Times have certainly changed. In the past there was no self-promotion. Writers spent their lives writing, some were recognised, some excellent authors faded away, hardly known.
Recently, I read a short review of a book [I am not sharing its name or that of the reviewer], that said something to the effect that it was written by undoubtedly the best writer of the 21st century–a brilliant new voice. How is it I had never heard of this book or author? I downloaded a sample. In the very first paragraph there were grammatical errors. Proceeding further, the story meandered in a meaningless way. Unable to continue I deleted the sample. The author was self-published and had paid a new small publisher, first for publishing it, and then for promoting the book.
I am not against self-publishing, in fact I believe it is the best way for an author to retain control over her work. But I am against fake reviews that people are paid to write. I have received several offers myself, Rs 4000 for four good reviews of your latest book, etc. , which of course I would never take up. If the book is good, or if it is controversial, people will review it themselves, without any encouragement or inducement.
Then there are those reviewers who are not paid, but rush to write critical reviews online, of books they have hardly understood–reviews that are again full of errors.
In today’s world, it is okay to advertise, perhaps it is essential, but shouldn’t a reviewer be honest, whether paid or unpaid? And shouldn’t they at least have basic writing skills, and some background knowledge?