When Ms. [Ashly] Lorenzana [authoress of Sex, Drugs and Being an Escort] found GettingBookReviews.com, $99 seemed reasonable. But the review did not show up as quickly as she expected. She posted a long, angry accusation against Mr. Rutherford and his service on several consumer sites, saying she had received better treatment from a reviewer whom she had hired for $5. (“You could tell that the person had really spent a few minutes checking out the information about my book and getting a feel for it before just diving into writing a meaningless review.”)
Mr. Rutherford refunded her fee, but his problems were just beginning. Google suspended his advertising account, saying it did not approve of ads for favorable reviews. At about the same time, Amazon took down some, though not all, of his reviews. Mr. Rutherford dropped his first name in favor of his middle name, Jason, so that people who searched for him through Google would not automatically see Ms. Lorenzana’s complaints.
These days, Mr. Rutherford is selling R.V.’s in Oklahoma City and planning a comeback in that narrow zone straddling what writers want and what the marketplace considers legitimate. ....
Mr. Rutherford tried to start another service, Authors Reviewing Authors — a scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours approach. Authors preferred receiving over giving, however, and that venture failed. Now he is developing a service where, for $99, he blogs and tweets about a book — he has 33,000 Twitter followers — and solicits reviews from bloggers and regular Amazon reviewers. No money is paid to the reviewers, so Google has approved ads for the service.He says he regrets his venture into what he called “artificially embellished reviews” but argues that the market will take care of the problem of insincere overenthusiasm. “Objective consumers who purchase a book based on positive reviews will end up posting negative reviews if the work is not good,” he said.
In other words, the (real) bad reviews will then drive out the (fake) good reviews. This seems to underestimate, however, the powerful motivations that writers have to rack up good reviews — and the ways they have to manipulate them until a better system comes along.
“It’s a quagmire,” Mr. Rutherford conceded.