Letters to the Editor – THIS MAKES ME SICK! Company Admits Buying 5-Star Book Reviews!

THIS MAKES ME SICK! Company Admits Buying 5-Star Book Reviews!!

“I pay absolutely no attention to reviews because I know how easily the rankings/reviews/awards are manipulated.”

Dear Angela,

I read your story, This Makes Me Sick!, with interest. Obviously paying for only 5-star reviews is unethical – but what about the common practice of exhorting your friends, co-authors at your publishing house, relatives, etc. to vote for a book they’ve never read?

This goes on all the time. A book is reviewed at a legitimate site by a legitimate reviewer and, if the review is highly rated, the book is eligible for “Best Book of the Week” or some similar honor. This happens at many sites, some as highly regarded as EPIC and their annual awards, as well as the other proliferation of websites that accept nominations for “Best Book” awards monthly or annually. The winner gets to post a nice little graphic on their website that proudly proclaims their book the best of something. The problem? If you have lots of friends, fans, and family members, your book will win no matter if it is the worst piece of junk ever written. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. Absolute drivel has won the “Best of…” award due simply to the size of the author’s database.

I was once asked to review a romance book through a legitimate review website I’ve been associated with for many years. The book I was asked to review was so terrible (the author’s idea of switching POV involved rewriting the exact same passage in the other protagonist’s POV immediately following the first instance). I just couldn’t say anything positive about it and the review site’s policy is that we cannot post a review that is completely negative. How many other sites require that you only post a positive review? Lots, I’d hazard to guess. Not only that, a subsequent reviewer and the owner of the review site agreed with my assessment. After we politely told the author that we could not post a review, I did a bit of sleuthing online and… guess what? The book had gotten rave reviews elsewhere.

Is this any more ethical than a paid review? Sure, these people aren’t being paid to vote for your book (at least I don’t think so, but who knows?) but 9 times out of 10, the person voting hasn’t even read the book.

Because of this prevalent practice in the eBook industry, I pay absolutely no attention to reviews because I know how easily the rankings/reviews/awards are manipulated. Because of practices such as this, in addition to paid reviews and the easy manipulation of Amazon rankings, online book reviews have completely lost any meaning, integrity, or honesty. When you buy a book online, the old caveat of buyer beware certainly applies because you sure can’t trust the veracity of any reviews.

Candace Morehouse
aWay With Words
Professional Freelance Writing Service

“Paid Liars – They and their content can’t be trusted.”

HACKS. In previous eras, that’s what the purveyors of content that play mind games with readers were called: Hacks or Hack Writers. Creeps who committed “Hack jobs” were not well regarded. Paid Liars – they and their content can’t be trusted in any century.

The contempt loaded into those words is now heaped on creeps who mess with cyberspace and website owners.

If a book sells on its merits, fine. If not, that’s life. But fake reviews, 5 stars or less, are lies. The publishers and/or authors buying/benefiting from them deserve to face zero sales. They and their content cannot be trusted.

Please don’t split hairs and debate the idea that Hacks/Hack Jobs can mean other types of problems, too.

Yocheved Golani

Author of E-book It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge

“So many people without training, commitment or even clarity of thought believe they are writers…”

Hi, Angela. Thanks for writing this. As a freelance writer and editor since 2002 and a longtime print journalist, I can honestly say that when I saw this book review “job” some weeks ago while seeking assignments, I was not surprised. It’s part of the cynicism so prevalent in our business. So many people without training, commitment or even clarity of thought believe they are writers, that everything they write or say needs to be broadcast to the largest possible audience, and that their opinions are just as good as anyone else’s — whether or not they are based on fact. Where they got their money I don’t know, but they are willing to pay large amounts of it to see their work touted.

Also part of this mindset are websites which offer writers the “opportunity” to bid on projects. Does the lowest bid win? I don’t know — I don’t participate. I DO know that these kinds of operations feed the cynical belief that good, clear writing and editing are not worth much and that writers are a dime a dozen. It’s what keeps writer/editor pay low for everyone. Thank goodness for people who know better — like you! Keep up the good fight.


“…might as well not write at all if they are looking for fake reviews or feedback.”

I would never pay for reviewers nor give someone a copy of a book, even if just a pdf, for free. It is better to get real feedback than to get fake feedback. An author should want to know what is reaching readers and what is not. Everyone has a reason for what they write and it basically means that they might as well not write at all if they are looking for fake reviews or feedback. You will have people that like it and people that hate it, but are they feeling what you are writing and are they the feelings you wanted to gather from a reader when they read your work?

George Arnold Hall
twitter: @georgeahall
Business: George Arnold Hall’s Pen and Pencil
Writer / Developer

“Sick of scuzz…”

Hi Angela –

Honesty, Integrity, and Trust — if those are ten-dollar Todd’s core values, they must be politicians’, too. No wonder snickers and scoffing and cynicism prevail.

So if I write and self-pub a book and then give it five stars — “she outshines-times-five Will Shakespeare” – will they pay me 10 bucks?

Are you as sick of scuzz as I am?

Rochester, MN

“I’m glad I took a chance on a few books that had some bad reviews because I enjoyed the books anyway.”

Dear Angela —

I’m not surprised about the guy who pays freelancers to write 5 star book reviews. In fact there’s a lot of cheating when it comes to bestsellers, reviews and other things surrounding books. I know that competitors of mine have had all their friends post 5 star reviews on their books and will purposely write bad reviews on my books to drive my numbers down. (I’ve caught a few and had Amazon pull the reviews, so I know.)

Even so, I will ask fans to write a review of my books if they tell me they liked my books, but I don’t pay them and I can’t make them do it. I figure if they took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, they can also write a nice review and help me out. But I don’t think it’s blatant and I don’t pay them. And in some cases, they were good reviews, but not 5 star reviews.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure that reviews make that big of a difference when someone buys a book. I know I pay attention to the reviews, but that’s me. Still, I’m glad I took a chance on a few books that had some bad reviews because I enjoyed the books anyway. I think people who buy books may or may not look at the reviews because often the books sell through word of mouth.

My writing tends to attract a loyal following but I do have some people who don’t like my books and have posted some not pleasant reviews. Even so, my numbers of Amazon Kindle are extraordinarily high and my novel, Prophecy of Swords has ranked #7 in epic fantasy on the Kindle. Way cool — and a testament to word-of-mouth advertising.

M.H. (Maggie) Bonham
Author of more than 30 books, including Kindle bestsellers, Prophecy of Swords and Runestone of Teiwas