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Seriously? Rotten Reviews…

2 October 2014

From The Atlantic:

Fake Reviews: Amazon’s Rotten Core

The web has created some fantastic opportunities for authors, publishers and self-publishers alike, but this summer has seen the industry’s dark underbelly revealed in all its venal, pustulant ignominy. Things kicked off in July at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival where successful author Stephen Leather confessed, during an on-stage panel discussion, that he used fake accounts to promote his own books. This admission of sockpuppetry shocked the writing community and has been covered well byfellow panellistSteve Mosby.

UPDATED 29 August (see below for details).

Leather admitted to creating accounts on forums under assumed names in order to “create a buzz” about his own work. He also promotes and reviews his work using at least one pseudonymous Twitter account. In Leather’s own words, transcribed from a recording of the panel:

I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself. And then I’ve got enough fans…

Although Amazon gets the headline, in the article the fake reviews cross all publishing platforms. Read here.

Julia Barrett

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, Reviews

69 Comments to “Seriously? Rotten Reviews…”

  1. The Stephen Leather sock-puppet fiasco? Um, isn’t that like, two years old? Or did he actually admit to doing it AGAIN, after being made a global pariah on the publishing interwebz the first time around?

    • The gal who plagiarized Rachel Nunes did the same sock-puppetty thing to harass Rachel with BAD reviews. (Maybe she gave herself good ones for her ripped off offerings, but dunno).

      I saw a FB update in a group for a novel’s 5-star review. When I checked it out, the sample of the writing was…er..bad. I investigated a couple of the “reviewers.” Suspect. Two of them had dozens of reviews posted in batches (some days had a lot of reviews for books). It’s hard to believe someone with a full time job (winemaker) had time to read 23 books in one week and 34 in another in all sorts of genres and just LOVE all of them.


      Another reviewer had the same suspect pattern. The vague glowing reviews uploaded in batches with too many in a short period of time to be credible.

      That pisses me off a lot.

      It only took a few more minutes to see some other hinky stuff going on.

      I wish Amazon had a better system to report scam-seeming reviewers.

    • “Um, isn’t that like, two years old?”

      I had exactly the same reaction as you did.

  2. 8/28/2012. Two years old.

  3. The thing I find so odd about this is Leather has written quite a few books. Granted it’s unethical no matter how many you’ve written but it almost seems worse when it’s from someone who’s been around and should know better. With his back catalog, if he’s not making decent money then maybe he needs to take a look at alternative publishing methods. 🙂 Or maybe he’s just greedy……

    I’ve never read any of his books, are they any good?

    • I read The Vets and several other of Stephen Leather’s earlier books which I enjoyed. I most recently read Nightfall, which is the start of a supernatural series. I found it well-written and enjoyed it as well, but I didn’t pursue the series as I’m not a big fan of the supernatural.

      Now. Before everyone jumps all over me for even daring to suggest that any author who resorts to questionable marketing techniques might actually be a good writer, let me stress that I’m merely answering Robin’s question. I don’t pretend to know what Mr. Leather’s motivations were as for as engaging in those practices, but I do think it was probably unnecessary as his work (in my opinion) has more than sufficient merit to stand alone.

      As a personal observation, everyone screws up now and again, and this seems like old news. I’m sure he probably regrets his actions, so now two years on, maybe we should all give it a rest. (See Jesus and that thing about throwing stones.)

  4. Good TBT post, and still topical.

  5. The flavor has been chewed out of the review gum. Reviews are like freebies/free days–they don’t work like they used to. Abuse will kill off almost everything.

    • Agree.

      Unless the review has the “Verified Purchase” icon (or something similar)I tend to give it half-weight.

      • I also RTFR. Two-sentence reviews don’t cut it. Heck, even a paragraph. Not even the reviewer’s reputation will cut it.

        It takes an in-depth argument, quoting from the book, before I’ll consider it. And since what might bother you might not bother me, a bad review might not sway me. At the very least, I’ll download the sample and see for myself.

  6. I love when the people who do this sort of thing claim both that “everyone does it” and that you can’t have your work discovered if you AREN’T doing it.

    Baloney. Just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Books take off organically through reader response and real reviews. This is just a cheater trying to justify his actions.

  7. So you’re saying that I shouldn’t create an account called “Not the real Meryl Yourish” and post something like, “Dude! These books are AWESOME!11!!1”?


  8. Yes, it’s old, but it never hurts to be reminded. I think ultimately this sort of thing comes back to bite you. Much better to play fair and guard your reputation. It’s irreplaceable.

  9. About the title: I wonder if “Amazon” is being used generically for on-line purchasing, the way Kleenex, Xerox, thermos and other brand names became (or in the case of Xerox, almost became) generic.

    My son, age 9, was wondering what to do with a small savings, and told me he thinks he’ll “order something from Amazon.”

    Okay, I know there’s some Amazon bashing here, but it also could be that “Amazon” is rising to the level of a generic label.

    • Where does he purchase things online? Is it common for people to say, “Oh, I’ll grab it off Amazon,” but then buy it from New Egg? In my experience Amazon is Amazon. If you say you’re going to buy it there, then that’s where you buy it. Likely because you’ve paid for Prime and want to feel as though you’re getting your money’s worth. Though a 9 year old does not have Prime most likely.

      So is he saying Amazon but buying somewhere else?

      • Well he is only 9. I was giving the example that it may becoming common for consumers to think if amazon as a generic. That tends to happen with the most successful brands

      • He’s only 9 so be doesn’t buy anything himself. I was just using the example that when brands become highly successful they tend to be used by consumers in the generic sense. He obviously heard “order it from amazon.” For lots of consumers I’m sure amazon is the go-to or even only place to order

        Double post. I didn’t think the first worked sorry.

        • I get what you’re saying except Amazon isn’t a brand. You don’t buy an Amazon television or an Amazon mp3. You can get a phone but idk who would want it. 😉

          Amazon is a company and its branding is that you can get almost anything you need at a competitive price and free shipping (with Prime).

          You say, “I need some Kleenex” and then you just go buy tissue at the store. You don’t say, “I need an Amazon”, but then go to Walmart. You’re using Amazon specifically to take advantage of prices and services that you don’t get other places, so no I don’t think it’s become a generic brand because no one says, “I’ll get it on Amazon”, but then goes to Walmart instead.

    • Google it. Amazon it.

      Works for me.

      BTW, back in the 80s I remember a major brand (Kleenex?) placing a PSA in a writing magazine asking authors to refrain from using Kleenex as a generic descriptor for facial tissue.


    • “…it also could be that “Amazon” is rising to the level of a generic label.”

      Well, that’s sure to send the AU signers (and others) into a tizzy! 🙂

      • This is unlikely, Google just survived an attack on it’s brand by it’s competitors claiming that “to google something” now just meant to do a web search for it and the resulting decsision outlines a fairly high bar for someone to claim that a dominant online player’s name became a generic term because when people use the term they really do mean to use that company. It’s only when it becomes common to use the term even when you don’t use that company that it becomes a risk. And to have that be a risk for the big online players would mean that they would need to hvae serious compeition for people to use first.

  10. Let’s see (crawling back into my research for my book on writers) sock-puppet reviews. What a terrible thing! Who would ever commit such an immoral act.

    How about Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe and Anthony Burgess?

    • Did they really? Tell! Tell!

    • Peter Straub tells a hilarious sock puppet story. He created one . . .

      to give his books bad reviews.

      He wrote scathing reviews of his own work, figuring that they were coming, so he might as well break the ice.

      The sock puppet developed a life of his own and he and Straub didn’t get along well at all.

    • With Walt it was pretty simple, placing unsigned reviews of his book in the papers. He called “Leaves” a “transcendent and new” work and himself “an American bard.”

      Burgess praised Joseph Kell’s novel “Inside Mr. Enderby” when he was a book reviewer at the Yorkshire Post in 1963. Kell, of course, was Burgess’ non de plume. That got him fired when it came out.

      Edgar Allen Poe went one better. He wrote articles accusing Longfellow of plagiarizing Milton, Tennyson, Scottish ballads and even Poe’s unpublished play. Longfellow remained quiet, so Poe leaped to his defense, writing unsigned letters attacking Poe, to which Poe would respond.

      Then he reviewed Longfellow’s collected poems, praising himself for exposing “not only a servile imitator, but a most insolent literary thief.” (Longfellow, however, forgave Poe after his death, blaming a sensitive nature “chafed by some indefinite sense of wrong.”)

      • It was common practice in the early 19th century to post self-written reviews to the newspapers. Percy Shelley and Sir Walter Scott come to mind; most of their contemporaries did the same thing, or wrote reviews for one another.

        I’d like to ask: what’s the difference between creating a sockpuppet to boost your works, and hiring a publicist to create “buzz” for your book? A publicist’s legitimate job is to boost the reputation of a writer or a book–by whatever means will work. Mailers, trailers, book tours, whatever–they are all ways to sell a book no matter how good or bad the book is. I am not surprised to find that some publicists are using sockpuppetry to boost their clients’ reps. One might even go to extremes with this argument: does anyone really believe every word of the celebrity blurb on a cover?

        What concerns me are not the positive reviews, but the trolls sabotaging the star rating system. That’s a matter of gaming the algorithm, and it could be fixed if Amazon wanted to.

        And I am so stealing that idea about “Author’s Mom”.

        • You don’t see a difference between 1. assuming an identity and posting fake reviews and paying for fake reviews by sockpuppets and 2. hiring someone to do trailers, press releases, mail out arcs to reviewers, request reviews on various media, arrange interviews or book signings, or any other aboveboard and legit method?

          I would fire any publicist (were I ever to engage one) that paid for fake reviews or sockpuppeted reviews/buzz. That’s fraud and fibbing and makes all reviews suspect–which is a shame for those of us who review legitimately or want to be able to trust at least SOME reviews. We all know there’s gonna be a hype game by publicists and authors–they will tell you this book is the greatest thing since (pick a book by a great or famous author). We know that so we can put on our little cynical filter when we read the glowing press releases and the author using blurbs from fellow authors.

          But when someone assumes a fake identity or hires someone to upload lying 5-star reviews, it degenerates the whole system and makes the review/promo system just come across as a cesspool of skank–which will stain everyone, honest and not.

          The “they all did it way back when” is not a justification. We used to burn heretics and enslave black folks, too. Running with the crowd was never an indicator of higher ground; only if the crowd was noble would that fly. So, yeah, if the the crowd was led by Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and St Francis of Assisi, perhaps it’s fine to run with it.

          I’d rather sell nothing than pay someone to perpetrate fraud on my behalf.

          So, yeah, I see a huge difference between ethical ways to promote and unethical. And sock puppetry and outright fake/paid-for reviews fall under “unethical” to me.

  11. Leather did it all by himself. Nowadays, they get their fangurlz to do it for them.

  12. Meh. I don’t see much difference between sockpuppetry and hiring a street team to do this, which a lot of authors do and not many people seem to knee-jerk about it. Both styles of promotion are pretending to be organic (strangers who connected over a book they all loved) but it’s all premeditated and strategized.

    I think it’s more surprising that anyone bothers with sockpuppetry these days. You’d do better to spend that time just writing the next book.

    • I think it’s more surprising that anyone bothers with sockpuppetry these days. You’d do better to spend that time just writing the next book.

      That applies to just about everything marketing related. As HH indicated earlier, lasting growth is organic and dependent on actual reader buzz that does not smell like socks.

    • Bwahahaha…

      The Hollywood movie studios have been caught hiring ringers to inhabit chat rooms and puff their films when they’re released. So it ain’t just books, folks!

      “Dude, you gotta see this flick. It’s, like, TOTALLY AWESOME!”


    • I only offer to be a “street teamer” for someone for whom I have beta read and loved the work. (Or know they are good and have enjoyed their previous offerings.) I won’t promote, review, etc for someone just to be polite or cause they pay me. I have to really like what I read or like other stuff they have written enough to sign on to get the word out for them.

      Shoot, I’ve given pals 3 star reviews.

      It’s simple for me: lying is wrong. I won’t lie. God will thump me if I lie and I don’t like divine thumping. :-/ 🙂

  13. And it creates a backlash. Yesterday my book went live. One of the people who had an early review copy posted a positive review using her regular Amazon account with a long purchase and review history.

    Amazon yanked it within an hour with no explanation. I can only assume they thought it was a sock puppet. Now I don’t know what to do about sending out review copies.


    Devil’s Deal is live

    • Did she give it five stars? That seems to be the other trigger for Amazon to release the hounds. I’ve apologized to several folks for only giving them four stars when they wrote a five-star book because I didn’t want my reviews yanked.

      But the non-verified purchase, along with either one or five stars, seems to be the curse of death for reviews.

    • I hope they don’t do this recklessly. I’ve posted reviews within 24 hours for books I preordered, then read as soon as it was released to Kindle, then posted a review.

      Anyone who likes to increase their reviewer ranking knows that if it’s a famous author and your review is one of the first two or three, you’re gonna get votes and that helps ranking. So, it’s smart to put your review up fast for books you buy and enjoy. I’ve only done that maybe 4 times for authors I love and whose books I paid for…but hey, it’s something reviewers know. Be first; get votes. Be late; get buried with the 1000 other reviews for Gaiman or King or Koontz, etc.

  14. These people always justify their actions by saying, “Everybody does it.”

    No, they don’t. I can say definitely that not everybody does this, because I don’t.

  15. I’m shocked–shocked, I tell ya–that there’s gambling going on in this establishment…

    Buying reviews isn’t the rarest thing in publishing–there’s been more than one instance where the venerable olde houses have Done Shenanigans in order to boost a book or author. It’s not surprising that it’s still being tried because hey, the bandwagon works.

    If you have a system, someone will exploit it. Best thing you can do is walk the line between mitigating the exploits and keeping the customer value. Terri’s post is an example–AMZ is notorious for taking down reviews of books if their system shows relationships between authors and reviewers. So if you’ve ever gifted a copy to a reviewer through Amazon, chances are good that they’ll pull that review because you two have a “relationship” – same goes if you’ve ever shipped holiday gifts to your sister-in-law’s house, and she later writes a review for your book–the system treats her like someone with a vested interest and kills the review. Best you can do is hope she posted to Goodreads or elsewhere as well, get a screenshot, and put a pull-quote from the review into your “Editorial Reviews” section.

  16. I know it’s an old story, but the timing is perfect for this since I just had two new sock puppet bad reviews on my books.

    The fake reviews I hate are the bad ones, and those are still rife on books on Amazon. I don’t know why people post them because they really don’t hurt sales, but I’m sure I didn’t tick off that many people in my life–okay, I might have ticked off that many people in my life, but not to the extent of the effort required to leave these reviews. (Plus, my internet detective friend uncovered their real identities and proved them all to be writers, scammers and general low-lifes that I’ve never been associated with in any way.)

    I don’t get many reviews. They either come from my fans (once a release day if I beg) or in batches of fakery every so often, so the fake ones are really easy to spot because they come in a lump. The reviewers in question have clearly never read any of my books, ever, and the reviews all sound the same.

    When you get as few reviews as I do, and two bad reviews appear in the same day that say the same thing but are on two different books, you know you’ve got a faker/stalker/crazy fool on your books.

    But here’s my grumble, why me? I don’t sell many books. I’m the most successful poor person in the universe. If I ever win an esteemed writing award of some kind, it’ll probably be when I still haven’t sold a book and while I’m still working three jobs. Seriously, if it’s jealousy, WTF are they jealous of? I mean, what’s the thought process that goes through a sock puppet’s head before the leave a 1-star review?

    Judging by their ranking, this person has f*ck all. I know, let’s take some of that away from them! B*stards like this already have too much f-all. I’m going 1-star them and take some of it for myself! Except, I won’t actually get anything from leaving this fake 1-star other than an internet erection, which will be flacid again three seconds after posting this. I should never have done crack.

    Is that the thought process? It’s the only one I can come up with for it, batsh*t crazies with Amazon accounts.

    Does anyone else get this kind of action on their books like clockwork, or am I just special?

    • Claire, it may be personal. It may not. But you can’t let it get you down. And yes, I’ve been in your shoes.

      When I released my first couple of books under the Alter Ego identity a couple of years ago, only three people knew I had done so. Amazon still had their tagging system, and out of nowhere Alter Ego started getting malicious tags on her books from an author I didn’t know. She got a bunch of her friends to do the same. What most people didn’t realize at the time is that you could “see” who tagged which books.

      Four writers I personally knew had joined in the malicious tagging. One of the four writers was a critique partner of mine. I was flabbergasted. It wasn’t personal because they didn’t know it was me, but it seriously made me question these people’s integrity.

      On the other hand, another friend published his first three books, and an aunt, who he’d always had a close relationship with, went batcrap crazy. She left nasty reviews on Amazon and badmouthed him and his writing at every family event. In poor Rob’s case, his aunt’s jealousy couldn’t find a healthy outlet.

      I look at these types of incidents as a life lesson. Yours, Libbie’s, or any body else’s success doesn’t have a d**n thing to do with mine. Keep writing your stories, Claire!

      • Your’s and Rob’s cases are so worse than mine. I do hope you chewed out the people who joined in the hate on your books. I’ve no idea what I’d do about the crazy aunt. I’d probably reply to her review lol.

        Aunt Doris, have you taken your bloody pills this week? I told you not to go on Amazon when you were off your face!

        At least then readers would get a smile out of it all.

        The guy on mine, who I’ve caught out but is still going strong, is some kind of scammer on Amazon.

        He had customers suing him for not sending them anything for their money, and he has someone leaving a review on one of his alter-egos, exposing who he is, which made him pretty easy to hunt down. I reported his a**, but Amazon review team seem to have allowed him to continue.

        By the evidence, it looks as if he’s been scamming people on Amazon since 2006. What I can’t figure is why he chose my books. I don’t know him. The only people I know in California are my other half’s family, and most of them are in the US military and aren’t interested in reviewing books. Plus, if they ever felt the urge to have a go at me, they’ll say it to my face not in a review. They’re a very honest family, which is one of the reasons I adore them.

        Thanks for the lovely comment though. I’ll still be writing on the day the world ends. My goal is to finish over a hundred books before I pop my clogs, so nothing is going to stop me doing that (well, unless I actually pop my clogs lol).

        The reviews are an irritation, but the good news is that they actually do help your books sell. Every time I get a fake 1-star I sell more books, so it’s not all bad. I suspect that Google ranks your product page higher if you have a lot of reviews, and it doesn’t really care about the rating.

    • Sorry to hear that.
      At least you wasn’t accused of plagiarizing a movie as I was with my one star review. In the comments I politely requested the tittle of original and quotes from the scenes that were plagiarized, but all I got was crickets. Of course she can”t provide anything since I don’t involve myself in plagiarizing. It’s just too bad that Amazon refuses to remove that review.

      • I can understand the ‘This is a bit like (insert movie here)’ from readers because people try to connect things based on their own experiences. But plagairism is completely OTT. I hope it was just someone over-exaggerating the connection.

        Mind you, at least she read your book. My fake reviews are so out there, I just don’t have words for half of them. Most of the time, I wonder if the reviewer put their review on the wrong book because what they describe is the polar opposite of my books. I’m sure there are lots of good reasons to 1-star my books if they want to enough, but the reasons they’re giving are not even close to reality.

        Some examples:
        * On a book that has no sex in it at all:
        ‘I didn’t like the rape scene.’ What rape scene?

        * On a book that was a light-hearted comedy: ‘This book is schizophrenic.’ Say what now?

        * On a book that is a full-length novel, which was edited by a traditional publisher:
        ‘This reads like a plan for a novel, not a real book.’ What kind of books do you read? O.o

        * On a book that 2 million readers claim is so exciting that it should be a movie, and their only complaint was that it ended too soon:
        ‘This book is slow and boring.’ Would you like a hyper-drive adding to it?

        * On a book that was tested in 25 devices to ensure it was well formatted:
        ‘I couldn’t open this book. It sucks.’ Did you try to read it by using a toaster? Because toasters aren’t smart enough, yet. I actually did ask the reviewer this on Amazon UK.

        * On books that have been edited so much, you’ll be lucky to find any typos in them:
        ‘This book is full of typos.’ Go on then, highlight them in the Kindle highlighter. No one has yet.

        • The person in question has used caps and used plagiarizing and ripping off in the review. I think they were upset because of the absence of sex, the lack of which was added as an afterthought. You can’t win them all, but I wish people wouldn’t toss plagiarizing accusation without any proof so carelessly around. I wish they would at least named the movie, so that I and other readers can form our own opinion about the similarities, and of course, I would have love to see the movie similar to my book.

          You really had bad luck with malicious reviews. I don’t know what to say, except that I feel for you. Some people… *shakes her head* What do they gain by scattering lies like that?

          • I think it was Stephen Fry who said that commenting on the internet, which is what reviews are really, is all about the ego. People have a bad day, and they take it out in a review. That’s my theory anyway, and I guess publishing is a tough gig, so some people go a bit crazy. I often wonder if they ever stop and look in the mirror and think ‘I’m acting a little bit crazy now.’ But I don’t think that happens because they’re anonymous. There’s no responsibility for your actions if you can pretend you didn’t do it.

            It does sound as if it’s a fake one. Why not name the movie if you’re claiming plagairism. By not naming the movie, they’ve just shot out hot air at your book.

            I think there are malicious fake reviews, and those are purposefully random and harmful in some way. Your’s and mine both fit that criteria.

            Then you have real reviews that are all about the individual. People make comments on how a book makes them feel, but it will have nothing to do with the book. Readers interpret their own meanings, and they can be so unconnected to the actual story that they can sound harmful. The thing with those ones is that I don’t mind them because I know the reader got into the book enough to be passionate about it.

            I think my ‘can’t open this book’ one was real, but it belonged on the device they were trying to read the book on, not on my book. My book got slammed because it happened to be the one the device packed in on.

            The others are all BS though by the looks of them, and are coming from other writers, which I guess is my main grumble. I can’t fathom why writers take pleasure in harming other writers in fake reviews. It just seems like an alien concept to me.

            • In a way I should be glad that I’m such a small fish that I don’t have a lot experiences with malicious reviews.

    • From my observation of years and years of buying books on Amazon, and reviewing there, too: there are cranks. I’ve seen profiles of folks who only do negative. They never give a happy rating. EVER. They get off on giving 1-star reviews.

      They are reviewer trolls. They get jollies leaving those 1-star flamers.

      What pathetic beings. Must be a psychological or spiritual disorder…

      There are also rankings strategy trolls. I really hate that folks are so petty, but there are folks who will click “unhelpful” in order to raise their review ranking and lower another’s.

      Some people just suck.

      • I’ve seen the same kind of things, which is why I really can’t take reviews too seriously any more. The rape one was the last straw. It made me laugh too much to be angry about reviews. It was just so ridiculous and outrageous given the book that they put that on.

        When I was researching a book about hackers, I found out about the troll community, who are a group of people who troll things as a group activity, a hobby I guess. Some people do it for activism, some do it for pleasure and some do it for revenge. It’s an interesting sub-culture to explore. Kudos to the activists. They do it for a cause, but the rest is just verbal masturbation really.

        I do think that if people need to troll then they’re just not happy people. There’s gotta be a reason for it. If you’re not fighting for a cause, and you’re just fighting, then it’s a bully culture really.

        I suspect they’re all human beings with troubles of their own, but trolling isn’t going to cure the problem. Hiding under a fake name just makes them fakes. I wish they would look in the mirror sometimes and wonder what happened to the great people they used to be. Sneaking around and spitting on people never leads to a happy ever after. They need to get back to reality imo.

        It’s part of the internet, I reckon. There’s the hidden joys of getting away with anything out here, and it leads to the dark side where people lose their own identity and everything that made them great human beings.

        I try to just see people trapped on the dark side. Sometimes, I manage to. Other times, I swear like a trooper instead lol.

      • What’s a ranking strategy troll?

        • a very competitive reviewer who will “unhelpful” a fellow reviewer to get them lower and their own rank higher on that page–hence getting more views and more helpfuls longterm.

          It makes me shake my head that folks do this. I already ignore or turn down 99.9% of the offers I get for free goodies to review–and I mean things like leather purses, laptop bags, computers, vacuum cleaners, cameras, dresses, vitamins, iPad cases, gloves, furniture, books–so it’s hard for me to fathom someone would use this sort of tactic just to keep higher rankings and get more swag. Amazon had to institute not reselling Vine Voice freebies (I’ve maybe taken 8 offers in 5 years), cause folks were grabbing them up and then reselling them on Amazon.

          I assume some are doing the same with the offered freebies via email.

          Well, it’s still tacky in my view.

          • I was about to ask if it was some kind of scheme to get into the Amazon Vine Program. I don’t get a lot of Vine-level reviews, which I think may be because books take more time to read than, say, ordering an egg timer and saying, “Yep, it works! Five stars!” and then moving on to the next item.

            There’s so many ways to game the system and it seems like every time Amazon catches people doing it, the next batch get even harder to catch.

            • No, they just invited me out of the blue. Maybe because I was already doing a lot of reviews and doing them long/with some substance. (Some of my book reviews were pages long in WORD).

              I don’t much take advantage of the perks. I just don’t have time to read and review. I’m not a fast reader now with some visual issues. So, I tend to just review stuff I buy or use around the house or books I read for my own pleasure, rather than read and review out of obligation.

        • A reviewer who wants their review to be the first to be seen on a particular book. They, their friends and/or their sock puppets will flag other people’s review as “unhelpful” and theirs as “helpful” in order for the troll’s review to rise to the top.

          It’s very shatzy thing to do to someone.

  17. If you’re gonna do the “crime” best to STFU about your misdeeds. I have to wonder WHY Stephen Leather outed himself.

    A trusting soul (definitely not me) might think it’s an attack of delayed conscience.

    A cynic (not me, yeah… really!) might conjecture that it’s a sly, subtle effort to build even more buzz.

  18. I wonder about the reviews of a particular New York Times bestseller, released by a major publishing house. The last book by this author was not received by the usual mainstream review outlets. It’s the worst reviewed of this author’s career. But every time a substantial one-star or two-star review pops up on Amazon SOON after a five-star review or two pops right after, one or two lines that don’t contain anything that indicates this person actually read the book. They are all verified purchases, however, but this will be one of only two reviews this reviewer has ever posted. This has gone on and on for months so this book consistently maintains a 3-star average review. I’m not sure if this is just coincidence, but watching the ping-ponging pattern has been fascinating. If it is orchestrated, I must admit I am impressed.

    • The fake reviewers got smart and whatever review sales system they have now must reimburse for purchases. I see that clearly fakey reviewers are using “verified purchase.” So, now, we can’t even trust that as a sign of a real reader.

      They get smarter and smarter. It’s a business, no doubt. Folks being paid to just write a bunch of 5 star reviews for stuff they just skim (I suspect buying it makes them able to skim around better than a sample.) I’ve seen some post more than 35 book reviews in a week (no one is reading that much of cookbooks, novels, how-tos, etc).

      Authors are buying reviews and someone is selling their reviews: business.

      Makes reviews kind of untrustworthy. I look for reviews with a sense of real reaction–they actually responded to something specific in the work, have something critical to say, not just gushing–although, hey, I’ve done my share of gushers. I just try to gush SPECIFICALLY and concretely. 🙂 Hard, sometimes when you’re in that euphoria after reading something amazing.

    • I think I know exactly who you mean. It makes me wonder if you can get so “big” that if a group of people came forward tomorrow and confessed that someone put them up to this “ratings balance game” that the general readership wouldn’t even care, even if they’re not happy about that last book.

      I think maybe they wouldn’t care and that kind of irritates me.

  19. The Atlantic is just becoming symptomatic for ADS. Lucky for them, they aren’t full-blown ADS like the NYT.

    There’s still time to find a cure!

  20. A few years ago big scandals were unearthed regarding the fake reviews practiced by some Indie Authors. Of course there is absolutely no stigma associated with Legacy Authors obtaining reviews from “established” reviewers, which by the way don’t review Indie published books like the one posted on an earlier blog. Being at this since 2011, and other than each ones moral compass, in the long run it will make no difference. If you create sockpuppetry or have a loyal group of friends who give you good reviews and talk about your book(s) in forums may give you a small boost, but in the end your book is either good or so-so. If it is good it will sell and honest/independent reviews will be posted.

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