I always keep an eye out for freelance work. I enjoy writing, and sometimes I like to get paid extra for it.

I recently saw an ad on Craigslist for a book reviewer. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was better than nothing for something I enjoy doing anyway. I like reading, and writing reviews afterward on Goodreads, sometimes Amazon, and always on Smashwords.

So I put together an email, complete with a copy of a recent review I wrote of a self-published book, along with some basic information about myself. The ad didn’t ask for a resume, so unfortunately the company didn’t see the part where I worked in the newspaper industry for more than a decade.

That probably would have been a crucial factor in their decision to hire me—or not to hire me—because in newspaper articles, I report facts. Yes, there are the occasional opinion and commentary pieces, but those are generally laced with the facts of things that have actually happened, for better or worse.

I eventually received a response: They wanted to speak on the phone to explain the details of the gig, which went something like this: I would be assigned a specific book to purchase on Amazon; the cost of the book would later be reimbursed. I was to read the book,  write a 125- to 150-word review, and then get paid. It seemed simple.

And yet, the entire time I was on the phone with my potential future employer, I had a question on the tip of my tongue that I knew I should have asked … but never did.

Incidentally, the follow-up email told me everything I needed to know. Here was the line:

“Now go ahead and purchase the book and begin writing your 125-150 word 5 star review for Amazon only.”

There it was: “5 star review.” I was to write a five-star review about a book I knew nothing about. They didn’t actually expect me to read the books, after all. It took me less than 10 seconds to decline the offer, and to explain how I write my reviews honestly, and will not be a part of this business practice.

It’s disappointing knowing this goes on. Surely, others won’t take the same stance, because a 150-word review could take some people less than 15 minutes to write. If you get enough reviews and can bang them out quickly enough, its actually pretty decent money.

But I’m not doing it.

I am no one’s sock puppet.


  1. Good for you. Did you check the existing reviews? I’m intrigued as to whether others with lesser moral fibre actually took the money and left a glowing write-up. I do hope you reported this to Amazon so that it backfires on the publisher.

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