Okay, so I am fairly new to the self-publishing business so I can't claim to be much of an expert on any of the involved aspects. I'm sure I'm not the first self-published author to experience a good deal of disappointment upon discovering how difficlut it is to find any reputable organizations that are willing to even consider reviewing self-published debut authors. I guess it made sense to me after I thought about it, but it was still a disappointing reality.
I'm not into buying good reviews to trick people into buying my book. To me, that just seems backwards because the readers probably won't enjoy your writing and are then likely to write negative reviews and avoid your titles in the future if only for the fact that you made them feel misled or tricked. This is not good for any of the parties involved.
So after searching high and low for places to get reviews for my self-pubbed title, I stumbled across Kirkus Discoveries for Indie Books. This was exciting to me, since Kirkus has a long company history and is a trusted authority in reviewing books ever since it was founded back in 1933. Like me, you might be wondering what the catch is? Well, it's not cheap. Their Indie Review program charges a hefty $425 fee for their standard service alone! The standard service only offers a book review of about 200-300 words. That's over four hundred dollars for a couple hundred words from a reviewer! I don't know about anyone else, but this is a lot of money to me right now. Even if the reviews are outstanding and worth every penny, I just can't afford to shell out that much money for a review at this time.
So, I had to pass for now. Besides, there is always the possibility that a review would be negative or say things that you don't feel best represent the writing that you put so much work into. That would really put you in a bad position "” you'd have essentially wasted hundreds of dollars just so that someone you don't even know could insult, belittle or devalue your art. That seems really *** to me.
For the time being, I gave up the search. My determination and generally stubborn attitude wouldn't let me just sit around all day hoping my book would get some good reviews and more people who wanted to read it would end up buying it as a result. That just wasn't going to happen, it's unrealistic. Upon searching for book review services (hopefully ones that were a bit less expensive than Kirkus) in Google, I happened to notice an ad in the right sidebar of my search results page. It was for a site called GettingBookReviews.com.
I clicked the link and checked out the site. It seemed to be new from what I could tell, since it looked like it didn't have tons of developed content available. The copy was written somewhat well and the vision described on the site sounded very similar to the concept behind the Kirkus Discoveries service. Lots of emphasis on how your book would actually be read and then honestly reviewed. This site even claimed that distributing the review to a couple thousand different media organizations was included in the service, similar to press release service packages.
Then, I thought I found what was good news for me (or at least my budget…) "” GettingBookReviews.com was offering this review service at a much more reasonable rate! For only $99, they claim to provide all of the following:
300-word book review on Amazon.com, BN.com
Review submitted to 1,500 websites
Review submitted to 5,000 media contacts: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV
If repeated, subsequent outreaches will feature themes unique to your book
Sounded great to me! I could afford that, so I spent a few more minutes visiting the rest of the site and reading carefully through ALL the information posted on any of the pages. I then decided to go for it. I ordered the $99 package, then filled out and submitted the requested forms with all the details of my title.
The following text is directly from their website:
"1. Go to the home page and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Click on the Buy Now button of the service you wish to purchase.
2. Once we receive notification of your purchase, we will respond with a request for you to complete a questionnaire and email us a PDF or Word document of the book. Pre-final edit versions are acceptable as we are focused on content. You may also snail mail a copy to:
AFTERWORD MARKETING GROUP
Attn: Todd Rutherford
9731 East 54th Street
Tulsa, OK 74146
3. Once we receive the completed questionnaire and the book, your review/press release will be completed in 7 to 10 days.
4. We will submit the review/press release to you so that you may approve or suggest changes.
5. Once approved, the review/press release will be posted to Amazon.com, BN.com, and scheduled for distribution to up to 1000 websites and 5,000 media contacts."
Pay special attention to number three, which I have made bold.
The date of my order was January 12th, 2011. After payment was processed, I was redirected to the form, filled it out, and it generated a message upon submission that the details were received successfully. Since nothing happened after that, I decided to email him the next evening and make sure he recieved my order and asked him if I should email the PDF of my book to his email address. His response was quick, but he told me to complete the form that I had already filled out. I informed him that I had already done this, and attached the PDF to my response since he had instructed me to do so. After that, he replied with "thanks" and I figured I'd hang tight until he'd had time to read it and write the review.
On the 19th of January, I decided to email him and check in to see what was going on. I had honestly forgotten what the website had specified as the expected delivery time for the package I ordered. So I figured I would just ask him, which is exactly what I did. I was very polite and asked him to excuse my bad memory, since I knew the information had been available on the site. He told me he aimed for between 7-10 work days, just like the site states. Okay, so I thanked him and said I was looking forward to reading it when he was finished.
On the 23rd of January, he emailed me the press release/book review so that I could read over it. I thought it was acceptable and was basically satisfied with it, so I responded the very next day (January 24th) to inform him that I approved of the review and he could carry out the next step of the process as soon as possible. He replied by telling me that he would schedule it for distribution.
By January 29th, I hadn't heard a word from him since our last emails were exchanged. The press release/book review was nowhere to be found on the web that I could see and I had received zero communication from him about what was going on. I thought this was highly unprofessional on his part, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I simply emailed him and asked him when I should expect the release to go live? His response on that same day was something to the effect of "I should get to it sometime this weekend, I'll keep you posted." Okay, so I tried my best to remain patient at this point…
By February 10th, he hadn't emailed me once and the review was nowhere to be found, other than my inbox and his outbox. I was outraged at this point. About a week prior to that, I decided to carry out a little experiment, to get an idea of just how angry I should be about his quality of service (or lack thereof, rather).
I found a nifty little site called Fiverr a while back, where people can post tasks they're wiling to do for a fixed rat eof $5. My experiences with the site had been awesome, both as a seller and a buyer. I did a quick search on the site for "book review" and tons of results came up, many of them offering to review self-published ebooks on Amazon and so on. I checked a few of them out and went with one that had tons of great feedback and was offering not one but TWO Amazon reviews (each from a separate user account). Couldn't resist, so I paid the five dollars through Paypal and provided them the details for my book (Amazon product page, ect).
Now, none of what I'm about to say is exaggerated or made up at all. I ordered the two reviews from Fiverr on February 1st, 2011. Just a few hours after I ordered it, the seller/user wrote to me to let me know that the first review had been posted and they were waiting to post the second one because Amazon sometimes detects something fishy going on when too many are posted in rapid succession. I hadn't expected anything this fast, so I went on over to my Amazon product page to read the review. It was 100 times better than I had figured it would be. 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.
I responded with a thank you, and by the time I had finished writing and sending it, I already had a message from them telling me that the second one was now also live. I excitedly revisited the product page to read the second review, only to be pleasantly surprised yet again by the outstanding quality and the obvious few minutes that the person had spent becoming acquainted with my writing. I was at a loss for words.
(Side note: I was fairly certain that it was obvious which of the two reviews on my product page were written by the sellers on Fiverr, but sometimes they appear out of order, so I requested that he provide me the usernames of the accounts that were used, so I could distinguish them from unsolicited reviews, and he replied by saying he should have thought of doing that to beign with and he promptly provided the info. I was amazed.)
You do realize what this means, right? I just spent a measly $5 for two fantastic reviews on Amazon that were delivered in a matter of about four hours or so. And….over two weeks prior to this, I had paid almost $100 for one review that STILL wasn't even posted on Amazon or anywhere at all for that matter.
This really pissed me off! But since I usually try to avoid conflicts, I kept my mouth shut for several more days as I hoped Mr. Rutherford would manage to complete my order to my satisfaction in the VERY near future, making a conflict unnecessary. However, this did not transpire that way at all.
Finally, on the 10th of February 2011 (almost a full month after my initial order), I emailed him to let him know that I received a far superior service for only five dollars and that I was quite unimpressed and dissatisfied with his level of communication and the quality of his service. I asked him to just cancel the distribution (if it was even scheduled) and requested that he just refund my money and we could be done dealing with each other.
He responded that same day, telling me that he "would not refund my money," and informed me that my review had now been posted to Amazon. He offered NO explanation WHATSOEVER as to why it hadn't been posted on there before I wrote this complaint. I was in disbelief that it seemed to require me initiating a conflict in order to motivate him to hold up his end of the bargain (though posting it to Amazon was hardly enough to do this, especially at this point).
Incredibly angry and feeling cheated out of my money, I responded to him by assuring him that refusing to refund my money after failing to deliver the promised services was just fine with me. I told him that I intended to tweet to my 7,000+ followers on Twitter that his service was dishonest and out to scam their customers. He gave me some lame response about how he would distribute the release, as stated in the package…blah, blah, blah.
I think this clearly illustrates one thing about Todd Rutherford and his website, GettingBookReviews.com:
They are a pathetic excuse of a business service with no ethics whatsoever, and even moreso than that, they are a waste of your hard earned money. They have no respect for their customers and they don't lose any sleep at night over ripping people off and failing to deliver the services they promise to their customers.
The moral of this story is obvious: avoid using this website AT ALL COSTS!!! I don't think of myself as *** or gullible, but I suppose we all end up here a few times in our lives, no matter how smart we are. I just wanted to share my experience with others because I think it's outrageous that they can just do this and get away with it, while disrespecting their customers and showing no shame at all. Todd Rutherford is a SCAMMER!!!!
Review about: Book Review.