The New York Times has an article about authors buying reviews: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy. “In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. 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.”
Go, read the whole article. It’s important.
A few things: the article is primarily about self-published works.
Second, it also points out the value of reviews, in that reviews of books lead to purchases. “One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.”
Let’s be clear: there are many reviewers who are not bought and paid for. One of my concerns after reading this article is that some people’s take away is that no reviews of self published books are legit; or, also, that no reviews are legit, period. I already anticipate seeing such comments, including those masked as “jokes”, on my Twitter feed.
My other concern? Well, what does this mean for libraries if libraries are purchasing self-published books based on sales (that is, top sellers)? Which is always one way libraries purchase books; but it shouldn’t be the only way. (For one example of how some such purchasing decisions are being made, see Smashwords gets more self-published ebooks into libraries (“curation is crowdsourced based on aggregated retail sales data“).
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 1, 2012 TO ADD:
Over at Kirkus, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has a post called Authors, Please Avoid These Mistakes When You Self-Publish. Something she said made me think about libraries and self published ebooks: “Which leads me to my most important point. The person who improves a book should not be the person who paid for it. To quote Sunita from Dear Author, CUSTOMERS are NOT YOUR BETA READERS. A few months back, I tried to read an older romance that was praised effusively by many romance fans, and I couldn’t get past the spelling and word choice errors in every chapter. I asked for my money back and returned the book to Amazon. Another review request I received noted that most of the typos had been caught by early readers and fixed. Good Lord, people. Stop that. A customer paying for a book to read is not paying for the honor of collaborating with the author, or paying for the responsibility of being a beta-reading, fact-checking copy editor. There is a big difference between reviews and revision suggestions. It’s insulting to presume that a reader looking for a book should help a writer improve that book.”
What does this mean to a library’s ebook collection if the ebook is later revised in this manner? Does the library automatically get the revised book? What about prior readers? What type of notation or tracking is taking place regarding the revised versions?