The creation of fake customer reviews. Is anyone really surprised that this happens?
Today, the book world is all in a tizzy because some big name authors–both traditionally published (RJ Ellory) and indie (John Locke)–have either composed glowing reviews for themselves and negative reviews for their competitors or paid to have glowing reviews written for their books. (Among other authors, btw. Those aren’t the only two.)
The fact that authors would do this tells me two things:
1. Reviews are crucial, especially at Amazon. (Real reviews, that is, not fake ones.)
2. Some authors see reviews as a marketing tool, and not as, well, actual customer reviews.
There are a lot of ethical grey areas in book reviews. Who do you ask? Who do you not ask? Do you send free copies to reviewers in exchange for honest reviews? Do you ban your friends from writing reviews of your books?
When authors and publishers send out advanced reader copies, they do choose reviewers who are likely to give a favorable opinion. That makes sense. I wouldn’t send my thrillers to a reviewer who loves clean romance and only clean romance, expecting them to love my books. But giving them a book in exchange for a glowing review is wrong.
This is why reviewers and book bloggers should always clearly state their review policy on their blogs and use an FTC disclaimer on every review for which they received a free copy. Protect yourself and your reviews!
And here are my personal, self-imposed rules for reviewers and reviewing:
- I ask family members not to review my books. It just looks funny. This applies even if you cleverly disguise your identity because, as seen in the articles above, that obviously doesn’t work so well.
- When sending ARCs for review, I always state plainly that I am looking for an honest review.
- I don’t review books. Ever. Even if I am fair and honest in my review of another author’s work, what if they also review my work? That can give the appearance of a quid pro quo situation; I give you a good review, and you give me one. Or it can devolve into a tit-for-tat style retribution situation. I want to avoid that altogether. (Plus, reviewing is not my area of interest.) I will, however, promote my author friends on this blog.
As a writer, I understand the pressure to garner good reviews. We write because we want people to read and enjoy our books, but once the book is published, it is up to readers to weigh in. We did our part already. If we have written a good book and put it through a thorough editorial process, the reviews will come.