The Business of Fake Book Reviews

Photo by p!o

On Saturday, David Streitfeld of The New York Times released The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, a story detailing the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of Jason Rutherford’s paid book review service, a business that, in its heyday, grossed $28,000 per month. In 2010 and 2011, Jason Rutherford ran a hugely successful book publicity firm, marketing paid reviews and other services to authors, answering a critical need for more book reviewers, responding to the changing tides in publishing, which has given rise to many self-published authors, leaving few book reviewers to go around.

Streitfeld’s story was extensive, far longer than a traditional newspaper piece. The reason? Rutherford’s story was so compelling that it mandated more detail and attention, including interviews with two happy authors, one not-so-happy author, Rutherford’s top copywriter, and the legendary John Locke, author of the Donovan Creed Mystery Adventure Series and How I Sold One Million e-Books in Five Months, as well as Rutherford’s biggest client. Locke ordered 300 book reviews, which Rutherford told Streitfeld, “All those reviews said to potential readers, ‘You’ll like it, too.’”

Rutherford’s business produced 4,531 reviews in its fifteen-month existence. Then, everything fell apart when Rutherford, himself, received a negative review from an author whose request got lost in the flood of incoming e-mails. Soon, Google and Amazon caught onto the gimmick and Google suspended Rutherford’s AdWords account. Before long, the review business was completely destroyed by one miffed author and two corporate powerhouses.

Photo by p!o.

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