I recently read an article about an amazon best selling author who admitted to buying the bulk of his 5 star reviews in a deliberate attempt to fiddle the figures so he could get onto the best seller list. I then read an article about a guy who admitted to running a website offering to write 5 star reviews for payment and how he made an absolute fortune from doing it.
My initial reactions are two fold. First and foremost I’m not at all surprised that this has finally come out into the open for I firmly believe that this has been going on ever since online publishing/selling has been going on. Maybe not in such an overtly commercial way but I would be willing to bet that at least 7 out of every 10 self published authors have ‘persuaded’ or ‘cajoled’ or just plain ‘begged’ their families and friends to write a gushing review for them. I have always been amazed by the vehemence with which authors deny this goes on and similarly, by the lack of discussion or debate on this subject.
Secondly I’m disappointed, of course. As indie authors we have enough stigma to deal with without this shit adding to our already less than perfect public image. It also means that no one will ever be able to take a review seriously any more for we will all be wondering “is it a real one or a fake?” and we’ll undoubtedly assume that gushing 5 star reviews are automatically fakes from now on. It also means that those who write reviews genuinely (are there such folks?) will be less inclined to give 5 stars in case people think they’re fake.
In reality, it won’t make that much difference to me as I’ve found that people are very unwilling to write reviews at all and although hundreds of my novels have been downloaded, I’ve only received 4 or 5 reviews in total. This is another thing that proves to me the the vast majority of reviews are fakes; people just don’t write reviews. They can’t be arsed. They want your free book and don’t want to give anything in return. Yes I know readers are our customers but hey, they got my books for free y’know..!
I guess it’s all down to human nature at the end of the day. People are selfish creatures; we want something for nothing and we don’t want to be bothered giving anything in return. I used to be a bus driver and I found that passengers were very quick to complain when something was wrong but when everything was as it should be, they never said a word. This used to amaze and disappoint me and in a way it still does but I’ve become a little more resigned to it now.
So where do these two revelations of review fixing leave us? What is our next step? Well, it will still continue of course and possibly even increase now that these two articles have been published to give hundreds of people the idea they never would’ve had before.
Maybe I’m in the wrong trade and I should turn my hand to review writing…!