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Fake Reviews: Oh Joy!

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.

5 thoughts on “Fake Reviews: Oh Joy!

  1. This whole thing makes me twitchy.

    I saw a tweet the other day (by an author) suggesting that all authors who don’t pay for reviews or create sock-puppet reviews explicitly state so. Part of my was like, yeah, that’s a good idea so people know we are honest…and then the other part of me was like, WHAT? Why is the starting point author guilt?

    I’m leaning towards your policy of not reviewing other authors work (this is kinda hard because of Indie Jane, but we are beefing up our review staff), but it also makes me sad cause I can’t participate in things like reading challenges, etc.

    ANYWAY, I’m a bit rambly because this whole thing just annoys the frack out of me. And on a related note, I’m so thankful for all the readers who HAVE left thoughtful reviews on Amazon. That is all.

  2. I enjoyed your comments and I commented on Goodreads. I do now and then put in an honest (my point of view) review. I’m not a professional anything except grandma. I do think it’s ridiculous that someone would purposely sabotage another author or whatever to boost one’s sales. I used to read reviews to find reviewers whose taste was similar to mine in the basics – Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, Gaskell, etc.- and then I’d take a chance on something else they reviewed positively. Now I seldom do that. I’ve got a few blogs I read and reviewers on Goodreads that I trust. I add their recommendations to my tbr list and when an item pops up I can afford or check out I do it. Funny how things change. I’ve read hundred of books and it’s just impossible to review each and every one satisfactorily – tho’ i wish I were capable of that. Thanks for all your mind jogging information.

  3. Blame my naivety, but I had no idea how much this goes on. I was looking for some help via freelancer.com, and the sheer amount of writing jobs for fake reviews are revolting. Bleah…

  4. You and I are on the same page on this subject. I get e-mails all the time from people who say they enjoyed my book but who don’t ordinarily post reviews. I feel strange asking them to consider posting on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads. But there is so much pressure to get reviews. This month I had my books free at Amazon and filled out forms for sites that notify readers of free Kindle e-books, and two of the sites said that you must have at least ten four or five-star reviews! So I just chug along hoping that my readers will post reviews. I’m seriously thinking of having a reviewer awareness day where every author posts about the importance of reviews.

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