Raves For Sale

Primary sources exposed and explained.
Jan. 19 2007 3:43 PM

Raves For Sale

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Vanity presses for amateur writers who want to see their manuscripts in print were once limited to a small group of publishers. The service, now called "books-on-demand" or "print-on-demand," has proliferated in the digital era.  Amazon.com's recently acquired print-on-demand division,  BookSurge.com, offers several tiers of publishing programs with menus of services starting at $99.

The most interesting add-on BookSurge offers is, for $399, a personally crafted review written by "New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh." (Ellen Tanner Marsh's bodice-rippers Reap the Savage Windand  Wrap Me in Splendor graced the New York Times trade- paperback bestseller list in 1982 and 1983.) Not surprisingly, many BookSurge titles boast enthusiastic reviews by Marsh. "For anyone seeking a health program that really works ... a motivating and significant book," Marsh gushed about The Beer Drinkers [sic] "Diet"."We are drawn into this seaboard existence, seeing the stars pronging the sails at night, the flying fish that land on deck, and even the birds that fly, unaware, into the mast," Marsh cooed over The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin. Some of these paid-for raves turn up on Amazon. "This well-organized, fun and fact-crammed guide will make any parent a hero … exploring and enjoying all that Long Island has to offer," Marsh enthused about  Be the Coolest Parent on Your Block: Your Guide to Long Island and the Internet For Families

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Below is a sample Marsh review that self-publishing author Bruce F. Bowman purchased for his book, Exposed: Turn Up the Heat. Unlike most book reviewers, Marsh is receptive to input from authors. If you click onto the next page, you'll see an e-mail that BookSurge LLC's editorial services coordinator, Thomas Kephart, wrote Bowman regarding his "New York Times Review." Quoth Kephart: "Ms. Marsh agreed that your suggestions were more descriptive, therefore she used your wording to make the changes you desired." Kephart's e-mail makes that other New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, seem, in comparison, downright stuck-up.

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