When is  a review....not a review?

Getting a good book is important.

After all, books, stories, films are a big part of our every day lives and have shaped them, probably more than we realise. I mean, think of a great book you've read (or film you've seen) that really resonated with you, perhaps even changed your outlook on life. I could list a number in my case. (Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Masters of Rome etc.)

Bottom line: we definitely want to know that when we go shopping for a good book, we're reading genuine reviews, by genuine reviewers. The question is, though, how do you spot the fakes and the fakers? 

"A fake review is simply this: an opinion on a book that is a deliberate lie"  

The controversy

Recently, an article came up on a blog posted by an anonymous user who claimed to work at Fiverr.com. It singled out an author (who is, as far as I am concerned, completely legitimate and possesses a high degree of integrity) for a whole raft of abuse. It also named 30 other very prominent authors, that along with her, had conspired to get "fake" reviews in order to boost their book sales.

It must be incredibly hard to put a whole chunk of your life into creating a great book, only to have someone to deliberately trash both it and your own integrity for no apparent reason. Some of the authors named like Melissa Foster and Hugh Howey have responded very gracefully (read Hugh Howey's response here).

What is a "fake review"?

As a reader, this sounds like an odd question to ask - pretty much, because the answer is obvious.

However, since a lot of comments are going round the blogosphere on this, so I thought I'd give my own two cents because to me at least, a fake review is simply this: an opinion on a book that is a deliberate lie.

What is a deliberate lie? Here are three examples right off the bat: 

#1. The Sock Puppet. 
Where some (a tiny minority) of authors create "sock-puppets" - a fake online identity they use to review their own books positively and trash the competition (i.e. other authors).

#2. The back-hander
Where the author (again, a minority) have prevailed upon someone (be it for money or friendship) to post a review about something that this person a) hasn't seen or read and b) isn't giving their own, honest opinion on.  

#3. The Hater
These are a lot more common. Where a reviewer has a personal beef with the author and so takes the opportunity to systematically trash their book by posting negative 1 star reviews (and sometimes using several fake online identities to do it multiple times) on a whole host of different book sites.

"Are paid-for reviews an example of fake reviews? Not necessarily. If the reviewer is giving their honest, unbiased review, then in my view, it is still legitimate."

Is a review fake if the author paid a reviewer to review their books? Not necessarily.

Do bona-fide reviewers charge?
Reviewers aren't dumb; they're time pressed.

They can be very picky about the books they read, and yes, some reviewers do charge for their time. However, because they are being paid to do it, the presumption is that they will give a fake review. For this reason, some authors choose to steer well clear of paid-for reviews. 

Others have chosen to go down this road, and it's not necessarily unethical - provided they've done it the right way.

Is there a right way to get paid-for reviews?
Isn't getting a paid-for review a classic example of a 'back-hander'? Not necessarily.

It can be a legitimate road to travel provided the reviewer has been allowed to give a genuine review (even a negative one).
In other words, the reviewer a) must have  read the book and b) must have given their honest, unbiased opinion on it. 

After all, consider film critics. They're paid to review films - and like any other critic or reviewer they can get it right as much as wrong. However no-one would suggest that they are being paid to give a good review.

And that's really the point.  

"Check out multiple book sites."

Bottom Line: Is this book worth reading?

My advice to readers is simply this: check out the book across multiple sites.

It's a great way to see a whole range of reviews from different people - professional reviewers, readers, friends and family (yes, they post too) and haters (who, if they put the same thing in multiple places, you can see and ignore).

After that, make up your own mind. Read a few sample chapters. Then, if it gets you going, take the plunge.

Final Thoughts

Last: when it comes to buying a book, don't sweat the small stuff.

We're not talking about getting a mortgage, buying a car, or using up your child's college fund. We're talking about spending a few dollars/ pounds and buying a book.

Happy reading.


Leave a Reply.