Today, authors can buy reviews and social media followers with the hopes of fooling a publisher or agent into believing they’re a hot commodity when, really, they’re not. In the online world it’s known as black hat SEO. It’s the process of artificially inflating web visibility either for social media accounts, websites, or blogs using unethical techniques. Now granted, places like Amazon or Facebook won’t throw you in the slammer. They will, however, ban your account, or erase any ill gotten reviews or rankings. When you sign up for an online account, there are rules called Terms of Service, or TOS, and it would be wise to adhere to those rules if you want to play, or do business, on a particular site.
Case in Point
According to The Daily Dot, Sony/BMG and Universal Music were recently stripped of two billion views on their Youtube accounts. No, you did not read that wrong, I said billion with a B. They violated Youtube’s TOS by hiring a service that uses bots to click on pages and artificially increases views for their clients.
According to Forbes, even celebrities like Shakira, Lady Gaga and even President Obama were called out on their inflated Twitter following when it was noticed that many of the same accounts were following famous people, which had little or no activity on them outside of just following people. This may have been the doing of their PR teams, who are often hired to give clients instant “social media proof” or popularity.
Author See, Author Do
Since it seems that everyone and their mother is doing this, some authors mistakenly believe there is nothing wrong with “faking it till they make it”, and are risking credibility in order to create artificial buzz over their books. Recently, author John Locke was one of those exposed by a New York Times journalist doing a story on businesses providing fake reviews on Amazon. To add insult to injury, Mr. Locke was outed by the very person he paid to supply the reviews! Sadly, it seems there’s no honor amongst fake reviewers and their clients, another reason not to pay for fake reviews.
Since the story has come out, Amazon has been on a mission, deleting fake and in some cases legitimate reviews in an effort to crack down. That means anything that looks suspicious, like an author reviewing another author’s book, can be cause for the Amazon police to delete that review. Even Goodreads has revamped their review policies, causing many fans of the site to cry foul.
Creating Real Book Buzz
There are three tried and true methods to create legit buzz for your book that don’t require showering afterwards.
- Finding and querying book reviewers on Goodreads, LibraryThing (Library Thing Early Reviewers), and book blogs.
- Advertising on social media sites like Facebook and Goodreads. Note: social media ads rarely sell books but they are effective for gaining social media followers.
- Giveaways and Contests.
I’m hoping you didn’t believe this book marketing stuff was easy. If it was, people wouldn’t be buying reviews and fans. Marketing your book online requires time, strategy and patience. Nobody has to cheat or manipulate in order to make a living writing! Ignore those who tell you otherwise.
Rachel Rueben is the author of the YA novel “Hag” and “The Eternal Bond Series.” You can catch her at her blog, Writing By the Seat of My Pants, where she talks about self-publishing and online marketing.