I’m referring to “reader reviews” at online bookstores, and I’ve always been a little envious, to tell the truth. I don’t get many reader reviews of my books – at least, not as many as some of my competition get. I always figured it was because I didn’t solicit them. I mean, I prize your time and privacy, and am simply grateful that you read my books. Sure, I wish I’d get a gazillion book reviews. But I learned long ago to be careful what I wish for. Those reviews might be lousy, in which case I’d feel really bad, given the 5-star reviews other authors get.
Turns out roughly one-third of those 5-star reviews may be purchased. This, according to an article this Sunday in the New York Times. Apparently, posting reader reviews has become a business. An author contacts a reviewer-for-hire, pays a certain amount of money for a certain number of 5-star reviews, and it’s done.
Do you believe this? Do you read those reviews? Do you post ones yourself?
The concept of a reviewer-for-hire is discouraging. From what I understand, online bookstores prohibit the practice, but policing it is another matter. And then there are those who game the system. I know authors (one, in particular, whose name you’d know in an instant) who milk their audience for reviews. They sponsor contests and offer free giveaways in exchange for rave reviews. They’re not directly paying for them, so they feel this is okay. And yeah, it’s one way to promote your book.
Another is to diss the competition by getting family and friends to post lousy reviews of a book that comes out the same day as yours. Mind you, this isn’t my own paranoia speaking. A publisher told me this kind of thing happens, perhaps to explain to me why one of my books got a totally nonsensical review. It was like the reviewer hadn’t read my book at all.
For the record, I’ve stopped reading those reviews. Literally. I don’t look at them – have no idea how many have been posted for Escape or whether they’re good or bad. I’m much happier this way.
What do you think about the practice of reader reviews? Are they worthwhile, or should they be eliminated? I’d love to hear your thoughts.