Aghast Attack!

Strange, self-destructive souls on the Internet

Imagine you’re an author of a book. In 2011, more than 300,000 new titles were published. Look for a publisher or an agent, and you’ll be dead before you find one. So you publish it yourself.

The challenge: persuading someone to read it and review it.

On Aug. 25, 2012 The New York Times ran 3,300-word story by David Streitfeld titled “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy” about bookish guy named Todd Rutherford who created the following business model:

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a website, 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.

Rutherford’s business crashed and burned. The Times‘ reporter’s interview with the top book reviewer of this niche service was startling:

Mr. Rutherford’s busiest reviewer was Brittany Walters-Bearden, now 24, a freelancer who had just returned to the United States from a stint in South Africa. She had recently married a former professional wrestler, and the newlyweds had run out of money and were living in a hotel in Las Vegas when she saw the job posting.

Ms. Walters-Bearden had the energy of youth and an upbeat attitude. “A lot of the books were trying to prove creationism,” she said. “I was like, I don’t know where I stand, but they make a solid case.”

For a 50-word review, she said she could find “enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really.” For a 300-word review, she said, “I spent about 15 minutes reading the book.” She wrote three of each every week as well as press releases. In a few months, she earned $12,500.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Harrison

    We have a 3-phase hiring process –

    1. Face to face interview w/ human resources or office manager. Prior to that interview, we do a social media search, and custom tailor questions based on our research, mostly to catch them in lies. 50% of the 1,000+ interviews we’ve conducted over 10 years lie. We don’t confront them when they lie. Also, during that interview, they’re in our conference room – no windows. A team member goes out to our parking lot (we own our office building, so it’s a dedicated parking lot) and looks in the car. We’re looking for 3 things:

    a. Cigs / cigars, etc. We’re a non-smoking office and we frankly don’t want to smell it on people.

    b. Baby seats? Those mean 20+ absences / year because mom always calls in sick when the kids are sick. It’s unlawful to ask about children.

    c. Is the car trashed, or is it neat and clean?

    A note is passed to the interviewer mid-interview w/ discovery info from car inspection. Example – “Are you typically neat and organized?” We’ve discovered that work habits emulate how people keep their cars. We know they’re full of crap when they say yes, and their car is trashed.

    Also – our interview questions are designed to garner more than one answer for each question, and to institute a dialogue.

    2. Psychological / intellectual / skills testing.

    3. Final interview w/ team leader for division we’re hiring for.

    We hire 1 in 10 applicants. Most fall out with step 2. Our average tenure / employee is 4+ years. I’ll spend $900 ($100 x 9 prospective hires) for the fallouts, as who knows how much it costs us to train new team members.

    Your blog was awesome – point on as always.

    You kick ass!

  • Dev. Kinney

    Very interestng, Denny. I would recommend that anyone who wants to be on facebook us a pseudonym. Your close friends you tell and others you keep at arm’s length. Of course the Internet and fb will fight you from now on and will probably get your true identity, but they can’t sell it very well. However, I agree with L.A. Times that posing as fans of your professional column is a serious ethical violation. I just hope that seriousness carries over.
    All the best,