Fake Reviews on Some of Your Favorite Book Lists…What Do You Think?

fay_bookreviews3_postFaux Books and Reviews??? What Do You Think?

Below is an excerpt from a fabulous article on a phenomenon I have witnessed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the form of “fake” reviews for books. I have a writer friend, for example, who asked a group of her “buddies” to write reviews for her latest Indie piece. Her manipulation didn’t bother me too much, although in hindsight it should have. Most had read the book, and they were loyal friends, in spite of their praise not being completely deserved. What did bother me was, as a group, they targeted another author with a book of a similar theme. They each gave their friend’s competitor “1′s” in their reviews; thereby, lowering the competitor’s overall ranking on the booklist. It was a stark lesson in how people have learned to manipulate the system.

Please read the excerpt from Laura Miller’s article on Social Media Scammers at Salon. If you want more, the complete article can be found at http://www.salon.com/2012/08/09/social_media_scamsters/

From the article…

“I can’t use Amazon to find new e-books anymore,” a friend said recently over dinner. “I used to be able to search on the subject headings, but now all that comes up is a bunch of junk.” The rest of the people around the table looked surprised. “Why would you ever search by subject?” one asked in bafflement. “But it’s true that unless I know exactly the title and author I’m looking for, Amazon is pretty useless these days.”

As someone who’s never browsed Amazon looking for new titles, I was intrigued by their remarks. I’ve written in the past about the proliferation of “spam” or plagiarized books and repurposed public-domain content in the Kindle store — the “junk” that my friend objects to. (The retailer has since vowed to crack down on such abuses.) But I never would have encountered these faux books if I hadn’t gone looking for them in search of a story. My friends’ observations reminded me that readers discover books in a wide variety of ways.

“You always have to read the reader reviews first, before you buy anything,” someone else declared. On that point, everyone agreed. They didn’t know about the companies you can hire to write positive customer reviews of your book if the volunteered ones are not forthcoming. In a recent article for the Guardian newspaper in Britain, Ewan Morrison listed these and other services in a long article arguing that the online forums once heralded as a way to circumvent old-school publishing and media coverage in getting the word out about a book are not very effective. That may be why more and more people are trying to game them, and thereby making them even less useful.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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18 Responses to Fake Reviews on Some of Your Favorite Book Lists…What Do You Think?

  1. carolcork says:

    Regina, I tend to rely on recommendations from trusted friends with whom I share the same tastes in books. I generally post my reviews only on my blog and Goodreads. I have never really trusted the reviews on Amazon to be honest thoughts on the books. So many of them don’t have any real depth… just a few lines which doesn’t really tell me anything about the story or the characters.

    • Books are so personal, I do not know how people can look to complete strangers for recommendations. Trusted friends are the best resource.
      I do not post my reviews on Amazon (because as a writer, Amazon does not accept my reading observations). Those “fake” reviews have forced Amazon to remove the reviews of ALL writers.

  2. Susan Abernethy says:

    This is really disheartening Regina. And I agree with Carol. I only post my reviews on my adjunct blog and Goodreads too. Curiously, I’ve been astonished how popular my book review blog has done as far as view and follows. Perhaps people know these are as close to genuine reviews as there can be.

    For me, the best way to find new books is to go to the bookstore and browse but sadly this method is also being taken away from us.

    • Susan, we need “honest” reviews such as those you include on your blog. It is a shame others use the “review system” created by Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc., purposely to harm another writer. The business is difficult enough as it is. I try to tweet and share other authors because I feel we are in this madness together.

  3. Those scam reviews are the worst. I don’t see how reviews like that help a writer grow professionally.. Like carolcork mentioned above, I often find that book bloggers and other writers who have similar reading interests to me provide some of the most honest reviews because they might look at the work more critically and provide more analysis of what was good about the book and what the author might done have done so well with the book.

    And having your friends and followers give other writers one-star reviews on their books is not only unprofessional but borders on cyberbullying, so I can see how it rubs you the wrong way.. I’m also sure you heard about this, which occurred this fall, but it’s a perfect example of how some authors and reviewers can totally lose it when it comes to negative reviews: http://jezebel.com/author-stalks-anonymous-blogger-who-gave-her-a-1-star-r-1648545005. There are other writers who have engaged in this behavior, I’m sure, but this writer was very open about what she did. I consider it an example of how NOT to behave as a writer.

    • I appreciate your comments. They were very insightful.
      It is very difficult not to respond to some of the negativity. I do not read many of my reviews. I pray they are honest, but I know some are not. Not every book will fits the needs of every reader. A writer simply must put out a quality product. Happy New Year!

  4. When I am looking for a book, I pay little attention to the five or one-star reviews. I figure those people have agendas. I want to know what the reasonable people in the middle have to say.

  5. juliaergane says:

    I give honest reviews because I cannot stand the claque reviews that usually follow some authors. And, yes, I sometimes do have to force myself to read certain authors in the Austenalia genre who get pats on the back from other authors. I absolutely abhor books that are plagiarized, yet this is common. In addition, the fact that most of the books are self-published leads to a great deal of laxity in editing, spelling, grammar, etc. Some of the writing is truly awful, barely at a high school level. I also do not like the trend toward simplistic single plot line short stories being sold for the same price that a full novel can command on e-format. Some of these can definitely be expanded and made into full novels with care and diligence. I think that is enough of a rant for now; but, as a long-time reader and beginning editor I think it needed to be said.

    • You express many complaints of readers, Julia. I appreciate your “rants.”
      “Plagiarism” has become more prominent of late. It is a shame people think they can rip off others’ works. (However, such practices are learned in school. I fought the plagiarism battle many times in my 40 years of teaching.)
      We all can use a good editor. I spent many years editing others’ works, but it is more difficult to edit my own pieces. A person’s mind reads what he/she thinks is on the page. Yet, that does not mean authors should not strive for some degree of professionalism.

  6. Suzi Love says:

    Regina, like you, I hate seeing false reviews posted, though it seems to be the latest trend. And I’ve also had the ‘1 star mark the opposition down’ thing, and I feel sad that people have become so unethical. Whatever happened to honesty?

  7. I’ glad that my review are honest. I’ve been approached by a few groups that will pay for a review. I’ve said no. I read when I want to, and write the review as I wish. Reviews in my opinion are what I feel about the book and what I want to share. Hey, if it doesn’t suit others, well, that’s life. Thanks for your blog. I enjoyed it! I belong to a few street teams and even that makes some type of commitement. If I fall out of love with an author, I ask to be removed.

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