A website asks for free books from publishers. They then review those books, but all of the reviews are along the lines of “here’s what this book’s about,” not critical in any way. The book titles are linked to Amazon, where the website is an affiliate, so, they get money if you buy books they never negatively review.
Scam or not?
I thought nothing of it, but when I was trying to explain it, it started to sound scammy to me.
Legally, I cannot say.
However much of the book industry operates in a similar pattern. The old ‘Spy’ magazine used to publish a column on ‘log rolling.’ They would cite instances where two authors would write glowing reviews of the the other’s work.
Similarly if you read the reviews of most ‘self-help’ books, you will notice that most are written by other self-help authors.
I agree with Mark’s assessment… it sounds like good ol’ fashioned marketin’ to me, plus a few bucks in kickback.
Oh, yeah, a lot of blurbs are for sure a scam. But this seemed to me to be just a little bit more. I would have had less of a problem if some of the reviews had been negative but it feels weird to me that they’re all neutral or positive, because they benefit if people buy the books.
I used to have reviews of Photoshop & design-related boks on my site for years, with links to Amazon (I wuz gonna be a zillionaire!) where I was an affiliate.
It’s not illegal and probably not immoral. I never made anything off the books and after talking with one of the authors at a conference, I changed out the links so they went to his affiliate page. He got more from Amazon in moolah for each book sold than he did from New Riders, the publisher.
The issue would seem to be whether readers of that site understand that the reviews will never be negative.
It seems not dissimilar from the practice of flying film critics (sic) from regional papers and tv stations to Hollywood to screen a movie, provide them food and drink and hookers and free stuff understanding that they will go home and write rave reviews of things like ‘Ishtar’ or ‘Terms of Endearment’ or ‘Rocky XVIII.’
Viewers see “Not to be missed” or “The film of a lifetime” without knowing that the so-called critic is a shill.
I stand by my comment that it is morally a scam.
A great place for info on book publishing and what works and doesn’t is Making Light. It’s run by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden who both work at TOR Books. They’re pretty tough on self-publishing and vanity presses but it may be worth a look.
I think the morality of such a set up really depends on the intentions.
It’s completely reasonable to post a link to a book/product being reviewed, even if the review is bad, and if you’re posting a link anyway, it might as well be an affiliate link if you’ve got it.
So then it’s a matter of is the review honest or artifically good to “trick” readers into making a purchase. If the review is honest, I don’t see how it’s immoral to make a buck or two off it.