Sure, maybe I’m overreacting. I mean, everybody’s doing it, right? Authors know how important “good reviews” are. And when you can pay for people to shill for your novel, what’s the big deal? Especially if it spikes consumer interest. It’s kind of the equivalent of paying for groupies to squee when you step out of the limo. Chumming for bigger fish only hurts the ones that are hooked. And the ones who are bait.
Don’t misunderstand me: Every author wants to get reviews. Good reviews. And lots of them. But just how far should we go to get them? I probably fall on the wrong side of the equation. The side of indifference. I try not to worry too much about reviews, both content and quantity. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I had a giveaway with the one requirement that the winner writes a brief review after they’re finished, only to have the review never be written. But as frustrating as that is, I’ve never once considered stuffing the ballot box.
So I’m watching this novel’s release and within a week it’s pushing 20 reviews. All but one is five-stars (and the one “negative” review is four stars). Mind you, this author is a relative unknown. They are not a brand name with a huge fan base who is counting the days till the next book in the series. So either readers have been secretly salivating over the release of this new novel or something fishy is going on.
And sure enough, upon closer inspection, most of these reviews look… fake.
What does a “fake review” look like? Most consist of the so-called reviewer copying and paraphrasing what’s on the back cover and then adding some gushing generic rave, like:
- “This book is a must-read for its thrilling action!”
- “This book was a page-turner from the start!”
- “An enjoyable and moving story you won’t want to miss!”
- “Well written and the characters are so realistic!”
- “Can’t wait for the next novel!”
A “real” review will often mention a plot detail or even quote a passage from the book by way of example. But being that “fake” reviewers usually haven’t actually read the book, no such specificity should be expected.
If the review is very short, it also may be fake. Of course, this isn’t always true. But if the writer is being paid to affect the overall score, their intent may simply be to boost the book’s valuation via the “star” rating. The result is a short, very generic, five-star review. Another thing: Fake reviewers often have only one review (or one book, one video game, and one piece of jewelry) which is always five-star. In other words, they are not a regular reviewer. They are a ringer.
Sadly, the aforementioned book and its reviews had all the above.
Anyway, my interest in the novel quickly deflated. Why? Because if someone has to pay people to “like” their stuff, how good can their product really be?
So here’s my question: Should I let “fake reviews” negatively influence my interest in a novel and its author? Because, for now, I do.