Sunday, 10 June 2012

Amazon reviews – even more corrupt than you thought, thanks to Fiverr?!

First, introductions! This reviewer on Amazon and Goodreads seems to be this user on Fiverr, who offers reviews of books at five dollars a pop. And this reviewer on Amazon is, I reckon, this guy on Fiverr, who will for his five dollars produce a video review, for another five add your book to Listmania lists, and, for five dollars more, buy your book so that he shows up as a verified purchaser. Sneaky!

I had an email chat today with someone who seems to have been a client of both people. The writer acknowledged that they had made a mistake, being desperate to draw attention to a rewritten, re-edited version of their book following an extremely critical review, and so I asked if they would let me interview them about it, there being a lot of interest in – and bafflement concerning – the business of paid-for reviews at the moment. (We've just had the big flap about SFcrowsnest offering to review for a £300 fee, for example.)

Unfortunately the writer in question declined to be interviewed, and seemed quite distraught (and, I think, naive) about the whole thing, so I won't name names here, but these are the questions I wanted to ask:

  • How did you hear about the review services being offered?
  • What made you want to hire this reviewer?
  • Had you tried to find reviewers in the usual ways, submitting to magazines, blogs, etc? Did you try Goodreads giveaways or anything similar?
  • Why are you so desperate to get reviews?
  • Did you understand, when placing your order, that hiring people to write reviews of your book is unethical? Did you know that for a reviewer to post such reviews on Amazon was against Amazon’s rules?
  • Were you happy with the reviews that the reviewer produced for you?
  • When I read the reviews of your book, two things struck me. Firstly, that the reviewer said (on Goodreads) that she’d read your 600pp book in a couple of hours. And secondly that there is very little detail in her review. Do you think she actually read it? How much review do you think five dollars would buy?
  • Have you bought other reviews? And have you paid for other services on Fiverr?
  • Are you happier with the five-star reviews that you paid for, or the one-star review you got for free from a real reader? Which do you think you should trust?
  • Did you realise that if these shenanigans came to light you would look like a complete fraud?
  • You seem to admit fairly readily that you struggle with grammar and spelling, and so on. You hired an editor to work on your book, and then hired a second editor when the bad reviews came in. If you aren’t very good at it, why do you want to be a writer? What are your goals?

So I'm still waiting on the answers, but I can guess at most of them. The moral of all this: don't trust anything you read on Amazon, especially about self-published books. Assume it's all bollocks that someone's been paid to write and you won't go far wrong.

I spoke briefly to one of the reviewers too: she suggested I might want to start accepting money for reviews too. Hmm. I'll have to think about that.

And she explained that the review she was paid for was the one on her blog, not the one on Amazon. That one was just for free! I guess that's how they wriggle around Amazon's rules against this kind of thing.

(Why the picture of Superman super-smoking? Because this post is all about bad habits!)

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