Fake Reviews and Why They Hurt Honest Authors

  • Posted by Alexander Perry
  • June 5, 2017 6:27 AM PDT
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  • 1,564 views
Fake book reviews are rampant on Amazon. They can make it difficult to determine the quality of a book without reading the "Look Inside" or purchasing the complete book only to find out the entire story falls off the page after the first chapter.

 

Why You Don’t Want to Buy Reviews

If you find it necessary to buy fake reviews, the question should really be: Is your work really ready for publication?

There seem to be two schools of thought on this topic. There are well known authors who have been accused of jumpstarting their self-publishing careers by generating fake reviews in order to give their work the appearance of quality and credibility. Their work was good, real readers enjoyed their stories, and their careers took off.  The other scenario is the writer who hates the stark emptiness of the "Be the first to write a review" invitation on Amazon. Or their Facebook friends write a few reviews, which are picked up by Amazon's social media algorithm, and dropped from the listing. But for some titles, even a slew of five star fake reviews aren't going to spur sales. Because--and this is hard for some people to bear--their work just isn't ready for publication.

Amazon's algorithms seem to be easily gamed at the moment. They will apparently flag and remove reviews created by those with some form of social media connection to you. But they don't yet seem to be very good at picking up on fake reviews from paid services or "review collectives", even when some of these reviews come from reviewers who seem extremely prolific (multiple books a day) and overly generous with five star reviews (every title they've ever reviewed).

But now, there’s two new Sheriffs in town. FakeSpot.com and ReviewMeta.com

 

FakeSpot and MetaReview

Let’s talk about what they do, what they don’t, and why it may become even riskier to buy book reviews in the day and age of digital publishing.

FakeSpot and MetaReview analyze all of the reviews for a particular book (or other product) on Amazon. They then compare all of the reviews, the reviewers, the language used, the frequency of reviews.

Fakespot will identify specific "unreliable reviewers" noting such details as overwhelming amount of positive reviews, correlation with other fake reviewers profile data and language, large number of reviews created on the same date.

ReviewMeta also applies a "trust" value, looking at similar aspects like overlapping review history, repetitive phrases that appear in other reviews and whether the review is from an unverified purchaser. The offer an overall analysis that flags suspicious details like an overwhelming number of reviews from unverified purchasers,  a large number of reviews posted on a single day vs in a natural progression over time, and of course the same overlapping review history that will often peg reviewers as part of a paid service.

The concern to writers buying or soliciting fake reviews should be If these two independent software developers can come up with these apps that sniff out suspicious reviews, imagine what happens when Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble roll out their own proprietary versions?

 

Fake Reviews Hurt Honest Authors

Fake reviews are particularly frustrating to legitimate authors who earn their reviews the hard way--by hard work and ethical promotion.

These fake reviews can propel some of these titles higher on Amazon’s promotional spectrum than trustworthy authors who aren’t gaming the system. Savvy readers may read the “Look Inside” sample and wonder how the book could possibly have that many positive reviews, and decide not to buy--but that title took someone else’s place on a list where it would have been in front of a potential buyer and a mouse-click away from a purchase. That’s cheating, and every honest aspiring amateur, semi-pro and professional author should be pissed off about these tactics.

If a book's hook is duller than dirt, the writing is a yawner full of passive voice, comma splices, and head hopping viewpoints, all the fake four and five star reviews in the world aren’t going to save it. The of the  “Marketing” expense to buy reviews won't be recouped on legitimate book purchases.

 

The Penalties

Generating fake reviews to pump up your title with five star accolades can lead to content removal and delisting of products, and the suspension of your Amazon account. The worst, but unlikely outcome is civil and criminal penalties.  

 

Amazon's Review Policy:

We take the integrity of the Community very seriously. Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including by contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited. If you violate our Guidelines, we may restrict your ability to use Community features, remove content, delist related products, or suspend or terminate your account. If we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in any form of misconduct, remittances and payments may be withheld or permanently forfeited. Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.

We encourage anyone who suspects that content manipulation is taking place or that our Guidelines are being violated in any way to notify us. We will investigate the concern thoroughly and take any appropriate actions.    

 

Conclusion

When it comes to reviews, honesty is the best policy. Avid readers and authors won't be fooled by a slew of fake reviews, and they will be less likely to give your future work a fair look if they know you are gaming the system.

 

 

 

 

Alexander Perry 2 articles
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