Monday, November 29, 2010

Fake Book Reviews

Most authors have probably now read the article related to fake book reviews on Amazon. If not, the link is:
As written you would assume this is something new, but those in the book industry have seen this going on for years. And it isn't the only problem facing authors and readers.

There's also fake promotion. I see this on forums as well where restrictions apply to self-promotion. Authors gang up to "you promote me, I'll promote you". I don't truly have a problem with that if the author doing the promotion has actually read the book and really likes it, but a trade off on promotion where the book hasn't been read looks bad on both authors. Especially if readers of your work buy that book based on your promotion and hate it, find it full of typos, formatting errors and basically a book just not yet ready for publication. What does that make the readers think of you?

I, as an author, and as a reader despise fake book reviews and fake promotion. Amazon's policy on reviews actually prohibits authors from reviewing each other's work, and I can live with that. If I've read a really good book and I want to review it then I do that on my blog site. I also try to provide an author interview at the same time, giving my readers a glimpse of the author as well as their work. And I never review or plug a book I haven't read myself, nor do I do 1 or 2 star reviews. Truthfully, if a book deserves 1 star or even 2 stars--I can assure you I didn't finish reading it. And if I didn't finish reading it, then I have no right to offer a review.

Fake tags are another problem occurring in the book industry. Readers searching for a Stephen King book may pull up several others also tagged as Stephen King. Believing the book is similar to Mr. King's work they may even buy the book, only to be extremely disappointed. Authors and readers add tags to books to help readers find a particular type of book. My tags for my book were simple: Mystery, murder mystery, kindle, kindle author, psychological suspense, thriller, 99 cents - etcetera. Other tags were added by other people that have absolutely NOTHING to do with my book. Are they bad tags, no, they're not bad tags, they just don't apply to my book and I HAVE NO WAY TO REMOVE THEM. Which is something readers really need to know--Authors on Amazon cannot remove reviews or tags placed on their books by anyone visiting their book site. We can email customer service and ask that it be removed, but we have no control over whether Amazon will remove it.

Tags, book reviews and promotional sites were put in place to help authors and readers find the types of books they would enjoy reading. The abuse and misuse of these areas creates a black mark on the industry, especially when publishers and/or authors become part of the abuse.

So what can we do to stop this:
1) Check reviewers and/or reviews. If you click on the reviewer it will take you to their profile showing how many reviews they've done and on what type of books. I personally don't trust a reviewer if they have only reviewed one book ever, or if their review is out of their genre. Except friends and family, which we naturally assume are somewhat prejudiced, but still may be true. Example: If a fiction writer suddenly reviews a non-fiction book, and yet has never reviewed a non-fiction book before--their review, at least to me, is highly suspicious. Technical writers reviewing ONE fiction book is also highly suspicious to me. Reviewers, like authors, have specific genres they read. When a reviewer steps outside of their genre to give a glowing review or bad review, that to me is suspicious.

Are reviews important? Yes, they are. Or at least they were. With the information leaking about "paid" reviews and "fake reviews" they are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their importance to authors and readers looking for a good book.

Are tags important? Yes, they are to help the reader find a specific type of book. But without some control by the author, and without honesty by the authors, searches for a particular genre or types of books are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their benefit to readers.

Now that publishing has been literally made available to anyone with computer savvy that can format an acceptable document for Amazon and Smash Words, or other upload sites, the competition in the book market has become vicious. More previously traditionally published authors are crossing the line and going Indie. I myself crossed that line for personal reasons. Still, authors and publishers, traditional and Indie have a responsibility to their readers to put out a good product, and to promote it fairly and honestly. A good book will stand the test of time. And honest promotion will build an author's readership one book sale at a time. Whereas, poorly formatted, horribly edited work will make the "word of mouth" rounds.

My final words--if you're reader and you've truly enjoyed a book do your best to give an honest review on any site you feel comfortable with. Your personal blog site is a good site. If you read a review that you don't believe is appropriate there is a "vote down" button, or disagree button. Of course, those are misused also. Unfortunately. If you see a tag that you believe is not appropriate (my own book has a tag of "animal abuse" - excuse me??) then you can also vote it down and that keeps the book from showing up on those searches. If you come across a review that you believe is a "fake review" report it to Amazon or the review site so that they can investigate. Hopefully they will, and if they find it was posted against their posting rules, once again, hopefully they will remove it and ban that particular account from reviewing.

If authors and readers work together we can bring creditability back to reviews, tags and promotions. Working together we can restore public trust in written reviews and tag searches.


  1. As a reader, I have seldom let reviews influence my purchase or reading (or not) of a book, as I have always assumed the good reviews are overrating the book, and the bad reviews are underrating the book. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, and mostly likely theirs will be different than my likes and dislikes, so I'd rather make my own assessment of a book.

    Ditto for tags on Amazon. I don't let them influence my purchase of a book. What I may see (after reading the book) as juvenile fiction, may be seen as simply an uncomplicated plot by someone else.

    Readers and authors both need to be aware of fake reviews and blatant self-promotion practices. Fake reviews harm everyone by making the publishing world appear to be populated with prevaricators. Self-promotion is necessary to any business enterprise, but when it becomes obnoxious, most people will tune it out and avoid (consciously or unconsciously) the product.

    This policy of fake reviews, etc., is probably not going to change anytime soon, but hopefully readers will think the next time they read a review that it might not be as accurate as it seems.

  2. Excellent advice, Middlekens. I don't purchase books based on reviews or tags either, and blantant self-promotion usually gets the promoter deleted or hidden.