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Ethics in Reviewing

Monday News: Cheaters prospering; Backlist sales declining; Online dictionaries more of a hinderance;

Monday News: Cheaters prospering; Backlist sales declining; Online dictionaries more of...


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For a 50-word review, she said she could find “enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really.” For a 300-word review, she said, “I spent about 15 minutes reading the book.” She wrote three of each every week as well as press releases. In a few months, she earned $12,500.

“There were books I wished I could have gone back and actually read,” she said. “But I had to produce 70 pieces of content a week to pay my bills.”

 But buying reviews has paid off for both the reviewer and the author.  One of Rutherford’s clients was John Locke.  You remember him, right? He was the first self published author to be a Kindl-aire, selling over 1 million copies of his self published books.  Some of Locke’s success may have come from the 300 reviews he purchased from Rutherford.  Numerosity matters to companies like Amazon.  For instance, if you get the right mass of individuals to buy your book at the same time, the book can appear on the bestseller list.  Never heard of an author before and see her book on the list?  That may very well be why.

Author loops exist for co dependent self promotion like this.  Mailing list emails will go out asking for “Likes” because a sufficient number of likes will move a book to the top of a search engine result and can be included in Amazon’s email lists.  Being included in an Amazon email instantly results in success.  Self publishing is rife with unethical behavior from the tagging/like parties coordinated between authors to the republication of existing books so that they appear at the top of coming soon lists to buying reviews.  A very well followed publishing guru is Dean Wesley Smith who famously wrote “Please, I know I will make typos and such.  I don’t care and please don’t tell me. Thanks. If you have trouble reading something with a few typos, please don’t read these stories. There is no such thing as a perfect story and I ain’t trying to write one. Or 100 for that matter.”  Stephen Leather, one of Britian’s biggest self publishing successes, uses sockpuppets and fake accounts to create chatter about his book.  We know from our Fiverr mole that obtaining a positive review is easy and cheap; and buying reviews work:

I clicked on the reviewer’s name and saw a list of dozens of other five-star reviews that they had written. Every book was self-published, and every book was rated five stars. I recognized one of the authors on the list as a self-published writer whose ebooks regularly hit the Kindle charts’ Top 100. “You need a critical mass of readers to generate word of mouth,” the author wrote in a guest post on a popular “indie publishing” blog. Word of mouth, or a critical mass of fake reviews and purchases to push your ebooks into the Kindle Top 100? With ebooks, visibility is a big part of the marketing  equation. Once an ebook hits the Kindle Top 100, sales tend to snowball as new customers discover it in greater numbers.

The reason why buying reviews is so prolific amongst self published authors is because their books are cheap. A self published author can set their book to free or $.99.  The reviews they buy can be from “Verified Purchasers”.  It is much more expensive when one’s book is $7.99, and probably not feasible.  I don’t doubt that the majority of self published and traditionally published authors aren’t engaged in unethical behavior but when one man is making $28,000 a month on selling reviews, a large number of authors are engaged in gaming the system.  These authors are like athletes who take steriods and achieve hitting records.  Their success was predicated on a cheat.  Unfortunately, cheaters do prosper.

If anything, Apple’s win shows how desperately patent reform needs to happen. It will stifle innovation because the only company that can improve on things like a grid style icon layout or an edge to edge glass design will be Apple and who needs to innovate when you don’t have any competitors in that area? Think of science and how once science discovery builds on another science discovery until something miraculous happens like drugs that help to treat Alzheimer’s. With these types of restrictive patent laws, there is no building one design upon another. Imagine how literature would look if patent rules were imposed; yet, more restrictive intellectual property laws are being pushed by huge corporations like Disney all the time. Engadget

Monday News and Deals: Publishers Glum About Digital Future

Monday News and Deals: Publishers Glum About Digital Future

There are two big tech publishing conferences that take place in the spring.  One is Digital Book World and the second is Tools of Change. (The latter is one that I’ve gone to for 3 years).  Different companies collect data and present that data at these conferences.  One such survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. says that publishers aren’t looking forward to the rise of digital because it doesn’t appear that digital format is bringing about more book purchases.  Indeed, with the adoption of tablets, reading may actually decline.  Anecdotally, when I first got my Kindle Fire, I spent about a week watching video and not reading.

* Readers will be better off, 61% in 2011, down from 74% in 2010
* More people will read books than did before, 60% in 2011, down from 66% in 2010
* Readers will read a greater number of books than before, 47% in 2011, down from 66% in 2010

When asked about their own companies, the pessimism became more pronounced: Only 28% of publishing executives think their company will be better off because of the transition to digital, down from 51% a year ago.

I’m not sure why readers aren’t better off.  I’d be interested in hearing how publishing executives think that readers will be worse off. I suspect it is because they believe that it will reduce the number of options that readers will have in stores? Or possibly reduce the variety or quality of book?


The Guardian did a nice obituary for Penny Jordan.

Penny Halsall, who has died of cancer aged 65, was a prolific writer of women’s fiction, and one of Mills & Boon‘s most popular authors, under the pen name Penny Jordan. She wrote more than 200 books in a 30-year career and was phenomenally successful, with sales of 100m worldwide. Her work was translated into 25 languages.


The Guardian also picks up on the flameouts between authors and reviewers arising out of negative reviews on Goodreads (and elsewhere).  I think this falls under the rubric of all publicity is good publicity at this point.

Whose book is it anyway? The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours – even though it’s got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one.

And if you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.


The week discusses McDonald’s move toward offering books.  A book with every Happy Meal? I’m totally down with that.

“The latest big name in books isn’t Amazon — it’s McDonald’s,”says Lindsay Goldwert in the New York Daily News. For the next month, the fast-food giant is replacing the plastic toy in every British Happy Meal with a book. The giveaway books — six installments of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farms series — are a tie-in with Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of Morpurgo’s War Horse.

As an aside, Ned took the tot to see War Horse and she cried during the entire movie.  Two kids and a few horses are shot. It was pretty traumatic for her.  Getting back on topic, selling books in non traditional places is something about which I am a big fan.  I’m still waiting to see the Berkley Heat + Victoria Secret connection.


I was somewhat surprised to see an advertorial for BlueInk Review, a company that will sell review services to self published authors. The company says that many of its reviewers also review for respected literary institutions.  I am wondering if the reviewers’ identities will be kept a secret like at Publishers Weekly and Kirkus?


There don’t appear to be any great new deals.  The discounts I’ve seen are ones that I’ve posted about in the past so I’ll wait until Wednesday or Thursday and do a big post rounding up the sales. Dukes are still on sale!  You can click here to see past deal postings.