Fraud All The Way Down In eBooks

New York Times: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy

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.

There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.

A polite fellow with a rakish goatee and an entrepreneurial bent, Mr. Rutherford has been on the edges of publishing for most of his career. Before working for the self-publishing house, he owned a distributor of inspirational books. Before that, he was sales manager for a religious publishing house. Nothing ever quite worked out as well as he hoped. With the reviews business, though, “it was like I hit the mother lode.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Meet The A-List Authors Of E-Book Self Publishing

He says he’s had five books on Kindle’s top 10 list simultaneously, and claims that “every seven seconds, 24 hours a day, a John Locke novel is downloaded somewhere in the world.”

And it was all based on utter fraud!

Quoting again from the New York Times article:

One thing that made a difference is not mentioned in “How I Sold One Million E-Books.” That October, Mr. Locke commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledging service’s best customers. “I will start with 50 for $1,000, and if it works and if you feel you have enough readers available, I would be glad to order many more,” he wrote in an Oct. 13 e-mail to Mr. Rutherford. “I’m ready to roll.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And get this:

In a phone interview from his office in Louisville, Ky., Mr. Locke confirmed the transaction. “I wouldn’t hesitate to buy reviews from people that were honest,” he said. Even before using, he experimented with buying attention through reviews. “I reached out every way I knew to people to try to get them to read my books.”

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

If you have to buy reviews from people, I’ve got news for you:

1) You are not honest to begin with
2) Neither are those fucking “reviewers”

Locke clearly gamed the entire system to fill his bank account.

How many others have?

Is Amanda Hocking’s “success” based on any honest merit at all? [See Update at bottom]

How many of the so-called “best-sellers” really are?

How many free eBooks actually make it to lists based on their merit, on people reading them and actually liking them?

Do you know how many sites and Twitter feeds pimp free eBooks? Plenty! It’s how I’ve wound up with close to four thousand free Kindle books.

But have I read any of them yet?

No, that’s still to come.

Some of those people who have been sitting smug on top of their fraud reviews are in for some butthurt when I finally get to their shit. Because I call shit what it is: shit!

And I don’t give one fuck how many have downloaded your book, I don’t care how many “reviews” you have, I don’t give a shit if you’ve been lauded and had your name tattooed on the asses of your fans.

There is one thing about my getting those free eBooks: I selected them solely on the basis of their titles and sometimes with a quick reading of their description. I didn’t pay any attention to the “reviews” they got, so I haven’t been influenced to begin with. What grabbed me was the price of free.

For those of you who think fraudulent reviews don’t matter, then you deserve it if you’re sitting at home looking at a foreclosure notice that’s based on bank fraud.

You deserve sitting at home half-starving to death because your unemployment benefits ran out and the fraudulent Congress doesn’t care enough about your life to extend them.

You deserve every damn misery that’s come into your life as a result of fraud, because you’ve acquiesced to it and maybe even participated in it.

Fraud is fraud, whether it’s outright fraud by banks and ratings agencies or by desperate people selling themselves out to place “reviews” on eBookstores, blogs, and in reader groups.

If that’s all acceptable to you, here’s a bulletin for your future: You’re not going to make it in the world that’s coming. You’ve sold your trust like a crackwhore and no one will trust you ever again.

Trust, not money, is what makes societies function.

And you’ve shown yourself to be an enemy of a functioning society.

Trust is the biggest thing in the world.

For all of you little shits whose reputations are standing on a foundation of fraud, enjoy your filthy money and sham position while they last. Because they won’t last.

Update, Monday August 27, 2012:

I asked Amanda Hocking:

She replied today:


An update and a request

Previously here:

This Blog Is A Fraud-Free Zone



Filed under Books: General, eBooks: General

7 responses to “Fraud All The Way Down In eBooks

  1. I share your outrage, Mike.

    Yes, I know how hard it is for an indie/self-published author to get reviewed by a legitimate publication and the reason is most author-published books are shit. VANITY PROJECTS. Of no literary merit. Used toilet paper that’s been recycled (barely), bound and crapped out of a printer.

    Of course such people would have to BUY their reviews and their enlarged egos would have no qualms about committing such a breach of ethics, yup, FRAUD by any other name.

    Self-pubbers tend to be stupid, untalented, prickly, pompous assholes. Your latest blog only confirms that impression.

    Thanks for keeping us honest.

  2. Tyson

    Just read it. Looks pretty bad.

  3. Going back to 1999 and 2000 marketers were hyping PDF ebooks like crazy and with endless self-serving reviews. What we see now is really the old time direct marketing crowd – like mail order marketers. Or people influenced by them or by the “how to make a million in ebooks” they hawk.

    In the end, an honest review is rarely 100% glowing. I remember magazine and newspaper reviewers saying about a couple of my books “A gonzo too far…” Stuff like that. I wanted to shoot them. But to be fair they’d accurately described the way I’d written the books – so anyone who likes that sort of thing ain’t gonna be put off. They run right out and buy the book – coz that’s what I do. You just think “idiot reviewer” and buy the book anyway.

    But all those positive fake reviews usually smack of tacky bad marketing – like a direct mail ad in Popular Mechanics. You see right through it.

    The problem is, though, you start to get totally cynical about the world of books. Once they held a magic…sadly with these fake review antics the magic of books is slipping away. And it’s sad.

  4. Scott McCracken

    I certainly don’t endorse paying for fake reviews, but I do think it’s funny that the self-pub world is suddenly nothing but fraud whereas trad pub is a paragon of virtue.
    What do you think those marketing departments at big six publishers are doing, sitting around playing Farmville? And if you think they’re just mailing out catalogs and advance copies, you’re crazy. Those “Editor’s Picks” don’t get there because the magazine editor stopped by B&N on her way home and scoured the store for a new read. Those people are worked, and worked hard.
    So yes, the tactics described in the NYT article do smack of seamy direct-mail ads, but just because a fraud takes place over lunch in a rarefied New York City restaurant makes it no less of a fraud either.

  5. Pingback: John Locke’s Fraud | A Writer's Convenient Truth

  6. Pingback: Authors, writers, and publishers – wise up – nobody but a fool would put pen to paper… | Jimmy Lee Shreeve

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