The Beautiful Scam of Bogus Book Reviews

I've been digging up the articles and columns I wrote for an e-magazine and in the process of publishing them here on my blog. To my dismay, I found out that not only was my work plagiarized, others have taken credit. This reminds me of a situation I found myself over a decade or so ago when people discussed the "Audrey Hepburn poem."

For over 20 years or more, Audrey Hepburn was credited with writing a poem, Beauty Tips. Well, I went ballistic because I knew my cousin, Sam Levenson, wrote the poem. Very few people today remember Sam. He was an intellectual humorist. Considering I was brought up in the same family with the same sense of humor, well, hell-o, you should really read my books!

Singlehandedly, I educated the internet community and the rest is history. For your edification, here's the poem:

Audrey Hepburn's Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived,  reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the  figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!
Sam Levenson 
Posted October 1999
Contrary to what some may think, Audrey Hepburn did not write this beautiful poem, Sam Levenson did. Levenson wrote "Time Tested Beauty Tips" for his grandchild, and it just so happened to be one of Audrey's favorite poems. She read it to her children on the very last Christmas Eve she spent with us here on Earth.

Now, for your delight, I take on the recent sport of phony book reviews published 9/11/12:

The Taxidermied Rodent Speaketh -

The Beautiful Scam of Bogus Book Reviews

by Maura Stone

In my former career on Wall Street as an analyst, I spotted emerging trends way before it came into the collective consciousness. It was a damn good living being a few steps ahead of the curve pointing out which companies will hit and which will fail. I made my mark big-time early in 1999 when I brazenly cut lines to Enron stating, “It’s all smoke and mirrors!” Even though I’m no longer on the Street, I called it months ago: bogus book reviews posted on

While I’m patting myself on the back for not losing my edge, it’s satisfying to read the current brouhaha even among best-selling writers. Sooner or later I knew this would come to light: the scams were overtly, blatantly perpetrated over the web!

The truth of the matter is that people want a hands-down terrific read and rely on 5-star reviews. Instead, they’re getting a hands-down promotion of crap. True reviews range all over the place because not everyone’s satisfied. Put two people in a room and you’ll get three opinions. Chronic, consistent excellent, raving reviews should be a tell that something’s skewed. As a former analyst, I knew something was rotten which, luckily, didn’t require number-crunching for once.

Meanwhile, wouldn’t publish reviews from people who purchased my books. I bitched in several irate phone calls, “Fans have contacted me complaining none of their reviews are posted. Yet, you publish fake reviews for other books from people who haven’t even bought them!” Hell, I blogged about these scams several times.

Stupidly, I didn’t retaliate and post bogus reviews. Call me a dinosaur, call me a shnook. It boils down to my firm belief that cream rises to the top. Then again, shit floats. So let me state right here: not one of the 13 reviews on, 6 reviews on barnes and nobles and 14 reviews on for my novel is phony. While commendable, it’s not precisely a solid marketing strategy that’s garnering sales galore.

Which is the point of bogus reviews. This glut is a dismal state of affairs for readers and authors alike. The common plaint, “I paid for this shit? My dog could write better!” discourages readers from seeking new authors who have yet to hit mainstream. Because how can they trust the reviews? The old adage ‘fool me once’ became the cardinal rule.

Meanwhile, crap is extolled and authors like me are head-banging repeatedly against our keyboards, going broke, losing hope. I keep asking myself, “Why do I bother?” Like a demented Flaubert, I anguish over words, sentences, plot, sub-plots and character development. Then, I see a 64-page ebook with one run-on sentence, 135 5-star bullshit reviews and THAT gets the sales! Don’t get me started on 50 Shades of Dismal Boring Ill-Written Crap!

The bottom line for authors: if you want to get sales outside of critical acclaim and awards so that only 200 PhDs in Literature will extol your creativity and brilliance, you gotta promote and market with bogus 5-star reviews. For readers: pretty soon will be cluttered with 5-star reviews for every single book and then no one will ever be able to differentiate shit from shinola.

I once said to a friend in passing, “I’ll get a million sales, but it’ll be one by one.” It was meant to be a joke, but now I see it’s true.

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This blog and all its posts are a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

1 comment:

RozWarren said...

"I'll get a million sales, but it will be one by one." I'm traveling that road too. Thanks for a great post, and for giving your cousin the credit he deserves.