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gothicangel
11-29-2010, 02:50 PM
Sabotage by publishers? Sour-grapes? Or a lesson to authors to listen to our readers?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333885/Amazons-amateur-book-reviewing-vicious-free-readers-victims.html

SafetyDance
11-29-2010, 03:21 PM
I'm not sure what the fuss is about; of course this kind of stuff will happen on an online review site. I'd be interested to see whether other Orange nominees received the same treatment -- it doesn't sound like they did.

Also, why pay an agency what you could do yourself, or ask your friends to do? You could easily use a different IP address (assuming it could be traced from the reviews, anyway). Why would this Nathan Barker sabotage his own business by owning up and giving his own name?

I think the Daily Mail is having a slow day!

JimmyB27
11-29-2010, 03:35 PM
I think the Daily Mail is having a slow day!
Yeah, because normally it's full of cutting edge journalism...


:sarcasm

SafetyDance
11-29-2010, 04:29 PM
Yeah, because normally it's full of cutting edge journalism...


:sarcasm

And touching accounts from celebrities about their budgie's latest feather loss.

aruna
11-29-2010, 04:36 PM
Oh! So ms Alison is up in arms!
Actually, I too was underwhelmed by her book.. a kit if telling, little showing. It was shortlisted for the Orange prize and as it was not really of that standard a lot of people slammed it. I can't remember if I wrote a review or not, but I found the book mediocre; the best bit were the first five pages or so, and after that it went downhill really quickly; I couldn't understand how it got on the shortlist, and I was not alone in that opinion.
So this really is a storm in a teacup. Yes, if you have a book on amazon it WILL get bad reviews. And most of those will be genuine. Suck it up!

aruna
11-29-2010, 04:58 PM
From the article:


Miss Alison, 46, is said to be in dispute with Amazon about the hostile reviews and has approached Kwikchex, a company which specialises in protecting online
reputations, run by Chris Emmins.
He said: ‘I looked at some of them and certainly the wording and the dates of the postings were indicative of a malicious attack.’


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333885/Amazons-amateur-book-reviewing-vicious-free-readers-victims.html#ixzz16fwE8E2A

I just read the one-star reviews and this is just nonsense. It's true that a few reviewers say things like "I threw it into the English Channel" but none of them seemed malicious.
Many people loved the book and gave it five star reviews; the author should let it go at that. Instead, she or one of her friends seems to have launched a counter-attack: a certain "Goth Lady" has commented on almost all the bad reviews, sticking up for the book.

SafetyDance
11-29-2010, 05:23 PM
... a certain "Goth Lady" has commented on almost all the bad reviews, sticking up for the book.

Lol, I did wonder -- gothicangel, is this you?

Torgo
11-29-2010, 05:45 PM
I'm often encouraged to go on amazon and leave anonymous puffs for our books. I refuse on principle, because I use Amazon, including the reviews, and I think gaming the system is spoiling the whole thing for everybody.

However, I'm in a minority; most of the publishing industry does this, and even when they don't the authors do it themselves. What I can't understand is people deliberately downvoting the competition - that's unequivocally underhand.

SPMiller
11-29-2010, 05:53 PM
And now you understand why I only read three-star reviews, if I read Amazon reviews at all.

Sevvy
11-29-2010, 05:58 PM
Many people loved the book; the author should let it go at that. Instead, she or one of her friends seems to have launched a counter-attack: a certain "Goth Lady" has commented on almost all the bad reviews, sticking up for the book.

Ugh, I hate it when people do that. And the counter-attack rarely helps the author any. Usually, it just does more harm.

aruna
11-29-2010, 06:05 PM
However, I'm in a minority; most of the publishing industry does this, and even when they don't the authors do it themselves. What I can't understand is people deliberately downvoting the competition - that's unequivocally underhand.

I don't see any evidence that this has happened in Ms Alison's case. All of the negative reviews give quite balaced REASONS why the revewer did not like the book.

Torgo
11-29-2010, 06:08 PM
I don't see any evidence that this has happened in Ms Alison's case.

I'm sure you're right about that, and I don't know if it really goes on, on any kind of noticeable scale.

Collectonian
11-29-2010, 06:12 PM
Wouldn't be surprising if its the case. Amazon won't do anything about it. Heck, I looked up a fairly legit project and it had over 300 reviews, the large majority of which were clearly jokes and nonsense because of the product's nature. I complained and they responded that such reviews were part of the "community" nature of Amazon and in keeping with their rules. So anyone looking for a real review was pretty much SOL. It also was spammed with 100s of fake product images, but they again made the same claim.

At this point, Amazon reviews are rarely reviews, more like random musings from potentially interested parties and should always be taken with a grain of sale. Amazon is all about the web traffic and sales, not legitimate product feedback.

Torgo
11-29-2010, 06:18 PM
Wouldn't be surprising if its the case. Amazon won't do anything about it. Heck, I looked up a fairly legit project and it had over 300 reviews, the large majority of which were clearly jokes and nonsense because of the product's nature.

I love those threads. The one for a 2499 portrait of F-list celebrity Paul Ross is a particular favourite:


Excellent value and so versatile. Only last week I placed it in my 12 year old son's bedroom having tippexed out the words "Big Brother" from his copy of 1984 and replacing them with "Paul Ross". He now lies awake at night in damp dread that Paul Ross is always watching him and at any moment will leap from the canvas and put a rat on his face. That'll teach him for ruining my wife's womb! Thanks Paul!!!


If you only buy one 20 inch canvas print of Paul Ross this year, this is the one to get.

gothicangel
11-29-2010, 06:27 PM
Lol, I did wonder -- gothicangel, is this you?

Not me! I don't have an amazon account [use my sister's] :D

I don't believe that publishers have the time or the inclination to do what Ms Alison is suggesting. What she does have is a book that underwhelmed critics to a point that they didn't review originally.

To me it sounds like she didn't want to publicise the fact that she was married to Tim Waterstone, but when her 'literary talent' was ignored by the press she has a hissy-fit.

I even checked out the reviews she received after the Orange prize nomination. The reviewers were still underwhelmed. A few [like Aruna] asking why she was nominated.

SafetyDance
11-29-2010, 07:19 PM
Not me! I don't have an amazon account [use my sister's] :D
.

Sorry, I had to ask! :P

shaldna
11-29-2010, 07:23 PM
At the end of the day, if you put yourself and your work out there in the public eye, there will always be some people who simply do not like you or your work. It's nothing personal, and while it's unpleasant, it happens, and on the whole there's nothing that can be done about it other than to suck it up.

When it becomes a personal attack that's different, and something needs to be put in place to stop that. But that raisses the question of how to put those safeguards in place without restricting everyone's opinions? How can you tell who is attacking and who just genuinely didn't like the book?

I do agree that Amazon needs to put in place a system where only people who have bought the book are allowed to review it.

swvaughn
11-29-2010, 07:29 PM
And now you understand why I only read three-star reviews, if I read Amazon reviews at all.

See, this is the stuff that makes me sad.

(And this is not directed at you, SP. Just a general observation. :) )

I have 23 Amazon reviews. 11 of them are 5-star. Only two of those 5-star reviews are people I know, and I didn't ask them to post reviews. They just did, because they read the book and enjoyed it.

The rest of them are 4 stars (9) and 3 stars (3) - again, none of them from people I know.

Both of the 3-star reviews have been upvoted as "helpful" far more than any of the others.

So, readers on Amazon get to my book's page from wherever. They see all those 5-star reviews... and many of them automatically think oh, it's all inflated praise from friends and sock puppets. The sucky 3-star reviews must be right. And off they go to the next possibility.

All this review war stuff on Amazon really hurts nobodies like me.

I almost want to send something out to readers asking them NOT to give me 5-star reviews on Amazon, even if they do enjoy the book. But I won't do that, for the same reason I don't counter-attack any of my negative reviews, or the reviewers. It'd make me look bad no matter what I said.

Yeah, I know. Go cry in my kool-aid about it. :D

There's nothing I can do, but it still sucks.

Torgo
11-29-2010, 07:40 PM
See, this is the stuff that makes me sad.

Well, with most reviews on websites I only tend to look at the ones with the highest and the lowest ratings, and then I try to triangulate from there. The star rating itself is, I feel, irrelevant; it's common points of praise or criticism that I find myself looking out for. Don't feel sad! People are pretty good at sniffing out spam and ignoring reviews that aren't on point.

aruna
11-29-2010, 07:55 PM
Speaking of spoof reviews, this is a classic from back in 2000, with over 9000 "helpful" votes! Ping! I love that Duck (http://www.amazon.com/Story-About-Ping-Marjorie-Flack/dp/0140502416)

This author has made some strange statements form the outset. Most of all, her claim that she "didn't use contacts" to get published. I mean, you're married to the most powerful man in British publishing and you're not going to ask publishers and agents, to give you a read? Whyever not??? I certainly would, and there's nothing at all underhand about wanting not to be in the dreaded slush pile.

I've asked several editors I know from major publishers if they'd like to read my mss; sometimes they say yes and reject, sometimes they say no. It's no big deal. If you've got a personal contact by all means use it! Many agents work only through referrals anyway; if you're a producer of a major film, involved with the Harry Potter series (as she is), that's huge. Sorry, I just can't believe that she didn't use any of those short cuts, and her wanting to hide it just seems fishy.
I don't see why her book should be so threatening to "rival" publishers that they would want to attack it. It really is only minor league.

swvaughn
11-29-2010, 07:56 PM
That is good to know. :)

I guess I've just seen too many people commenting that they ignore all 5-star (and 1-star) reviews on Amazon - and if it's in a forum or comment thread, there's usually lots of folks jumping in to agree that yes, all the 5-star ratings are the work of fakes and puppets, and are never to be believed.

I try to remember that not everyone who buys from Amazon posts online in the places I lurk. But it's a common sentiment even on the Amazon discussion boards.

Thank you, Torgo! :)

aruna
11-29-2010, 09:10 PM
I love reading reader reviews, both before and after I have read a book. I don't mind whether it is on Amazon or on another site like goodreads.

For me, the best criteria for knowing whether an amazon review is genuine or not is the reviewer rank. Most people don't realise that this system is in place, whereby reviewers with the most helpful votes are rated; the list of them is here. (http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers) They have their own discussion board and everything, and take reviewing very seriously.

Before I joined AW I was a member of that board, which is why so many of them reviewed my books. If you read a lot of books most of these people's names become familiar; they just like reviewing and getting helpful votes! Even if you don't know them, a Top 100 or Top 10 label behind their reviewer name is usually a token of trustworthiness. I always look out for that.

gothicangel
11-29-2010, 09:20 PM
Sorry, I had to ask! :P

I was starting to wonder if I was about to discover my doppleganger! :D

gothicangel
11-29-2010, 09:21 PM
I love reading reader reviews, both before and after I have read a book. I don't mind whether it is on Amazon or on another site like goodreads.


Me too, helps to know I'm not losing my mind. ;)

aruna
11-29-2010, 09:34 PM
Especially so if I have felt strongly about a book, either in a positive or negative sense. I love to read reviews that express exactly what I have felt. I write very few myself, though. Couldn't be bothered! Sometimes I comment on reviews.

Renee Collins
11-29-2010, 10:20 PM
I don't like reading reviews before I read a book because it bugs me when I notice things people commented on. Especially if it taints my enjoyment of the book.

I do, however, like to read reviews of books I've read. It's always interesting to see what other people think.

aruna
11-30-2010, 10:15 AM
I do, however, like to read reviews of books I've read. It's always interesting to see what other people think.

I'm like that too: I read more after than before. Before, I just check to see that the book wasn't entirely awful, and that it something I might like. After, I read in detail, looking for reviews that encapsule my own thoughts.

Not to :deadhorse but...

I checked out ms alison's book on goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6622006-the-very-thought-of-you) and who would have thought it? The ratings there are WORSE than on amazon, with 8% five stars, 13% one stars, and the weight of the ratings being with 3 stars, 39%. So that pretty much put pays to the idea of a consolidated attack through Amazon.

gothicangel
11-30-2010, 01:14 PM
I checked out ms alison's book on goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6622006-the-very-thought-of-you) and who would have thought it? The ratings there are WORSE than on amazon, with 8% five stars, 13% one stars, and the weight of the ratings being with 3 stars, 39%. So that pretty much put pays to the idea of a consolidated attack through Amazon.


That's it, after my seminar I'm off to Waterstone's to read the first chapter. I just can't resist anymore. :D

starscape
11-30-2010, 06:05 PM
I read these today. Frankly, I don't like it. Not only the Internet should stay neutral, but also these PR companies would damage whatever new writers do to build relationship with future readers.


Authors hiring agencies to publish fake customer reviews

Posted on Tuesday, November 30 2010 @ 07:33:10 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck

People often accuse reviewers of being dishonest but it appears users reviews aren't objective either. An article at Mail Online reveals there are agencies that charge 5,000 or more to publish fake book reviews on the pages of rival publishers on sites like Amazon:

Authors are turning on each other, agencies are charging up to 5,000 to place favourable fake reviews and Amazon has recruited a team of amateur critics to restore the balance.

Nathan Barker, of Reputation 24/7, offers a service starting at 5,000. He said: ‘First we set up accounts. For a romance novel we’d pick seven female profiles and three males.

‘We’d say we like this book but add a tiny bit of criticism and compare it to another book.’ Mr Barker claims this is common practice among publishers.The original article on Mail Online is here.


Women writers at war over fake book reviews on Amazon

By Nick Fagge

Last updated at 1:02 PM on 29th November 2010

The story involves subterfuge, jealousy and dirty tricks in the world of literature.

And its unlikely setting is the readers’ reviews section on Amazon.

Alongside details of a book for sale, the website offers supposedly independent verdicts from customers, including a rating of from one to five stars.

However, rival publishers are accused of hijacking the system to praise their own volumes and disparage the opposition.

Authors are turning on each other, agencies are charging up to 5,000 to place favourable fake reviews and Amazon has recruited a team of amateur critics to restore the balance.

One author, Rosie Alison, became so incensed by a series of barbed reviews on the website that she called in investigators to see if rival publishers were behind the stinging criticism.

Miss Alison is a producer for the company behind the Harry Potter films.

Her first novel, The Very Thought Of You, went virtually unnoticed when it was published.

But the book, about an eight-year-old World War II evacuee, became the target of vicious assaults after it was long-listed for the Orange prize for women’s fiction this year.

By yesterday it had attracted 119 reviews on Amazon – 50 per cent more than the book which won the prize, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

While many praised its qualities, 16 reviewers give the book the minimum one star.

One compares Miss Alison’s writing to Mills and Boon novels, while another claims she ‘has no feel for fiction at all, no sense of what makes a plot tick along, no flair for language’.

Another implies that the author’s success is connected to her marriage to Tim Waterstone, founder of the chain of High Street bookshops.

Miss Alison, 46, is said to be in dispute with Amazon about the hostile reviews and has approached Kwikchex, a company which specialises in protecting online reputations, run by Chris Emmins.
He said: ‘I looked at some of them and certainly the wording and the dates of the postings were indicative of a malicious attack.’

Another author, Polly Samson, 48, has suffered sneering reviews on Amazon because she is married to David Gilmour, the Pink Floyd guitarist.

Her most recent book, Perfect Lives, published this month, was the target of some vicious criticism.

One reviewer, Felicia Davis-Burden, said: ‘Every story seems to be a variation of Samson fictionalising the life she probably has as Mrs D Gilmour. I’m sorry, Polly, but this book bored me. You need to leave home.’

Earlier this year historian Simon Winder forced Amazon to remove a critical review of his book Germania after he discovered it was written by a rival academic – Diane Purkiss, of Keble College, Oxford.

Guidelines set by Amazon state that reviews should not be posted by anyone with a financial interest or a competing book.

But the online giant accepts anonymous reviews from anyone with a customer account.

This has led PR firms to provide favourable reviews of new books, at a price.

Nathan Barker, of Reputation 24/7, offers a service starting at 5,000.

He said: ‘First we set up accounts. For a romance novel we’d pick seven female profiles and three males.

‘We’d say we like this book but add a tiny bit of criticism and compare it to another book.’

Mr Barker claims this is common practice among publishers.Source:
http://www.dvhardware.net/article46782.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333885/Amazons-amateur-book-reviewing-vicious-free-readers-victims.html

Lyra Jean
11-30-2010, 06:17 PM
I could totally find a better use for 5,000 or rather $5000. I think once the reading public found out it could hurt an author's career and image. It's not worth it and even if I had the money I wouldn't use them.

aruna
11-30-2010, 06:21 PM
There's already a thread on this, here. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=197752)
I think the report is overblown.

veinglory
11-30-2010, 06:53 PM
I agree. The only person quoted as saying the practice is common is a guy who is selling it.

gothicangel
11-30-2010, 08:37 PM
I agree. The only person quoted as saying the practice is common is a guy who is selling it.

My reaction exactly.

I don't believe a legit publisher would waste their time doing this. Now scum like the guy quote above is another matter.

An author who would pay for such a service reeks of desperation.

aruna
12-01-2010, 10:11 AM
I agree. The only person quoted as saying the practice is common is a guy who is selling it.

I can imagine some PA authors doing it, though!:)

aruna
12-01-2010, 10:30 AM
By the way, the DM article went (somewhat) viral yesterday -- it was all over google, in various UK newspaper and blogs, all linking back to the DM. I think it mighy be backfiring somewhat, because in today's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/30/amazon-stalker-poison-pen-reviews) Ms Alison is backtracking a little:





But press reports that she had hired a private detective and was in dispute with Amazon over the issue (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333885/Amazons-amateur-book-reviewing-vicious-free-readers-victims.html) were inaccurate, Alison said, and she did not believe the reviews were being posted by a rival publisher as had been alleged. "I have put through a request for Amazon to look at some reviews which seem suspicious. There is a process going on, but I hoped it would go through in private," she said. "I am perfectly open to critical reviews when stated under somebody's real name, but over a number of months I have had a few reviews that have made me suspicious, because the phrasing was similar and the names involved do not appear to have reviewed any other titles on the site. I let it go for some time but it was getting me down. A friend said 'Do something about this anonymous assassin'." Alison added: "It's a personal thing and I feel distressed. It could be someone I know."

The thing is, all authors are in love with their first novel, and yes, negative reviews do hurt (hurt you, the author, that is, not necessarily sales). But you have to swallow it and move on. Especially if they are far outnumbered by positive ones, as in this case.

starscape
12-01-2010, 01:10 PM
Oops, thank the moderator for merging the threads.

Well, I agree that such an act would damage a writer's reputation, which is almost like a brand.

As I remember, many companies in other industries attacked each other. Mac VS PC for example. Most of the time this kind of attack annoys the customers, really; it doesn't improve the sell.

Some of you above said the writers were desperate to pay for 5 stars and reviews. IMO, these writers are not ready to write their next novels.

gothicangel
12-01-2010, 01:27 PM
Thanks for that Aruna. Left me feeling: 'yeah right.' :D

I find the whole thing mind boggling. As Starscape points out it only annoys customers. If I go into a bookshop and see two similar titles I like, I will buy both.

As the Guardian points out, publishers do post favourable reviews of their books. They make a point that they do no post attacking reviews. What would be the point? There is no guarantee the put-off reader would purchase their title instead.

Jack Parker
12-01-2010, 01:44 PM
When you're dealing with ANY and EVERY type of online forum, whether it's for reviews, discussions or ratings of any kind, you'll ALWAYS find a good number of people who are so addicted to anonymity on the internet and feelings of superiority towards others that they'll leave bogus, high-and-mighty comments. For the love of pork rinds, just read a few comments on YouTube and you'll see tan alarming number of folks resort to junior high cursing and name-calling. They're their own self-appointed judge, jury and executioner on everything.

We live in a world where, deep down, people feel inferior. The way many choose to feel better about themselves is to bring others down. Their joy comes from other people's pain and failures. They lie in wait for celebrities to make mistakes. They revel in dirt. If it's not there, they'll make it up or twist something innocent into something vicious and horrible. I'd better stop there or I could go on and on.

The real question for me is this: Do publishers pay any attention to reviews on Amazon? They shouldn't. People do pay others to write both good and bad reviews. CNet is full of them. Companies will give their own products rave reviews while disguising themselves as a random, or enthusiastic, customer.

It's hard not to read reviews about our own work but it's in our best interest to avoid them. Let sales be your thermostat, not reviews.

aruna
12-01-2010, 01:58 PM
We live in a world where, deep down, people feel inferior. The way many choose to feel better about themselves is to bring others down. Their joy comes from other people's pain and failures. They lie in wait for celebrities to make mistakes. They revel in dirt. If it's not there, they'll make it up or twist something innocent into something vicious and horrible. I'd better stop there or I could go on and on.

However, in the case of Ms Alison, there was not one review there that could be regarded as nasty. The worst comment came from someone who said they threw the book into the English Channel. Considering that many people on AW declare that they threw this or that book against the wall, that's hardly the stuff of spite.

It's true that some of the one star reviews came from people who only posted one review, and never reviewed again. (I checked.) That IS suspicious. However, many of the five star reviews also came from people with one review - also suspicious.

Maybe if amazon posted each reviewer's review total next to their name (whether anonymous or not) that would be a bit of a guide in identifying spam reviews, both pro and con.


The real question for me is this: Do publishers pay any attention to reviews on Amazon? They shouldn't. People do pay others to write both good and bad reviews. CNet is full of them. Companies will give their own products rave reviews while disguising themselves as a random, or enthusiastic, customer.

It's hard not to read reviews about our own work but it's in our best interest to avoid them. Let sales be your thermostat, not reviews.

It's not publishers who might pay attention, it's prospective readers; that's what's so upsetting to authors. And it is upsetting. But you need to develop a thick skin, and maybe there's some truth in those negative reviews. I know I had a hard time reading them when my books first came out, but after a few years, looking back, I can admit that sometimes they were right. Our first books are seldom perfect; I jusy read parts of my first one, written ten years ago, and cringed. If I were to review it myself, now, I would definitely have some negative things to say! I think the trick is to stand back and see it all from a place of neutrality and objectivity. I couldn't do it then; I can now.

gothicangel
12-01-2010, 04:06 PM
I remember getting a certain rejection, I threw an absolute tantrum.
Looking back now the criticisms were fair. It makes me cringe because I wrote a cringeworthy rant that was published in a major UK magazine. :Headbang:

I'll be sending out my WIP in 2011. I know not to behave like that again, publishing is a small world. I can only hope that any agent that saw that rant has forgotten.

I would also like to think when my book is published, and receive 1 star reviews I will be a good enough writer to take on my readers criticisms.

Jack Parker
12-01-2010, 10:30 PM
However, in the case of Ms Alison, there was not one review there that could be regarded as nasty. The worst comment came from someone who said they threw the book into the English Channel. Considering that many people on AW declare that they threw this or that book against the wall, that's hardly the stuff of spite. Thanks Aruna. I was up until 4:15am and should NOT have been posting as late as I did. I got so caught up in what I said that I neglected to make my main point, which is exactly what you said. We DO live in a world where people get nasty and hurtful online and it IS rampant. However, in the case of Ms. Alison, the reviews were fair because the readers made clear what it was they didn't like about the book.

I've followed your comments in this conversation and find them very astute, such as your observations in the quote below. Do you write mysteries? Somehow I think you would be very good at them!


It's true that some of the one star reviews came from people who only posted one review, and never reviewed again. (I checked.) That IS suspicious. However, many of the five star reviews also came from people with one review - also suspicious.

Maybe if amazon posted each reviewer's review total next to their name (whether anonymous or not) that would be a bit of a guide in identifying spam reviews, both pro and con. That would help but it's an imperfect system that people will always find a way to get around. They'll just go to other books and post quickie little one or two line reviews, making sure they're mixed, so the reviews they're faking (whether good or bad) will appear genuine.


It's not publishers who might pay attention, it's prospective readers; that's what's so upsetting to authors. And it is upsetting. But you need to develop a thick skin, and maybe there's some truth in those negative reviews. I know I had a hard time reading them when my books first came out, but after a few years, looking back, I can admit that sometimes they were right. Our first books are seldom perfect; I jusy read parts of my first one, written ten years ago, and cringed. If I were to review it myself, now, I would definitely have some negative things to say! I think the trick is to stand back and see it all from a place of neutrality and objectivity. I couldn't do it then; I can now.Spoken from experience, truth and maturity. The way I see it, you can't believe all the bad reviews but there will be some truth in them. But you also can't believe all the good reviews either because there will be flattery and people trying to show off THEIR writing and reviewing skills.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Reviews and critics are for newspapers and magazines. Forget about them. The real mettle of your work is in the sales and whether or not a publisher agrees to publish you again.

Torgo
12-02-2010, 01:07 AM
My reaction exactly.

I don't believe a legit publisher would waste their time doing this. Now scum like the guy quote above is another matter.

An author who would pay for such a service reeks of desperation.

For $5000? NO FREAKING WAY.

It's stupidly expensive for the benefit you get out of it. In UK terms that's practically an entire marketing budget for a decent frontlist title; we have marketing people - in fact we have work experience people - who could go around placing fake reviews on websites if we thought it was a good idea.

I have not worked anywhere where the marketing department felt itself above the odd bit of Amazon reviewing, but it's never really habitual. I suppose the best way to describe it is it's tactical, not strategic. People would, I think, be very quick to spot the strategic deployment of rampant sock-puppetry; anyone who spends much time on a forum, for example, becomes quite sensitive about it. I don't think publishers go in for it as a policy.

However, now and again you get a situation where something's had only a single 2-star review, and the single reviewer is, demonstrably, a singular ass.

This is very probably a book that you care about and have lived with for a couple of years and love dearly, but it looks like a dog in searches because someone slated it without reading it; or on the basis that some Amazon marketplace seller was slow to deliver it; or because they clicked the wrong button ("This is the greatest novel of all time! Two stars!"). This feels deeply unfair, and besides, you love the book dearly. So perhaps a couple of basically truthful, but undeniably tactical, reviews show up soon afterwards.

I don't think many of my colleagues feel good about it; it feels like cheating. However sometimes you feel like you've been cheated somewhat yourself, and it's permissible to redress the balance a little, so long as you don't take too many liberties. I really don't think it goes on that much; if I look at all the books we've published over the last year or so on Amazon, and there are a lot, the vast majority of them haven't been reviewed at all.

As for outsourcing it: I think if you offered to do this for any major house for $5000, you'd be politely escorted from the building. If you offered to do this for a desperate or unscrupulous small press, you'd be out of luck, because it's too expensive. Even a bottom-feeder like PA would either be doing it for themselves or laughing at your bravado. So I think the only real clientele for this is people who are a) self-publishing and b) deluded enough that they think they are funding a marketing campaign, rather than a guy sitting in his shorts at home writing spam at $1000 an hour.

Libbie
12-02-2010, 01:33 AM
Oh, for corn's sake!

Amazon's reader reviews are an excellent resource for writers and for other readers. I rely on them to help guide my purchases (usually by only buying books that have an average of three stars...split between lots of fives and lots of ones. The books that piss a few people off and/or disturb them are invariably my favorites). I am an active participant in reviewing, too.

Too bad, so sad for Alison. Boo hoo. you know why you got more reviews after you were short-listed for the Orange? Because people finally noticed your book. Too bad they also noticed it fell short of their expectations.

Personally, I am looking forward to one-star reviews on Amazon when my books are finally published. They're often hilarious and fun to read, and I've got a way thick skin. Writers need to realize they're not going to make all readers happy. No writer appeals equally to all book nuts. Taste varies. Some people will hate what you do. Life is short -- enjoy the fact that people noticed your work enough to hate it.

Libbie
12-02-2010, 01:41 AM
I do agree that Amazon needs to put in place a system where only people who have bought the book are allowed to review it.

Heck no. What about people who borrowed the book from the library, or bought it from another retailer? Their opinions on the work are just as valid and useful as those who bought it from Amazon.

Sophia
12-02-2010, 01:50 AM
What about people who borrowed the book from the library, or bought it from another retailer? Their opinions on the work are just as valid and useful as those who bought it from Amazon.

Not arguing as such, but I don't see why they should have an automatic right to express their opinion on Amazon. They can use Goodreads, or LibraryThing, or a review blog, perhaps; anywhere that isn't linked to the specific place where that book is being sold. I'm just missing where it's automatically wrong for Amazon to insist that only their own customers get to comment.

gothicangel
12-02-2010, 01:53 AM
Sorry Torgo, but I've worked as a editor and I've never came across a publisher that condones what Ms Alison is accusing them of.

I think Libbie said it all really.

Torgo
12-02-2010, 02:04 AM
I'm just missing where it's automatically wrong for Amazon to insist that only their own customers get to comment.

It's not about right and wrong, it's a business decision; it's about what Amazon wants to be and what its ratings system wants to be.

Amazon is IMDB for books at this point. Unless I'm really bothered about accuracy, it's where I go for bibliographic data, or cover images, or synopses, or even just a general sense of the reception the book's received. (There's always the British Library or the LOC if you need your data ironclad.) I think I probably prefer that people who aren't customers can leave reviews; and I suspect that vastly more reviews are left as a result of Amazon prompting purchasers than pure drive-bys, so perhaps damage is limited that way. I know that I've done a lot of rating of books on the site as a method of improving my recommendations, so that's another reason for people to leave feedback on things they bought elsewhere. (Are those ratings visible if you don't leave an actual review? I don't think so.)

The alternative - restricting reviews to paying customers - has a nice clean simplicity to it, but I think it probably means fewer reviews and less discussion on the site. I think Amazon would rather be a little wilder and woollier than that, though, they like being a bit of a social network, and they do moderate. (They're not averse to deleting reviews if they are obviously unfair - I'm just not sure how all-seeing their eyes are.)

I think, as well, that it would not provide a significant enough financial barrier to anyone who wanted to game the system - they'd have to feel a positive or negative review would be influential enough to justify buying a copy.

Torgo
12-02-2010, 02:08 AM
Sorry Torgo, but I've worked as a editor and I've never came across a publisher that condones what Ms Alison is accusing them of.

I think Libbie said it all really.

I agree, I've never heard of a publisher leaving negative reviews to sabotage another house's book - that wasn't what I was talking about. (Rival authors are another matter.) I was (most recently) responding to the story about the 'marketing firm' who were selling 5* reviews for $5000 and claiming to have lots of takers. I've known plenty of publishers who might give their own books a nice review - usually with the best of intentions - but that strikes me as being targeted strictly at the clueless.

benbradley
12-02-2010, 02:57 AM
And now you understand why I only read three-star reviews, if I read Amazon reviews at all.
You are missing some of the best free entertainment on the Internet.

Popcorn not included.

Speaking of spoof reviews, this is a classic from back in 2000, with over 9000 "helpful" votes! Ping! I love that Duck (http://www.amazon.com/Story-About-Ping-Marjorie-Flack/dp/0140502416)
I made a comment on that review. I could not help myself.

Perhaps what is most regrettable is that I now see where you mention the 2000 date of that review, which predates the (self) publication of the book I mentioned in my comment. That review could well have influenced the reviews of the book I mentioned.

Libbie
12-02-2010, 03:48 AM
Not arguing as such, but I don't see why they should have an automatic right to express their opinion on Amazon. They can use Goodreads, or LibraryThing, or a review blog, perhaps; anywhere that isn't linked to the specific place where that book is being sold. I'm just missing where it's automatically wrong for Amazon to insist that only their own customers get to comment.

Well, most other review sites such as Goodreads aren't very well known. Most people using the internet know what Amazon is and use it. Most people don't know what Goodreads is.

juniper
12-02-2010, 05:45 AM
People do pay others to write both good and bad reviews. CNet is full of them. Companies will give their own products rave reviews while disguising themselves as a random, or enthusiastic, customer.


Oh crap. I've been reading cnet reviews about digital cameras. Now I don't know what to believe. I want a new camera!

I think Consumer Reports is still trustworthy, no? They used to say they didn't accept advertising or freebies. I haven't looked there in a long time.

Jack Parker
12-02-2010, 08:02 AM
Oh crap. I've been reading cnet reviews about digital cameras. Now I don't know what to believe. I want a new camera!

I think Consumer Reports is still trustworthy, no? They used to say they didn't accept advertising or freebies. I haven't looked there in a long time.CNet reviews are to be avoided. I'm sure there are valid ones there but distinguishing them among the paid ones isn't always easy. A friend of mine who is an electronic gadget fanatic told me that Consumer Reports is better but not by much.

Aruna is the perfect example of being smart. Amazon reviews are great for the most part. When you find one that strikes you, click on the user and check out their other ratings to see how often they rate/comment and what they're rating and commenting on. You can pretty much tell from that.

Another suggestion, that I've had friends recommend, is to go to YouTube and find videos whose quality you like. Leave a comment asking them what kind of camera they use. (If you're looking for a video camera, that is.) I've seen a lot of comments asking that question. I've even seen a lot of people include that information either at the end of their videos or in the video description.

Other than that, go from review site to review site and compare reviews for the model you're interested in. If you find consistency in the reviews, you can pretty much go with it.

aruna
12-02-2010, 12:13 PM
The alternative - restricting reviews to paying customers - has a nice clean simplicity to it, but I think it probably means fewer reviews and less discussion on the site. I think Amazon would rather be a little wilder and woollier than that, though, they like being a bit of a social network, and they do moderate. (They're not averse to deleting reviews if they are obviously unfair - I'm just not sure how all-seeing their eyes are.)

I think, as well, that it would not provide a significant enough financial barrier to anyone who wanted to game the system - they'd have to feel a positive or negative review would be influential enough to justify buying a copy.
QFT




Aruna is the perfect example of being smart. Amazon reviews are great for the most part. When you find one that strikes you, click on the user and check out their other ratings to see how often they rate/comment and what they're rating and commenting on. You can pretty much tell from that.
.
Hey, I'm even smarter than you think! ;) I discovered yesterday that by hovering your cursor above the reviewer's name the number of his/her reviews shows up immediately, saving time! A pity so few people know this!

As for Ms Alison, this is just being extremely thin skinned. 16 one star reviews out of 116 total is NOT evidence of a smear campaign. And assuming that some of those one-stars are genuine, written by frequent reviewers and/or Vine reviewers, that means maybe only 6 or 7 or 8 of them might be fake. All she has done is drawn attention to the book; if more people read it she will certainly get more bad reviews, as evidenced on the goodreads site

citymouse
12-02-2010, 05:35 PM
Aruna, I just wandered over to goodreads.com. Just for fun I searched my 4 books. Yikes! Two got 3*s and one got 4*s. Sadly the best one, IMO, was not review/rated.
C

aruna
12-02-2010, 06:18 PM
I got some amazing reviews on goodreads. The first book, 36 5*, book 2, 15 5*, book 3 9 5*. None of them have 1* reviews, a couple 2*. I didn't even know the books were on that site till recently. Did you know you can also identify yourself as the author and have an author page? I set mine up and have started to "friend" all the people who reviewed the books. What name are you there under?

Jack Parker
12-03-2010, 05:20 AM
QFT


Hey, I'm even smarter than you think! ;) I discovered yesterday that by hovering your cursor above the reviewer's name the number of his/her reviews shows up immediately, saving time! A pity so few people know this! Well, I'm not surprised that you're the one who figured it out!


As for Ms Alison, this is just being extremely thin skinned... Sadly the world has become incredibly thin-skinned due to the wonder that it 'political correctness.' People are highly over-sensitive about the littlest things these days. Even the things that don't involve them.