Recently an author friend told me that some authors are asking other authors to swap 5 star reviews with them. You aren’t asked to read the book, just write a rave and give it 5 stars. Even if you do read it and don’t think it very good, you’re still expected to give it 5 stars. The idea being that if you do it for them, they will do the same for you. (added note – I ‘m talking about authors in general here, not Indie Authors.)
Agghhhh! That’s a major scream, in case you didn’t get it. This kind of thing isn’t just unprofessional and morally wrong (it’s lying), it’s stupid as well. If you’ve done this, or are thinking of doing it, think again. Do you really think readers are that stupid that they won’t notice that the book they just read didn’t merit those 5 stars reviews? Well, they do notice, and it pisses them off big time. Authors who do this clearly haven’t thought through the consequences of their actions, so I’ll do it for them.
The results of having fake 5 star reviews for books that don’t deserve them is that readers will
- become suspicious of all 5 star reviews, so that even books that deserve 5 stars & have no fake reviews will be accused of using this scam by anyone who doesn’t agree with the rating. (I’ve seen this already and of a fabulous book by an author that would never resort to such tactics.)
- put less emphasis on the rating. If the practice becomes too widespread, the ratings will become meaningless, thus cutting out a whole method of getting the word out to readers about the quality of your book.
- be more disappointed in books that don’t live up to the reviews than they otherwise would, leaving them with a more negative impression and making them more likely to write an angry negative review. (This is how it comes back to bite you.)
- suspect foul play and complain to Amazon and other places where reviews are displayed.
As a result Amazon (etc) may
- remove suspicious reviews, which may include genuine reviews that an author has worked hard to get.
- stop anyone who hasn’t bought the book on Amazon from writing a review. That will mean that you can’t give your reviewers free copies, you’ll have to gift them to them via Amazon and pay the price, and if they happen to use a Sony, Kobo or Nook, the review won’t appear on Amazon.
I have the feeling that any author playing this game isn’t very sure of the quality of their book. If you’re sure of your work, you don’t need to ask for a 5 star review, you just ask for a review. As authors, we need to accept that not everyone will like our work, but misleading our readers won’t help us in the long term, instead, it will do us and the whole business a lot of harm. Authors need readers goodwill and trying to pull the wool over their eyes won’t endear them to us at all. Everyone will lose out if this behavior continues.
Fake reviews won’t help you as a writer either. I’m always keen to see what other writers have to say and I trust that those I have asked will tell the truth. If you ask me for a review, I’ll give you the truth, and I expect no less in return.
This raises the question of whether or not we should publish negative reviews, and I’ll deal with that in the next post. For now, though, let me make it clear that the Awesome Indies reviews are completely honest. Also, no one is added to this list just because they are friends with someone else. The interactions I’ve had with authors listed on this site show me that they are all far too concerned with maintaining the standard to even consider that course of action.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you come across it? How widespread is it? Has anyone asked you to do this? If so, how did you respond?