False reviews = False advertising

I am about to stick my foot in my mouth here. I can feel it. Want to witness me go down in flames and regret my words? Gift horse – mouth – I’m looking at it. Here goes.

My book is about to drop and I am getting a little giddy. The thought of people reading and enjoying my story is nothing short of fabulous. Mixed in with these happy thoughts are worries about reviews. 

I am not so much worried that readers will leave reviews good or bad. What I am concerned about are reviews from other self-published authors who think they are doing me a favor by leaving a 5-star review on Amazon even though they haven’t read my book. I give talks on ethics as a part of my day job, and this is not ethical in my opinion. 

Before I entered into the network of indie authors I was totally oblivious to this happening. I figured when I went on Amazon and read reviews, that readers who gave 5-stars had actually read the book and enjoyed it. Sure you might have the occasional friend or family member who will give you a glowing review regardless, but I figured this would be the minority. 

That is not always the case. See my previous blog post where I spout a bit of anger at the fact that I actually paid for and read most of the way through a self-published book with over 200+ 5-star reviews which was not a 5-star book. If I had taken the time to read through the reviews I would have known. Generic glowing descriptions of how wonderful the book is, recitations of the cover blurb to make it seem genuine, and an exclamation of brilliance that even Leonardo da Vinci would have scoffed at. 

I do not want this. I do not want false reviews. I want real readers and real reviews. I have no control over what is posted on Amazon or anywhere else by anyone else, but I can make the request out loud to other self-published authors and readers alike.

Please don’t give me a good review unless you think I deserve it because you liked what you read.

8 thoughts on “False reviews = False advertising

  1. Besides people wrongly reviewing a book as 5-star whether they’ve read it or not, I was amazed to recently discover that some authors PAY people to review a book.

    An author shouldn’t have to hand out hard-earned money just to get reviews, though I do suspect the intention is to earn positive reviews.

    That’s what marketing and promotions and book tours are for — to get your book out there and get it read by people who just love reading books, and especially people who read enough of them to know what qualifies as a good book versus what a terrible one looks like.

    Turns out I had a mini rant of my own!

    Also, good luck with your book launch. 🙂

    • I really don’t understand people’s motivations sometimes. There are a lot easier ways to make $ then writing a book, so it seems silly to cheat in order to try and do so. I bet its our legal backgrounds that get us all up in arms! 🙂

      Thanks for the well wishes!

      • Hey, I bet you’re right about our legal backgrounds having an effect on our opinions. 🙂

        And you make a great point, writing isn’t going to make you tons of money (not likely, at least), so there’s no real reason in cheating. Unless for some, it’s a reputation thing–just to say they wrote a book and that people ‘like’ it?

        Not for sure like, but like something the author is giving them (money, a free book) enough to lie about it.

  2. Agree one hundred percent on the ethical basis, but practically this approach backfires anyway. If people are lured in by a bunch of false reviews, they’ll eventually even the score when the book doesn’t work for them and they’re mightily disappointed.

  3. It does seem to be part of the whole self-publishing effort these days. I am aware of at least one writer who not only has the obligatory family-and-friends 20+ 5-star reviews, but who also submitted his book for the Pulitzer (which is, after all, just a competition) and has ever-after claimed to be “Pulitzer-nominated.” Also, he told people he was on “the best seller list” at one point (failing to mention that it was not the NY Times list, but an obscure vanity press web list). His book is rife with dangling modifiers and trite dialogue, the plot staid and embarrassingly revealing of his personal psychological issues, namely his unfulfilled desire to be loved by his abusive, alcoholic father, who is no longer alive (the book is dedicated to the man as well as having the main character based on a kinder, gentler version of him). Getting Sourcebooks to publish the novel caused it to require a “second printing.” The result of that achievement was an extremely negative PW review.

    In the end, the shill reviews are problematic, but nowhere near the unethical lengths a writer might go to self-promote. As Burrowes says above, people lured in by false reviews generally will return to correct public-perception. I suspect, when there are no authentic reviews at all, that no one else read the book either.

  4. This happens? I mean, I know people pay for reviews, and get friends and family to review it, but the whole authors 5 starring each other kinda blows my mind!

    When my book came out I asked three “online” friends who also happen to have book blogs to honestly review my book for their blogs. All three also (eventually) put their reviews up on Amazon. So that’s three of my 38 amazon reviews, the rest have all been completely spontaneous from readers (as far as I know, maybe somewhere there’s someone paying people to read my book)…although it did turn out after I saw one review that I did know that reader in real life. She bought a paperback for her school library and read then reviewed it 😉

    Anyway, all this to say – a review from an actual reader saying they liked your book, or connected to a character in it, is worth more in good old-fashioned warm fuzzies than all of the fake 5 star reviews you could buy!

    (Actually, most of my favorite reviews of Awake are on goodreads and are 3-4 star reviews. Some people write REALLY thoughtful ones!)

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