Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reviews, views and sock puppetry

Psst! Hey buddy, wanna buy a 5-star review?
The internet has been aghast at the accusations of sock puppetry by best-selling authors (see JA Konrath's wonderful series of posts explaining all of it as well as the Guardian and Huffington Post articles). The problem?  Authors are alternately buying reviews of their books (like the mega-selling indie author John Locke) or creating false accounts to boost reviews of their books or denigrate other authors' books (see Stephen Leather, etc.).

It's tempting, when faced with low Amazon numbers or very few reviews, to bump up your own with some fake ones.  After all, a writer might tell herself that everyone else is doing it and besides, what could be the harm in just one or two fake reviews? I am not going to judge anyone for doing that because I can easily understand the despair one might feel.  Believe me, I would love to have more reviews on Amazon or B&N but hey, the ones I have are honest and well-written so who am I to complain?

I think that the people (mostly writers) who are outraged about fake reviews aren't considering the intelligence of readers these days.  We (I am a reader too!) are savvy about too many 5-stars - and by too many 1-stars.  I can read a review and tell if someone hasn't read a book and is posting a fake review.  And I can tell when it's a friend or relative saying really nice things just to be nice. Most readers can - they're not fooled by trolls.

Where I draw the line is with authors who are purposefully trashing their competitors. Hiding behind a fake name and online profile is cheap, mean, and cowardly.  If you have to say something nasty about a fellow writer (do you really?), then at least use your own name. Personally, when I read a book I don't like, I just don't rate or review it.  I don't believe in 1 or 2 star reviews. Why? Because I put my own name on the reviews and I wouldn't want a fellow writer to feel bad - like I would (and do) when I receive low ratings.

Retaliation is a poor substitute for honesty.  When a writer (or reader) posts a nasty review just because that writer angered them personally or because they want to make the writer feel bad, that's retaliation.  Anyone who claims they are "just being honest" is lying to themselves.

All that being said, I would like to post a link to a real review by a real reader of my novel, CHASING THE FALLS.  I submitted my book to Flamingnet Book Reviews to be reviewed but did not pay for it.  They gave me honest feedback (you will see how honest it was!).  This kind of review really touches my heart because I can tell the reviewer read the book and truly enjoyed it.  This was an intelligently-written piece that really dug into the meat of the book.  This is the kind of review writers cherish.  Thank you, Flamingnet Book Reviews and my teen reader!