There's been a lot of gossip lately about Amazon suing people who put false positive reviews on their website. And I don't blame them. Who needs to be spruiked while looking for a book?
But its not just overly gushing, clearly fake favourable reviews they have to watch out for.
As a longtime mystery writer and member of various facebook writing groups—from best-selling cozy mystery writers to womens' author groups—one of the most common complaints I hear about is false unfavourble reviews.
And we're not talking about simple dissing of books.
It's one thing to say, "I read it, I didn't like it, here's why..."
It's quite another to blatantly lie about a book out of malice or to destroy a competitor. Luckily this hasn't really happened to me, but I know of countless fellow authors—clearly more successful than me, which is why they're being targeted—who have really struggled with it. One author of very successful, very benign cozy mysteries, complete with cute kitty cats, had a reviewer slam her book for all its "cursing and disgusting eroticism". She was mortfied.
There's not so much as a 'damn' or a revealed midriff anywhere in the text.
Desperate to have the false review removed lest it turn off her devoted fanbase, she approached Amazon and was initially told there was nothing they could do. Eventually, after much effort and enormous grief on her part, Amazon finally agreed to "review the review" — which means, they can post it back up if they decide it should stand.
Yet it contains total lies.
The worst that ever happened to me was a reviewer who wrote about how much she enjoyed one of my books and would have given it five stars, "if it wasn't for the missing pages". This was a few years ago and I was shocked. Had I stuffed up the formatting? I downloaded copies of the relevant book on every device I could get my hands on to see what she meant.
There were NO missing pages. All my books are complete. I then alerted Amazon and was told "she's entitled to her opinion". Yet this wasn't an 'opinion', this was incorrect and misleading information. I knew that it could put readers off because, let's face it, who wants to buy a book with 'missing pages'?
I tried to argue that this reviewer had her facts wrong, but they refused to enter into any more communication on this. And so the review stands. I wrote a comment under her review, debunking it, but there's little more I can do.
Looking back on it, I really can't say whether that reviewer was trying to be sneakily malicious or really did believe some pages were missing. Perhaps her download had glitched at the time? What I do know, however, is that some other reviewers are deliberately cruel. Luckily, I have never fallen foul of them, but many of my fellow writers have. And we have come to conclude that it can only be other authors who are doing this, other authors who are trying to sabotage the competition so they can sell more of their books. If not them, who?
Who would deliberately falsify a review? What would be the point?
Can people really be that nasty?
I dearly hope not, but this is my request of you, dear readers. If you can find a minute—and that's all it takes, I promise you—jot a quick review on Amazon each time you finish a book. It doesn't have to be my book; just whatever book you buy. Simply write a sentence or two about what you liked or didn't like and give it a star rating.
Please be sure to make it honest, and make it believeable, and it will not only pass muster with Amazon, but it will make a writer's day. And you will be doing fellow readers a service.
What you may not fully appreciate is that each genuine review you write, gives other potential readers a chance to really understand what the book is about, what it's like, what's to love and what's to loathe. Then they can go in, eyes wide open, armed with that information before they download that book.
Even better, the more genuine reviews that authors receive, the more books we tend to sell, the more money we make, the more chance we have of writing another one. After all, writers don't live on verbal praise alone. Pats on the back from our family and friends might make us feel good, but they don't pay the bills.
For those of you who have reviewed my books with true candour, I thank you from the bottom of my heart—whether you liked my book or not. Because, to me, that's not the real issue.
The real issue is: is the review real?
Happy reading (and reviewing) everyone.