Thursday, 6 September 2012
The current outrage against fake reviews...
..... and those that people pay for, which amount to the same thing - they're all fake.
This is what I think:
Yes, the whole practice is appalling, but I'm not joining in with the pitchfork waving on various blogs, or the signing of petitions, and nor shall I adopt the phrase 'sock puppet', which is already over-used.
For a start, they're few and far between, which is one of the reasons we hear about them when they're brought to light. We worry that they will undervalue the 99.9% of reviews that are genuine, but they probably won't. Don't forget, most people who have Kindles probably don't even know about all this; remember the LendInk row? Has that had any lasting effect on any of the authors involved? What's that? You've never heard of it? There you go, then.
Yes yes, it's amazing that John Locke has admitted to paying for some of his, but it's probable that his books would have sold as many without them - he had LOADS of great contacts, was one of the first to do the ebook thing, and I daresay his books are highly saleable anyway.
The people who resort to paying for reviews or writing their own fake ones are to be pitied, and educated, perhaps - how bad does your book (or, more likely, your marketing) have to be, that you can't get proper reviews for it? Posting fake ones won't do them any good in the long run; rather the opposite. If people have bought a book on the basis of its 20 five star reviews, then find it to be crap, they're more likely to feel annoyed and write a bad review. Also, they run the risk of being outed, as happened to RJ Ellory. Incidentally, he was doing well anyway - must be some kind of nut!
Eventually, the scum will rise to the surface; and it won't affect YOU, either. I think people are forgetting one thing: the reading public/Amazon customers (which includes authors, too) is/are not stupid. If a book has 10 5* reviews on the week of its publication, from people who have reviewed nothing else, (ie, from neither reviewers who received pre-publication review copies, nor loyal readers who've been looking forward to it) we KNOW some of them are likely to be fake.
Does 'fake' also run to getting all your mates to write great reviews, even if they haven't read it? - ah, here we come to a blurred line. If a friend of yours reads your book and loves it, then chooses to review it (maybe with a little prompting from you), does that make it a 'fake' review, too?
Since I've put my books out into the world, I've gained a fair few readers who read them all, recommend them to others, and write reviews of them. I've got to know some of them, which is great. Some have become online friends; lovely! Are other, already existing friends who read your book only because they know you, then write a review because a) they've loved it and b) you asked them to, really any different? I'm sure you'll agree it's a grey area!
But back to paying for reviews. Yes, it's a dreadful practice, and all I can say is more fool the writers who pay these scumbags to do such a thing, thus enabling them to earn money from idiots who should know better. As for creating fake profiles to write good reviews for yourself and bad ones for 'the competition' - well, perhaps if they spent that time working on making their own books better, they wouldn't need to.