Live or Die by Bogus Amazon Reviews?
by Virginia Williams
I love Goodreads! From book challenges, to reviews, giveaways (either your own or others), or groups, you can always find an interesting and lively discussion. The one that I found most compelling early last year was a discussion on the group “Shut Up and Read” about bogus Amazon reviews.
Neil started it in December 2013 when he ranted, “Are all Amazon reviews bogus???… Some reviews are so obviously fake, shills, they must think the readers are stupid… ”
Feeling fairly strongly about it myself, given the degree to which I’d worked to get any stars at all, I noted that I spot-read reviews, typically starting with a couple with 5-star ratings, but also hitting the lesser rated ones for some good insight into the book. Descriptions don’t always accurately tell me what I want to know about the book, and the title can be deceiving.
As Ken from Goodreads wrote: “I’ll read the bad reviews first and see if they have anything valid to say… . Sometimes a bad review will complain about something that I consider an attribute, and that makes me want to read the book. I don’t really trust 5-star reviews any more.”
Leonie added: “I now don’t want to have all high-star reviews, because it makes people suspicious that all my reviewers are friends… “
Judy noted: “… wary of self-published. Too many aren’t well written or edited. But lately, I’ve read such awful stuff that was traditionally published that now I *always* download a sample before parting with any money.”
And L.A. posted: “Unlike some reviewers, I don’t destroy the book or base my grading system if I find grammatical errors. Everyone has them no matter how many times a book has gone through the editing process.”
Did I also mention I love BookBub? I frequently receive offers of books (free and otherwise) for digital download touting 130* (*you supply the number) five-star Amazon reviews. Authors of note pen a short, glowing recommendation. It’s a #1 New York Times bestseller and/or award recipient! Could all of these stars, ratings, and reviews be contrived? How do you buy out that many people?
Check the Internet today and you are likely to read that a new Author Earnings report suggests that “self-published books now represent a whopping 31 percent of eBook sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store,” and self-published writers earn almost 40 percent of the store’s royalties. (Rankings on the New York Times bestsellers list reflect sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. The sales venues for print books include independent book retailers; national, regional, and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers… Ebook rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of ebooks in a variety of popular e-reader formats.
Uh oh – do you smell Amazon.com?? How much weight is given, in view of heavy discounts and promos, by *one* of these vendors, and are they really driving ratings with free offers? A little self-serving here, wouldn’t you say, since CreateSpace holds such a large market of self-publishers?
I do believe that the perceived value of big box publishers will continue to decline as the percentage of indie authors increases. Self-publishers are learning to publish like the professionals and are quickly claiming the joys of self-publishing, not the least of which are increased royalty rates. According to stats you find on the Internet, self-published ebooks will account for 50 percent of ebook sales by 2020. Well, that’s getting serious!
The question becomes: How will all these indie authors garner high-rated stars? Don’t you need stars to sell books? Relatives and friends can’t supply all of them (I should know!). So it would appear we are back to the question of marketing and promotion! For self-published authors, then, it may very well be the question of a really strong social media presence and the development of a loyal and discerning network fan base.
Virginia Williams is the granddaughter of Patrick John “Stanley McShane” Rose, who was born in 1872 on board his father’s vessel the Marguerite. Patrick passed in 1959 at the age of 87 in Long Beach, California. Left with pages of instructions regarding submission, it wasn’t until 2011 that Virginia actually discovered a way to publish his manuscripts. Visit Rose Point Publishing for more information.