Monday, October 22, 2012

Reviewer Commits Fraud?

I read a fascinating blog the other day from a group calling themselves the Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society. For those of you who don’t know, Klausner has been a prolific reviewer on amazon for a number of years. In fact, she reviewed my first book, Taxed to Death, quite some time ago. She also happily accepted a copy of Fatal Encryption, although I don’t believe a review was ever posted, although I’m not sure because I don’t follow up to see who’s reviewed my books. For some time, I’ve heard negative comments about Klausner, and frankly, I’ve been ambivalent on the issue, however the group’s recent blog “She Works Hard for the Money” convinced me that the negative comments have merit.

According to the blog, Klausner has over 28,000 reviews to date. By any standard, it would be impossible for her to have read and properly reviewed that many books alone. At issue here, though, is not the reviews, but what she’s been doing with all of those free books she’s received over the years.

The bloggers did some detective work, piecing together bits of personal information Klausner has revealed on various sites, and discovered that her son has been selling the books on various sites. In fact, he’s sold so many that he has accumulated 7,500 comments through just one venue alone. Also, a significant percentage of the sold books were actually available for sale before the publisher’s release date, which means the Klausner family has been selling advanced review copies. Worse, in the reviews Harriet does post, she never states that she received a free copy for review, which is apparently a violation of the Federal Trade Commission guidelines regarding disclosure. That she inevitably posts only positive reviews means she’s endorsing the product in exchange for a free book. Again, this is not what real reviewers do.

I have no idea how much money Klausner’s made from the sale of all those books, but it appears that by using her son’s name and email address, she’s been less than forthcoming about her activities. By the way, the bloggers bought a couple of books from these sites and the address is the same as Klausner’s. It makes you wonder about her true motive for posting all those reviews, also posted on other sites, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what Amazon would, or should, do with this information.

I suspect that Harriet Klausner isn’t the only reviewer who acquires free books then sells them on other sites. And I’m quite sure she’s only one of many reviewers who don’t disclose the free copies received in exchange for a review. In fact, I’m sure many reviewers are unaware of the FTC guidelines to begin with. The point is, this type of activity gives readers good reason to question the legitimacy of reviews. I’m also sure it makes authors wonder if reviewers are profiting from their books in less than forthcoming ways.

To read the blog, which goes into detail about how the detective work was done, go to

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