Amazon is in the process of suing 1,114 Fiverr users for offering to write fake product reviews for money. The publishing giant is hot on the scent of authors who used this type of service. That will result in many book reviews being pulled. Amazon is also cracking down heavily on the practice of review swapping amongst authors.
This is a positive happening for readers. I’m not alone in having skimmed through some stellar reviews, bought the book in question, began to read and found myself stunned at the formulaic, predictable writing, or plot holes, or lack of proofreading or all of the above. I definitely wondered who on earth could have penned those five-star reviews.
Paying for reviews is a major no-no for all self-published authors. Put aside the fact that the big publishing houses pay for reviews all the time. For those of us who have chosen self-publishing, no such leeway is allowed. Accept it, live with it.
The idea of swapping reviews is also strongly discouraged. But all reciprocal reviews amongst self-published authors are not necessarily swapped. Part of my motivation in building a social media network is the goal of getting my name out there and encouraging readers to buy and review my books. And while there are countless people active in cyberspace, I tend to attract a number of like-minded people to my networks. Another self-published author likes my Facebook page, follows on Twitter or follows my blog. I reciprocate. I end up purchasing and reading a book written by this social media contact. Let’s not forget that many writers are also voracious readers. I definitely fall into that category. If I enjoyed the book and because I like lending a hand and I have been indoctrinated to the almost sacred belief that Amazon reviews are the be all and end all measure of success, I write a review. This social media contact does the same with my book. We never spoke of swapping reviews. And yet, we now find ourselves in a suspect situation.
Reciprocal reviews sit on my Amazon book pages. I might lose those reviews and reviews I wrote might get pulled. My only fault was connecting on social media and enjoying the work of another self-published author. Doesn’t seem fair, but if this is the price we all pay to eliminate fake reviews, then so be it.
As I reflect on the broader questions related to reviews, I start to question the way we self-published authors chase after the elusive Amazon book review … hmmm … have we bought into a false indoctrination? I wonder…
I’m happy to share what I’m learning along the way:
- Say a categorical no to any request to swap books for the purpose of reviews with any other self-published author.
- If you are a self-published author, post a review to Amazon only if you understand that the author of the book you review will never review one of your books.
- Re-educate ourselves to place an equal or higher value on reviews done on blogs and other venues unrelated to Amazon and begin to expand our understanding of the many ways that bring readers to our books.
- Work at expanding social media networks and contacts beyond other self-published authors.
- And just a final point on debunking the altar of worship that exists around stacking up the Amazon reviews – we’ve all heard and read about the mysterious marketing boosts that kick in at some magical number. The common wisdom most certainly states that reviews on Amazon matter, a lot. I can’t back that up with my own experience. Before I had self-published, I never read a review on Amazon, though I bought widely from them. I gathered my book buying information from other sources. I also never wrote a review, though I enjoyed and was passionate about many of the books I read.
I can say from personal experience that word-of-mouth sells books. If you read my book and liked it – tell a friend or family member. Offer to lend them your copy. Purchase one of my books as a gift for someone you think might enjoy it. Tell people where they can get a copy.
In closing, I appreciate every single review I’ve received. I took them at face value and learned from all of them. I will be saddened to see any of them pulled by Amazon. I also value all my social media contact with other self-published authors. I’ve learned from each of you and hopefully shared well my own growing expertise. We can continue to support one another through means other than Amazon reviews. Here’s to coming up with ways to do just that.