The French writer Marcel Proust paid for glowing reviews of the first volume of his Remembrance of Things Past to be put into newspapers, letters by the author reveal.
The novelist wrote the notices himself and sent them to be typed up by his publisher “so there is no trace of my handwriting” to distance himself “absolutely from the money that will change hands”.
It’s not that rare. Many authors did this, back in the day: Walt Whitman wrote reviews of his own works, Victor Hugo planned a huge publicity campaign for Les Misérables. The first volume of Proust’s novel was self-published, and he did what he could to get it noticed.
I would bet that if someone were to look back at the same newspapers around the same time, there would be plenty of “paid” reviews in them.
No matter, it remains one of the masterpieces of literature, and all he did was jump-start its appreciation.