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.