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

This is 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. That didn’t bother me too much. Most had read the book, and they were loyal friends, although their praise was not completely deserved. What did bother me was that, as a group, they targeted another author with a similar book. They each gave their friend’s competitor “1’s” in their reviews; thereby, lowering the competitor’s overall ranking. It was a stark lesson in how people have learned to manipulate the system.

Please read 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/

“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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4 Responses to Faux Books and Reviews??? What Do You Think?

  1. suzan says:

    I used to look by subject aeons ago in Amazon but then I started looking for the reviews of ones whose previous reviews I trusted. They have to have a similar like or dislike in not just one genre but a couple and several authors – mostly Gaskell, Brontes, Austen, Eliot, Wilde etc. When i find a great similarity then i trust their reviews and give the book a bit more weight in whether or not I want to read it. However, most of the time nowadays I read reviews on Goodreads and a couple other blogs whose writers I have come to trust and then I decide whether to purchase, swap, or check out a book. There are so many books being written and published that after awhile one doesn’t have time to flounder about but wants to just get the ones most enjoyable and not waste any time. I was saddened and astonished to read your comments above. I find the habit of sabotaging someone else repulsive and dishonest. I hope it’s not being done by authors I usually enjoy reading or it will definitely color my perception of them and discredit their motives for writing in my eyes.

    • There has been so much on this subject of late. Proof of authors paying for reviews. Proof of author groups targeting other authors. Proof of fake reviews by “friends and families” of authors. It just goes to show how broken the current system is.

  2. Monica says:

    That really is awful, I hadn’t thought of people ganging up on certain books/authors. I always read Amazon reviews with a grain (or a handful) of salt. Some of them are hilarious in their sheer stupidity. Just the other day I saw a 1-star review where the person flat-out admitted she didn’t read the book but could tell from the cover/blurb she wouldn’t like it. That happens to me all the time but I would never rate a book I hadn’t at least attempted to read. It’s sad that authors have to compete with this kind of thing. Speaking of, I just realized that 3 reviews I had previously posted to Amazon are no longer there, one being TDoGD, so I will repost that very soon!

  3. First, I have not asked for the removal of any of the reviews on Amazon so what happened to yours I cannot say. Even when the comments are SO very wrong (i.e., the person who thought my Christmas book was too religious), I do not reply. In fact, I generally do not read the comments because they hurt me. It’s like someone tells you that your baby is ugly.
    Unfortunately, there are several authors who regular lambaste others. Again, it would be wonderful to call them out on this, but the satisfaction would not be worth the overall hoopla. It would provide them more attention. Some attention is better than none syndrome.

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