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.


  1. Hi Terry, you alerted me to this article - I'm not particularly suprised this goes on -i corruption is everywhere. From an information search perspective, I think there's evidence to suggest that in the absence of high brand visibility through advertising - akin to big publishers like I've published through, advocacy from known contacts and experts will be preferred to listening to other readers. I think we're in an industry more like the restaurantbvbusiness than we care to admit, with an idea that the customer is an expert in what they like, not necessarily what's good.

  2. Terry, glad you've brought this up in your blog. I think it's pretty crappy to put fake reviews up and even worse to put a fake identity and bash your competitors. Baffling since he was already successful. I guess when you're a piece of crap you're true colors will show regardless of your success.

    I think the majority of people are honest and if they write a good review they really mean it. I do agree with your assessment if you get false positive reviews those who buy your book and are peeved will respond with a negative review. You may have suckered him into buying your book, but he's gonna prevent you from doing it again.

  3. Ah, Charles - yes, you've highlighted a good one there. More relevant to something I was reading on Scott Bury's blog yesterday, about "if everyone says it's crap why does it still sell". Far too complex for me to get into on a blog comment reply (and, more to the point, pre-coffee) but yes, I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    Karen - I'm sure it won't die out, but I'm equally sure that more and more writers who are tempted by this sort of thing will think, um, perhaps not. On the other hand, some DIRE rubbish is being posted on Amazon now (WHY don't they have some sort of quality control?), really bad, and these are the people who will be paying for reviews, thus keeping the charlatans in business! Which they will stay (in business, I mean; where's that coffee?) while people are still desperate enough to use them.

  4. You know what? You are right. Rubbish fake reviews will 'out'. It's always suspicious when a writer has 120 5 Star reviews and maybe 3 naff ones. And it's the quality of the review - you can always tell a fake. I look for a thorough discussion of the plot, the effectiveness of the characters, a bit on the style, why the person liked it etc. One of my best recent reviews (I've only got 3) was from a writer who I happen to know, but her review focused upon a shared experience to my character, and looked at how what she went through was similar. It moved me to tears, reading it. The best reviews can give us an insight into the reviewer. I like it when that happens.

  5. Me too, Carol - couldn't agree more. Um, I've got 35 5* reviews on one of my books, 20-odd on another - I hope you don't think they're fake, because they're not!!! You must remember that some people find reviewing hard - which is why, if someone's told me they've enjoyed a book of mine and I've asked them if they'd be so kind as to put a review on Amazon for me, I always say, just a couple of lines to say you enjoyed it is fine - which it is.

    Re what I said at the beginning - another worry is that people will begin to assume that just because a book has many very good reviews, that they're fake... as I said in the blog post, fake ones are actually few and far between. Shit, this is getting ridiculous - my new book has only been out for 5 days and it's got 3 really good ones already, with at least one more on the way (because a couple of people have told me on Twitter that they've loved it, and because I sent out a couple of review copies which have been read and enjoyed already) - does this mean people will think that the reviewers are just me with fake profiles???? Should I ask people only to give me 3 & 4 stars, in case people think they're fake???


  6. Hi Terry, I had no idea such things were being done or I would have already did it, no wait, uh edit that part out ok :)) Someone once paid you a great compliment, in my opinion, and said you were a bit ranty, well that is what I like and why I enjoy reading you.Bill

  7. Thanks, Bill! I just think a lot of rubbish is talked, sometimes, and too many bandwagons are jumped on. I wonder who said I was a bit ranty???

    My point exactly - the online independent author community sometimes forgets that it's a relatively small group of people - those who aren't very involved with it all the time (ie 99.99% of the reading public) don't even know this stuff is occurring. Yer gorra geddit inta perspective, like :)

  8. Hi Terry

    I am totally against buying reviews and buying followers on Twitter, it smacks of cheating in my books and cheating is something I would never do. I pride myself on my honesty and integrity! Time to weed out the cheats!

    Sarah R Weldon

  9. I think that if I looked up a book on Amazon and it had loads of five star reviews and nothing else then I'd be suspicious. After all it is impossible to write something that everyone likes. Even best sellers get poor reviews from some people because we are all different. I quite agree; these people are to be pitied. Interesting blog Terry. Thanks.

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