Writers, Beware Randos Bearing Reviews
Hello! Today, we’re going to talk about book reviews and ratings, and how not to get them. You’ll have to ask someone else how to get them, because I honestly have no idea. Anyway, here we go.
Maybe you’re a debut author just getting their ankles wet in the publishing industry pool for the first time. Maybe you’ve recently learned that reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads are critically important to the success of your project. Maybe you’ve been politely reminding your friends and fans of this little factoid every so often on social media, yet still the numbers aren’t moving. Maybe you’re starting to freak out a little bit and wonder if this is how it all ends as you imagine the sounds of doors slamming shut all around you…
Or maybe I’m just projecting. But, even if I am, once your first book is out there in the wild, you’re going to draw the attention of more than just new fans. There’s a whole cottage industry out there that tries to prey on the desperation and naiveté of writers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the publishing world. This happens at every stage of a writer’s development. Vanity presses offering to print your book for the low price of $10 a copy. Unscrupulous ‘agents’ charging far above the standard 15-20% commission. Whole publishing houses holding onto rights they aren’t using. The number of scams have filled entire blogs.
Relatively new to the scene are ‘services’ offering to help authors address the modern problem of internet reviews and ratings, in exchange for cash. Recently, I was sent my first such offer as a comment posted right here on my website. It appears here in full. I was going to xxxx out the names and addresses, but decided, fuck them:
I saw your ebook on Amazon. From the synopsis it looks like a high quality ebook. If you are looking for some real promotion and exposure for your book, I have a few offers for you. My book promotion packages are extremely affordable and can be customized to your book. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. )
You can also contact me through my website:
Some of the ways I can help you are (ANY one of the following services you purchase will cost you 10 USD, discounts are available if you purchase more than one service at a time):
a) I can post 1 honest, detailed, insightful and helpful review on your book. This review will highlight all the positive aspects of your book and enlighten your future readers regarding the real essence and worth of your book. The book review is written by an avid book reader and Native English speaker so you can be assured of quality.
b) I can promote your book on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You get 100% targeted traffic from book readers located in English speaking countries
c) I can promote your book on 10 high quality websites EXCLUSIVELY devoted to promoting free kindle books – on Kindle free days. I can also promote your book if it is on Kindle countdown promotion (please note that it is up to each site’s owner to decide whether to list your book or not. If your book listing is approved, it will be shown ONLY during the promotion period).
d) I offer a review ‘up-voting’ and ‘down-voting’ service. For existing reviews on Amazon, you can ask for a maximum of 30 up-votes or 30 down-votes, or a combination of up-votes and down-votes which doesn’t exceed 30. This is quite helpful if there are some positive reviews you want to be up-voted, or some negative reviews you want to be down-voted.
e) I can add 30 likes to your positive reviews on Goodreads. All likes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.
f) I can add your book to 35 – 40 popular listopia lists by voting for them. All votes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.
g) Do you have a free ebook in PDF format you want to share with the world? I can distribute your free PDF to 15 TOP QUALITY websites. These websites rank high in search engines and are considered to be authority sites for PDF sharing.
h) My BESTSELLER SO FAR: I will rate your book with as many stars you want on Goodreads, post 1 honest review, mark your book as ‘read’, become your fan and add your book to the listopia list of your choice.
Email me at email@example.com if you are interested. (SERIOUS buyers only, please. I am too busy to respond to tire kickers)
In addition, I can also create professional author trailers as well as video testimonial for your book. I can also write book blurbs, back cover matter etc., for your book or add an extra PUNCH to your existing blurb to make it more exciting.
I also offer beta reading, proofreading and writing services. Contact me for details.
Well, isn’t that all mighty generous of them? None of this is illegal, of course, it’s just exchanging a little money to get those handful of reviews your book needs to get over the hump. Invest in yourself. Gotta spend money to make money, right?
Wrong. Believe me, I understand how difficult and frustrating book promotion can be. However, whatever you do, DON’T FUCKING BUY REVIEWS! There are few greater sins in the industry. Careers have been destroyed by review-buying scandals. Reputations have been damaged by the mere accusation of review-buying. Outside of, IDK, fucking your editor’s spouse, there is no faster way to get unceremoniously black-balled from the industry than to get caught engaging in this unethical behavior.
And the odds that you will be caught are higher than ever. Amazon and Goodreads (which is now owned by AMZ, by the way) are taking great steps to identify bogus, or even biased reviews and ratings. Among other methods, advanced algorithms are being used to scour social media platforms and identify suspicious links between authors and their reviewers.
There was a brief time when my debut was up to around eighteen or twenty reviews, all five stars. Most debut authors would be thrilled with a perfect rating, but at the time, I tweeted ‘How many perfect 5 Star reviews before someone accuses you of buying them? Asking for a friend.’
I was only half kidding. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when the first four star came in and broke the streak. If you need any more proof of how seriously fake reviews are being taken, Goodreads actually contacted me directly via twitter about the above letter, offering to investigate it:
@stealthygeek Feel free to send that email to us at support at goodreads dot com if you’d like us to look into it.
— goodreads (@goodreads) January 12, 2016
I’ll be forwarding it to them shortly. Don’t fall for these scams. Don’t throw your own reputation in the mud just because things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like. One slip-up could mean the end of your career.
And for God’s sake, read and review my book.