A couple more links that reached me through my Google Reader stream recently:
David Streitfeld in NYTimes: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy:
In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. 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. [... snip, snip ...]
One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.
And this stuff is super-awesome:
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.
Ben Murray in India Ink: The True Culprits of College Data Fudging.