Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy

The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy

TULSA , Okla. From The New York Times

TODD RUTHERFORD was 7 years old when he first understood the nature of supply and demand. He was with a bunch of other boys, one of whom showed off a copy of Playboy to giggles and intense interest. Todd bought the magazine for $5, tore out the racy pictures and resold them to his chums for a buck apiece. He made $20 before his father shut him down a few hours later.

A few years ago, Mr. Rutherford, then in his mid-30s, had another flash of illumination about how scarcity opens the door to opportunity.

He was part of the marketing department of a company that provided services to self-published writers — services that included persuading traditional media and blogs to review the books. It was uphill work. He could churn out press releases all day long, trying to be noticed, but there is only so much space for the umpteenth vampire novel or yet another self-improvement manifesto or one more homespun recollection of times gone by. There were not enough reviewers to go around.

Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50. for the rest go here:


Anonymous said...

We've come to the end of an era. In traditional publishing, books were selected on their merit or on their market potential, and published by profit-making companies that usually had at least some interest in literary excellence. Reviews were still written as evaluations, critical analyses, and published in reputable journals and periodicals. Now that's all gone.

Mathew Paust said...

Makes me so sad I've turned at least 50 shades of gray...oh, that was an awful thing to say!

Writers Services said...

reviewing the books/articles requires more experience and vast knowledge. It is a wonderful field, where we will be deeply immersed in novel for reviewing.

Peter L. Winkler said...

What are we, kids here? The process by which books were selected for reviews in august journals such as the NY Times was hardly an impartial, incorruptable one. Favoritism, logrolling, and indirect bribery -- the amount of ad space a publisher bought in the book review determined how many of their books were reviewed, lavish book launch parties anf junkets, wining and dining editors or reviewers -- were/are all employed.

Look at the tongue bath the Times gave Stephen King's 11/22/63. Rave reviews, interview, etc. Ya think that happens by accident? Or how about when a certain book suddenly gets prominent, positive reviews in nearly all the major review venues. Don't try to convince me that the stars just happened to align the right way and all the book review editors all thought the book was great, not to mention how they also all decided to choose the same book simultaneously.

The playing field's never been remotely level. It's next to impossible to get your book reviewed in a major periodical if your publisher isn't making a major push, and impossble if you're self-published.

In such a situation, I can't really blame anybody for using a pay-for-review scheme.

Anonymous said...

I flatly reject the unbridled cynicism that says that publishing has always been all about money and sales and little else. I worked for publishers that often published books for their perceived merit, knowing they would lose money; publishers that produced valuable but unprofitable nonfiction, or brought along new, promising novelists whose early works would lose money. And publishers who took great chances because they believed in the value of the work. Even now, there are fine editors, critics and reviewers who judge the works on their merit, and have the background to make those assessments. Whoever argues otherwise has little understanding of the history of American book publishing and even less appreciation of what is now dying off.

Mathew Paust said...

Well, Peter, since you put it that way... You're right, of course, altho probly more accurate to call it pay-for-big-blurb-by-commercial-blurbist. At least now there are social media opportunities to get something started that could go viral.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Mr. Wheeler:

I wasn't addressing the question of how publishers chose which books to publish. I was only addressing the subject of what determines which books get reviewed.

Mathew Paust said...

I would suggest also that there's an element of the old pol's quip to a reporter: "Son, I don't care what you say about me so long as you spell my name right." There's a discussion on Talking Writing about William Geraldi's recent pan in the NYT of Alix Ohlin's novel Inside as to whether the review is gratuitously mean-spirited. Maybe it is, but I'll bet it's also sold a few books for Ohlin. Look what all the nasty gossip did for Shades of Lay...Dismay?