A friend just recommended The 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, as a great holiday gift, so I went over to Amazon to check it out.  I must confess that while I was intrigued by the whole Four Hour Work Week concept and ensuing media blitz, I also felt there was something vaguely affiliate marketing spammy about the whole thing.  I never read the book so it could be awesome, but the initial reviews I saw on Amazon for the new one make me think I may have been right:

Over 100 Five Star reviews in less than a day?
Con: All the information isn’t exactly new or just in this book. For example, the diet is Paleo, which is fine, but not what I expected from the ads. I really hoped for something new here, and what is new sounds dubious at best…Some of the claims in the books description are a little exaggerated… I also do not like that this book has gotten so many perfect reviews so quickly, and that critical reviews are being removed.

And then there’s this one:

Review the Reviews
If you are swayed by reviews then you don’t even need to read the book. Testimonials are the best form of marketing there is. Take a second and figure out how there are over 100 reviews of 5 stars before the book was released. I know you WANT to believe there is a way to “hack” your life… and that is truly the root of your problems.

Given the fan base around the first book, I could actually see this getting a ton of great reviews on the first day, but then again Tim Ferris might want to spend four minutes reading Lifestyle Lift: Fake Reviews Will Cost You Real $.

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9 Response Comments

  • Jared  December 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Hey, Andrew.
    I’m with you on the general concept of fake reviews, as I’m getting sick of seeing them all over in Google Places.

    In Tim’s case though I do feel compelled to offer some defense. Tim distributed a large number of advance copies of Four Hour Body to influencers and past customers, of which I was one.

    I had a full two weeks to review the book before posting a review, and I found it to be well-researched and backed up by a lot of data. He DID ask those who received advance copies to post a review, but WITHOUT any incentivization.

    Is everything in there going to work for everyone who tries it? Of course not. But that can be said of almost ANY book in existence.

    Personally I found the book to be very enlightening and entertaining, and believe that the reviews out on Amazon are for the most part legit.

  • Jerry Charles  December 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Andrew, I read the first book, 4 hour work week, and it was also a bit spammy. Many of the principles surrounding PPC marketing for example were overly simplistic and unrealistic. Nevertheless, the book did get me thinking a bit differently so perhaps that was beneficial.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Jared & Jerry,

    Thanks for the comments. As I said, I have not read either book, so take everything I have said here with a bloggy grain of salt.

  • Big Help Bill  December 17, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Bloggy grain of salt taken.

    I get the review process. I worked around the book industry for a number of months. And while there may be a few reviews that were helpful, the majority of that is useless poo. Definitely a well executed marketing ploy but not actually helpful to the readers (generally speaking). To clarify, I don’t fault Ferris and team. They are taking advantage of the opportunity give them. We all should.

    That soap boxy rant aside, I love the “Review of Reviews.” It resonates with my own personal philosophy. Glad to have caught this post in the reader before I got buried in the stuff of the day.

    Peace to all, and Happy Holidays!

  • Wesco  December 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Gone are the days when we can rely entirely on reviews if we want to know more about the product that we’re checking out. Whoever did that marketing “trick” is probably new to the trade as it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Googling for reviews is much more advisable these days.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Big Help Bill,

    We don’t encourage the use words like “poo” around here. “Useless shit”, “Useless crap”, etc. are fine. 🙂

  • Jay Neely  December 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Wanted to chime in that as off-putting as the titles can be, I’ve found the 4-Hour Work Week to be a great book full of actionable information and realistic advice. I’ve just gotten started on the 4-Hour Body, but it starts by directly addressing (and recognizing the health of) peoples’ skepticism.

    I think many people react to Tim’s books as though he’s saying there are solutions to your problems that require no effort; I haven’t found anything in his writings making that claim. Some of the changes he asks people to make can actually be incredibly difficult. Books like Tim’s aren’t about avoiding effort; they’re about avoiding wasted effort, and finding out what kind of efforts yield the best results.

  • Chris Reilly  December 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    The 4 Hour Work Week is really just a great headline to a decent book. Tim Ferris may fault on the side of being sensational, but there is some real substance there. I got a lot out of the book and consider it among the better half of business/motivation books out there- similar to “e-Myth revisited”.

    I haven’t read the 4 hour workout, but Tim’s blog had some great info on diet and exercise so I imagine the book in relatively legit.

    Reading 4HWW gave me an immediate sugar high of motivation. Perhaps this book is the same. After the crash, maybe a broader spectrum of reviews will pour in.

    Anyhow, if writing catchy, Huffington-post esq. headlines to sell millions of books is wrong, I don’t think Tim wants to be right : )

  • bmg  December 21, 2010 at 3:40 am

    The lack of transparency for web reviews feels like an elephant in the room…

    …that said, I have a lot of time for Tim Ferris. His books are humerous and contain good insight, even if he glosses over the detail.

    I’d recommend the 4 Hour working week for the one or two ideas it planted.