now.