September 28, 2012

Red-handed: $15 for Amazon reviews


Somehow weeks of reading about sock-puppetry in Amazon reviewing didn’t prepare me to open this link, sent by a shocked friend. It directs to a Craigslist ad, which (in case it’s been taken down by the time this publishes) brazenly reads:

Wanted — literate, artful writers who can post five-star reviews of some books on Pay is $15 firm for 50 to 100 words of high praise with some specifics about the book that will appeal to potential readers. Here’s the way it works: you send me some info about yourself and writing background; a writing sample will be appreciated. If you are chosen, you write the blurb (I will send a Microsoft Word document of the book to you via email) and send it for approval. Upon approval you must successfully post the blurb to with five star rating. Once it is posted, I will Paypal you the $15. If you are good at this I can assure you of more assignments. I need these reviews too bad for you to worry about being ripped off. Details, of course, will be provided once we establish contract and agree of what we will do.

Craigslist’s moderating service allows users to flag posts as prohibited, and sufficient flags will see a post removed, but there are no further repercussions. My attempt at a sting operation failed, but if anyone else has any luck eliciting a response and working out which books this person’s pimping, let us know.

As MobyLives reported recently, according to some commentators 10–15% of social media reviews will be fake by 2014. The Federal Trade Commission will be keeping a beady eye out for culprits, having determined that failing to disclose compensation for a review constitutes deceptive advertising — but until they get on the case, it seems to me that it’s over to the vigilantes.


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.