Friday, September 7, 2012

Authors & Sock Puppet Reviews

Tip of the Day: "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda Apply this to everything in your life and you'll discover how to use the force...or at least do your best and succeed. ;)

The big news this week in publishing is sock puppet reviews. John Locke, who sold over a million ebooks did it. Stephen Leather did it. Now RJ Ellory has been caught doing it.

I have used for years. How many? I think they went live when I was in college, so nearly fifteen years now. Those customer reviews are important to me as a reader and consumer. Did I believe every single review out there? Of course not. I'm not gullible. But I'd like to think most of them are real. Now I'm not sure.

Locke paid a service to buy his books and then review them. Reviewers were paid more for 5 star reviews. Leather and Ellory have fake accounts that they use to review their own books highly and then leave horrible reviews on other people's books.

What's even more scary? I know other authors who've done this. Who've outright admitted to me that this is the way to get sales. Any way to game the system to make more money, right? Needless to say, I've worked hard to disassociate myself with these authors.

What have I done for reviews? I have given free copies of my books to bloggers for totally honest reviews. No money involved. No promises of compensation. I've gotten some pretty horrid reviews off of those I can't pay for that kind of abuse. ;)

For my latest release, The Sundering, I paid The Bookish Brunette to run my blog tour. She's finding the bloggers who will participate and coordinating what goes on what blog which day. The fee I paid isn't for positive reviews. I'm paying her to be my organizational guru for a few weeks. I've organized my own blog tours in the past. It's a relief to outsource all the work involved (and until you've done one, you have no clue how much time and effort is put into coordinating a tour).

Not all the bloggers on the tour are reviewing my books, but those who are got coupon codes for free downloads on Smashwords. It doesn't even count toward the all-important Amazon sales algorithms. Again, there's no guarantee I'll get a good review. I get what I get and that's okay with me. The point of a blog tour is exposure. Besides, there are plenty of NY Times Bestsellers I've read and hated...not everyone likes everything.

How do you know if a review is real or fake? Sigh...I wish I could tell you there was a reliable litmus test. Some people suggest looking at the reviewer's other reviews. OMG, do you know it could take hours to sort through that? I suggest talking to your friends or you'll end up like the girl in this State Farm commercial who says she believes everything on the internet:

What irks me most about this topic that is publishing has more drama than The Bold and the Beautiful (which I watch religiously). I enjoy soaps on TV because they aren't real. Why people purposely want to inject this kind of drama into their lives and the lives of others is beyond my understanding.

Work hard. Earn your accolades. If you get it honestly, good for you. But guess what? You aren't entitled to 5-star reviews just because you wrote a book. You only deserve them if the reader truly loved your novel and gives them to you.

The ONLY sock puppets I want to see from now on better look like this:

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


Charley Robson said...

I never liked sock puppets - there always seemed something sinister about them. And now I know why.

The sock puppet armies of the Sneaky Authors are coming for our souls! Fleeeeeeeee for your lives!

On a more serious note; thanks for the heads-up. I didn't know this sort of thing happened anywhere outside a crime novel.

How sad.

Andrea Lipomi said...

Do nice reviews from family count? ;)

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I don't favor this practice and have never paid for a review or accepted payment for one (I don't even really do "reviews," just recommendations of books I like). Nor do I review my own books or ask others to load psuedonymous reviews onto my sites. But there's a whole new dimension to not only giving oneself positive reviews (at least you can see the motivation behind that), but giving others negative reviews just because they are (perceived as) competitors. To me, there's an extra ick factor to that. It's like: Look, if you want to clutter up your own page with fake reviews, fine, but leave other writers out of it.

As for trusting reviews: I really only trust the ones written by people I know pretty well, or those that are so detailed and go into depth about why they liked or didn't like something, that it's obvious they read and thought about the book.

Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if the FTC stepped into this arena. They already set some guidelines about paid endorsements and "word-of-mouth" advertising on the internet, and book reviews were within their scope. Paid reviews that don't disclose the payment may run afoul of the FTC.