buzz and woody

Fake reviews. Fake reviews everywhere

A wedge of authors have became popular against all the odds. A chunk of writers have sold material on the back of paying people to review their books. Some writers have grown their careers by selling books explaining (in detail) how they made their name, but conveniently the chapter describing how they initially paid for hundreds of fake reviews is missing. They have ballooned the perception of their talent and taken your money, then taken your money again by selling a lie, which covered up the truth about what made you buy their books in the first place.

These ‘writers’ are the enemy of words. They are the plastic Phoenixes rising from the heat of their own moist flatulence.

They have manipulated an environment where they are statistically more successful by throwing money at fake reviewers. These authors might be perceived as important, but I believe for a person to write something of worth, a person must first be worth something. And paying to rig a system, alludes to a mind less beautiful. Some justify the process by saying paying for a reviewer does not mean paying for the review. Some reviewers even say they will take the money, but only review honestly. Then you check the reviews. And they are all five star: once money exchanges hands, a grey cloud appears in the sky above the land of honesty. And that cloud later rains urine. And clowns. And spiders.

No, it later rains tiny incontinent spider clowns. And umbrellas are outlawed.

That’s not a town I want to live in.

Your book could be brilliant, but if you’re not prepared or cannot pay money to manufacture a false review system, then your book, even if it is wonderful, will be perceived to be worse than books that are successful, but actually terrible.

Here’s a fact: each time someone pays for a fake review a fairy gets its wings pulled off by a goblin, who then shits the broken wings out into the face of a yawning angel.

I don’t like the idea that “literary success” is less about talent and more about expenditure, but perhaps it is: perhaps that is the way it’s always been – not just in the indie world, but in traditional publishing too. Marketing is king, and money supports marketing. There are very few, if any, traditionally printed books that are not smothered in gushing quotes by some famous name from within the industry, regardless of how rubbish the book turns out to be.

We had a chance to create something better.

We had the chance to create a world where good books are judged by their content, and not their cover. But instead of being authors, we studied marketing. We filed into the system and waited for our heads to be patted, and because of the same selfish people that turn up at the beginning of everything that could be good, we have corrupted that system.

People with more money than wisdom, people with a bigger budget than talent: these are the Gods of this literary cardboard Babylon.

Read books and say what you want about them. Support the people out there who have sacrificed for words. Support talent. Support authors who write regardless of what people think of their writing, and recognise the people who write because they are desperate for an affirmation from strangers: for a Facebook like, or a five star review they handed to a reviewer and wrote themselves.

Stick two fingers into the dry eyeball of truth: review, and just say no to fake reviews.

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62 thoughts on “Fake reviews. Fake reviews everywhere

  1. It’s not only the paid for reviews that make me so angry, it’s also the reviews that are clearly favours called in from friends and family. I’ve occasionally read a self-published book that has been, to put it kindly, mediocre, and been astonished to see that it has received scores of 5* reviews. Now granted, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, but it does raise a few eyebrows. I’ve had people say to me that they’ve given a book a 5* review because they don’t want to disappoint the author, even though they don’t think the book’s any good! Listen up – Amazon is not an indie author support group, it is an online book shop, and reviews are intended for the information of possible purchasers of the books. Would you leave a misleading review of a hotel on TripAdvisor, when you had had a bad experience of a stay at a hotel, just because you wanted to encourage the hotel owners for simply attempting to run a hotel in the first place? No! I rest my case!

  2. I write articles about this sort of thing, too, and the awful author back-scratching reviews. I have put the link to my follow-up article about this, so you can read both that and the original if they interest you. I think this is as much of a problem to the honest person as those that are paid for

    http://ukartsdirectory.com/terry-tylers-literary-blog-30/

    I buy a lot of indie books. I tend to read the 3* and downwards reviews first, to see if the book contains features that make it a no-no for me (such as bad grammar, lack of proofreading, lack of feasible plot, lack of research, etc).

    Three cheers to you for writing this 🙂

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  4. I add my indignation to this marketing ploy and have been personally solicited, but declined of course. The information is out there for those interested in engaging in the practice. The moral question is whether the individual seeks to achieve success through hard work and ethics or choose to buy his/her way to the top? Lack of ethics has and will exist in a myriad of professions, writers are not exempt from the temptations to succeed financially. I would rather be an ethical successful author, than a wealthy unethical writer. These scams destroy a writer’s credibility and may lead to further inquiry into the authenticity of the work and so on. A journalist for the NY Times concocted a story which gained notoriety and received many awards for a fabricated story. An author appeared on Oprah who was lauded for what was thought an autobiography, and then later discovered it was fiction. The ramifications of any linear financial success not gained by fair play is often short-lived. To sustain that financial success more and more unethical practices become employed.

    I believe most readers are savvy consumers and do not rely on reviews when buying a book. What a reader receives from a story is subjective. A book is not like a vacuum machine, either it works or it doesn’t. Tales are interpreted differently by each reader. The review process is flawed and with that in mind, I focus on that which I can control -my story. Heck, I am not brilliant (although we all believe we are) or as popular as Miley C, (at the moment, trends change). I am simply an obsessive writer who loves to weave tales. That is my ultimate enjoyment and the marketing begins with content and with positive word of mouth from readers, ads and belief in your brilliance, the interest of potential readers become piqued. There is the simplicity from one who is passionately consumed by tales, which puts me in a classification of “an author who churns out books every few months.” Readers benefit from my literary obsession is my take on that subject. Not every writer requires years to craft a story, each writer has a unique talent, approach to their writing and an internal motivation. For some it is brilliance, others a love of creative expression not restrained or conforming to the standards or practices of others. Freedom in creative expression is not determined by what suits others, but the pursuit of indivual happiness. As a community of authors, I suppose the amount of time to write a book should not matter as much as the quality of the final product and ethics of the author and or publisher.

    1. I agree! I do think in the case of the author on Oprah, she missed the point. I really wanted James Frey to stand up to her and ask her who the hell she thinks she is. The difference between James Frey and the people paying for reviews – is James Frey is a good writer. He only embellished parts of his story, which, is the truth with most autobiographical stories. After time, everything becomes a story. He is a great author, and it’s a shame Oprah got involved with her moral crusade to punish anyone she feels fit on national television. Did James Frey do something wrong? Personally, I don’t think so. I’ve read both of his books, and as an author it was his story to tell. If embellishing parts of his own life story is wrong – which I would debate – was the punishment fitting to his crime? Was being lauded as a liar to America on live television, and being jeered by a live television audience goaded by Oprah fair? Certainly not. Rapists get off lighter. A felt for him that day, he was bullied. The difference is, the authors who are paying or reviews are not good writers. I’ve read 5 of these indie books now, books that have over 100+ 5 star reviews from authors nobody has ever heard of, but have (somehow) amassed 250,000+ twitter followers and hundreds and hundreds of reviews. They are terrible. Some people might read this and think my tone is jealousy, but it’s concern. My concern is for the stories. All of this is about the stories. All of this is about the words on the page. That is all I care about. And the bigger someone appears, the more likely people are to read those stories. If those stories are bad, or weak, then people are going to start thinking the best writers in the indie world are producing boring books. That, may lead to honest, better indie authors not getting read at all. So, I’m speaking up for those writers. Writers like you, writers like me. These people paying for books reviews – their books contain bad writing, boring plots, unoriginal stories. These idiots are going to destroy the chances of any decent indie author being found, and all because they have a bit of money, and can pay for a fake social media presence and reviews. They are making it even harder for the little guy to be read. And, I wouldn’t mind as much, if they were honest about their methods and accept anybody can pay money and appear like them. But, first comes the paying for a social media presence and reviews, then follows a book they sell telling people how they did it! Not only are they lying, they are happy to profit from their lies. They are happy to appear how people think they are! Chapter one of these ‘How I became a successful indie author’ should be: pay for everything now, the profit will catch up with you in about 5 years. Simple. But in all of their books, they actually talk like Gods deserving of their place. That frankly, just takes the piss out of the reader and the people paying their money to find out the truth. And, of course, people are buying these books thinking if they sit down at twitter every day and talk to people, they are going to amass 200,000 followers. I think that’s the bit that frustrates me, the bullshit.

      I completely agree with you on focusing on what you can control, wise words – the story is pretty much all we do have control over.

      “Freedom in creative expression is not determined by what suits others, but the pursuit of individual happiness.”

      I could not agree more 🙂

      Thank you for your comment! :)x

  5. Here’s my sixpence worth: I think this is the fundamental problem facing all self-published authors. We are writers, not sales-people. The thought of doing something as unsavoury as paying for a fake review is just incomprehensible to us. Perhaps the people you’ve mentioned are sales-people who’ve written a book. However, it is really frustrating to find out that we’re not playing on a level playing field here. It’s enough that the big 5 publishing houses have their massive marketing departments doing all sorts to get their new authors noticed, but I had no idea that it was going on in the self-publishing world (colour me naïve!) I think a good old rant is just what’s called for Rob and they do say knowledge is power, so thanks for the post, but at the end of the day, what can you do?
    I’m putting my novel out there in the hope that it will succeed on it’s own merits, i.e. that it’s a well-written story people will enjoy reading. Funny enough, my background is in marketing and I’ve worked in marketing … and quit marketing, because I couldn’t bear manipulating people into buying something they didn’t really want. Which makes me the worst sales person in the world! However, having said that, my integrity is what helps me to market my book, because I really believe it’s a brilliant novel. Thanks to self-publishing, we don’t have to rely on publishers deciding our fate as authors, but we do rely on honest reviews to get our book out there. Great topic Rob, glad you brought it up 🙂

    1. Thanks Evie! We are not sales people, but, for some authors, this is now a business, and – well, in business anything goes. Spend half as long on the book, spend twice as much on promotion, reviews etc – and your book will be twice as successful than if you spent ages writing a book. Personally, I’d rather have less books, that say something, or at least try to change the world. I’m not writing for a genre to milk the cash cow – I am a writer.

      Yup, I think it was worthy of a good old rant. What can I do? Not much, I’m not sure I want to do anything. How some decide to treat literature and writing is up to them. I’ll just keep doing it my way, and maybe long after I’m dead, someone important might pick up one of my books, try them, and be reminded of what literature was meant to be.

      My personal view is that it’s better to have 10 reviews that are real, than 100 that are paid for. Others, think it’s better to look like you are a God, so you can act like one too. I think these people are idiots.

      Best of luck with your book Evie! :)x

  6. Here here i totally agree with everything you have written. As a recent self published author i came across sites that pay to review books and i was shocked and disgusted at this practice. It is dishonest to readers and other writers. I would feel deep shame if i took part in this practice and likewise would rather have no or bad reviews than lie.

    Thank you for highlighting this.

    Helen

    1. Thank you Helen – I’m glad you understand the point i have conveyed, a point that has been clarified several times in my responses to authors on this blog who deny the practice has ever taken place.

      In order to silence the critics (and I have) the links are now in the comments section for all to see.

      Do note: any author/reader who denied the practice of paying for reviews exists, has now gone silent.

      Thank you for your response Helen, and for reading my blog.

      And thank you for stating your opinion on the practice, which is your entitlement as a free human being. X

      *

      Should anyone reading this blog wish to skip a lot of the conversation, and go straight to the evidence, I have put up links, please see below my response to Anonymous dated: October 3, 2013 at 12:18. (A few comments down).

      But, if you have time, I suggest reading the entire comments section, it reveals a lot about the psyche of the few who think they have a right to suppress the views of the individual.

      1. You are welcome. When I posted last night I had not read the comments until afterwards. I was puzzled by some of them. I am always wary of posters who insist on naming names or citing facts. It is very easy to do a google search and find websites that charge for reviews. One particular crowd are charging around $199 to review and market your book and another charges in the region of $500. That is nuts in terms of cost but it is as you rightly point out cheating too.

        There are genuine book lovers out there who review for free and if they take the time to read your book they will share their thoughts with the wider community. That in my eyes is the only legitimate way of getting reviews. It may take longer and the process is slower but at least I can sit comfortably with myself as a writer.

        The fact is if I was to pay for reviews, which of course will flatter my ego (I am paying after all) then I will be cheating my potential readers. Also if I pay for reviews then I don’t believe in my product aka: my book, it is simple as that. It is gross manipulation.

        Good luck with the book and glad you raised this issue.
        Helen

        1. Thank you, and I agree with all of your points. There are plenty of reviewers who will review for free, and, no matter what an author tells themselves, if you are paying for that review, the review is more likely to be biased than a review that has not been paid for; for the simple reason that the reviewer being paid, will want to be paid by other authors, and the only way they can get repeat business would be from reviewing favourably. No author is going to pay money to a reviewer who has a reputation for leaving negative reviews. That would be entirely illogical. Thank you once again for your comments, as Mulder from the X-Files once said…The truth is out there 🙂

      1. Based on your new responses here, I’m going to err to the side of being respectful, and also offer you some unsolicited advice as someone who has been stirring up controversy for a long time.

        Cite facts. Name names. Offer solutions.

        When you write an op ed piece, it needs to be connected to reality. It’s very easy to rant about the perceived evils in the world, but without sources to back up the rant, your righteous indignation isn’t righteous–it comes off as paranoid. You could just as effectively bemoan how wrong it is that bigfoot kills so many tourists per year, or warn children against the dangers of playing with Ouji boards.

        Your post began with the line “You know all those writers we’ve been hearing about who had the money to pay for 1000′s of fake reviews to launch their career?”

        That means you are taking the position that people have heard about writers paying for fake reviews. Yet you don’t link to anything, you don’t offer proof that what you’ve heard is true, you simply rant against a presupposed opinion without any evidence.

        When I rail against something I perceive is unfair in this industry–and I do it often–I back up my claims, take those to task for being wrong, and then offer my opinion on how to fix things.

        What you’ve essential done here is yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. But you aren’t proving there is a fire. You’re assuming there is a fire, and that everyone knows it, without even so much as showing them a wisp of smoke.

        I’ve addressed the witch hunting aspects of buying reviews a while ago, and how easy it is for good people to jump on the bandwagon and start condemning. It isn’t an honest, or healthy, situation. It’s stirring an empty pot.

        You simply cannot “stand by your blog post as truth.” As written, you can only “stand by it as opinion” because it offers no truth.

        “I know this because I have been approached personally by two companies offering to give me fake reviews in return for cash.”

        And I swear bigfoot killed my parents! 🙂

        Come on, Craig. If you’re outraged that two companies have solicited you, name them. There isn’t any reason not to. They’re companies, not secret societies. And when you name them, explain how those companies work, what they offer, if they disclose the reviews are paid, and who has used those companies. You’ve got a strong enough anger to call out authors as “greedy fucking liars” but you won’t point out the perceived bad guys? How are we supposed to believe you?

        Not only didn’t you name them, you didn’t even mention you were approached by companies in your blog post. You only mentioned it in your responses. Not only did you bury the lede–you didn’t even bring it up.

        Your reasons for not citing any facts are lazy at best, disingenuous at worst. You’re asking people to take your word based on faith. You want me to read your rant and then look online for proof to substantiate it? Google “bigfoot” and see what you find.

        As Blake said, not everything you find online is real.

        Rants like yours are the type of hysteria that prompted Amazon to remove thousands of REAL reviews. Look at some of your comments. You’ve got readers who believe you, and are angry, and you’ve given them ZERO proof. You’ve sounded the bugle and called them to arms–to do what? Point fingers and make baseless accusations? Become outraged without giving them a focus for that outrage? Send them off to find the very disinformation that you claim to not have seen, but coincidentally appeared only days before your post?

        Perhaps you should have done a little Googling yourself before you decided to decry the practice of buying reviews, because then you would understand why I’m here chastising you. Spreading disinformation can cause harm.

        “I wonder if I am still sounding like an idiot,”

        No. You’re sounding like an honest human being who is trying to rationalize his opinions without offering anything at all to back it up. You can’t successfully argue an opinion when the premise hasn’t been solidly identified and verified.

        “reviewers from all over the world, have been paid to create fake accounts, to lie and generate fake reviews, by the big hitters on Kindle.”

        No evidence that this is happening all over the world. No evidence of fake accounts. No evidence of lying. No big hitters named. Yet you want people to be outraged.

        But even if we take your opinion as Gospel, the gist of your rant seems to be “many bestsellers got there because they bought reviews, and that’s unfair.”

        I know of ONE writer who has bought reviews, and he admitted it without even being asked. I’ve covered all of this a long time ago on my blog. And assuming that I’m pretty plugged into this industry, on both the self-pubbing side and the legacy side, I haven’t seen any evidence of paying “$1000s for 1000s of reviews.”

        Unless you count the Big 5, buying major ads in the New York Times and then conveniently getting their books reviewed by the New York Times. You didn’t point to that particular conflict of interest, though.

        You didn’t point to anything.

        Show me someone who bought reviews and then prove that was the sole reason he became successful (and be careful here–causality does not equal causation).

        Now here is more unsolicited advice.

        When in a hole, stop digging.

        It is human nature to assume. It is how we live day-to-day. And we constantly form opinions about things, even if we have very little evidence to back that opinion up. We also, as humans, tend to defend out beliefs to the death rather than admit we’re wrong.

        I have been wrong in the past. I’ve owned it. Being wrong gives me the chance to learn, to grow.

        You aren’t Woodward and Bernstein, protecting a valuable source. You don’t have a source. You have an unsubstantiated opinion about something, and you overreacted.

        Fine. We all do it sometimes. It’s human.

        But when you defend an unsubstantiated opinion by proclaiming your expertise and experience (which you did in your responses) and still not offering proof, you aren’t learning anything, or helping the situation, or furthering the debate.

        Or, if your opinion is indeed based on real evidence, share it, and I’d be happy to debate you.

        Bottom line, you seem to be one of the good guys. So use this blog for good, not for fear mongering. If you really have facts showing people are becoming successful by gaming the system, you owe it to authors everywhere to share those facts so they can be discussed and evaluated.

        BTW, don’t take my tone here as confrontational. I feel zero animosity toward you. I’d say these same things to your face while buying you a beer in a pub, and I’d be calm and smiling a lot. You can take or leave my advice–it doesn’t matter to me. But if you want to gain more blog followers, and actually help the community, reread what I’ve written here a few times and let it soak in.

        And on an unrelated note, very cool avatar.

        1. Hey, look Joe, I’m sure you are a good bloke, and I have read your comment…but a rant is just that. A rant. It is honest thoughts out on the page in the moment, and I stick by them and I stick by my belief that naming names and putting up links to companies does not bring a solution; it only creates anger. I could link to companies, but that does not make the company go away. Likely, it just brings more business to the company, which I do not wish to do. Any advertising is good advertising, as they say.

          if you honestly believe that fake reviews are not everywhere, then that is your opinion and all power to you. You even state in your comment that you know one writer who has paid for reviews, which is a big chink in the middle of the windscreen of your argument. Because if one writer, who you know, can pay for a few reviews to boost their career, millions of writers who you don’t know can pay a lot more (or a lot less) to boost theirs. Because, believe it or not, you are just some bloke sitting at a PC with an opinion, just like me. You might be in your pants too, just like me. You do know some writers yes, but so do I. You are an experienced kindle author, but so am I. Your blog might have, and respect to you, many readers, but mine has only been going a few months, and what I lack in readers on my blog, I make up for in Twitter followers. So, all in all, we are probably on par to talk about our experiences. Only you are giving me advice, which is a bit weird, I could give you advice too, but I can see you are an adult, and trust you to be able to walk through life making your own decisions and being you without me attaching a pair of training wheels to each side side of your head; so I’ll leave the rubbing of your hair for now.

          Not that I don’t wish to rub your hair, it looks soft and rubbable; but, that’s for you and I to discuss perhaps in private.

          Read my blog, what more can I say, every single post I have put up, is to make the world a better place by cutting out bullshit. My blog is to help people, as are my books. There are positive messages in my books and in my blog. I’ve come from living in a park, to talking about stuff like this with people like you.

          *zips up pants*

          So, now we have measured each other’s penises, I’ll begin…

          Your counter argument is based on my refusal to offer evidence for my initial argument, but (evidence aside) at no point in my blog do I say – the following are facts. My blog is my opinion, and in this case my opinion is supported by as much evidence as you have shown in your counter argument.

          “I have a friend” That’s nice, I’m happy for you. I have a yeti.

          But, I stress, to anyone reading this, and you Joe, go and find out for yourself! Make your own mind up, just look and you will see. Or, don’t look, and don’t see, whichever you prefer.

          People are lovely, nobody is paying for reviews, Amazon is a fireproof system that no human has rigged, the companies that accept payment for reviews don’t exist etc…all true, if you want to believe so. And, if you wish to believe that, so be it, that is your choice.

          You must realise that there is no honour system invented by man that man has not learnt to rig. I mean, forget Amazon reviews for a moment – Facebook likes, are another well documented well manipulated system – and people, all over the world, are paying for Facebook likes. That is also a fact. Now, I don’t need to find evidence to present to you that people pay for Facebook likes, because they do. It is well known, perhaps you disagree, but people are. And if you do disagree, again, I say Google it, research it and find out for yourself because my rant was just that, but please, just look into it.

          You say the gist of my rant…

          ‘seems to be “many bestsellers got there because they bought reviews, and that’s unfair.’

          Well, seem, although only four letters, is a big word, and that is not the gist of my rant.

          The gist of my rant is people who pay for reviews have rigged the rankings, and as a consequence of that rigging, readers are finding it increasingly difficult to separate poor writing from good writing.

          I will concede that my rant does seem aimed at bestsellers, when it is not, it is aimed at all and any writer who has bought or paid for reviews. But that is not as clear as perhaps it could be; but that’s the nature of a rant. You should try one some time. You might like it.

          You say you know of no author who has spent $1000s, well, leaving out the obvious counter argument that you are not God, so therefore don’t know every kindle author in the world, and so therefore can’t possibly state with any certainty that people have not spent that much money on reviews, what to you, is an acceptable amount to spend on paying for reviews then? $500? $250? $100?

          Because you see, all you are doing is justifying the foggy practice of paying for reviews, by saying you think the figures are wrong. But ANY figure is wrong. Your ‘friend’ is wrong. That, is my belief.

          If it costs $5 for a 5 star review. (let us pretend we live in a world where that might just be possible) then to get 50 5 star reviews an author would need to pay $250.

          50 five star reviews, for a book, with no bad reviews, and the book is on its way. Now, that writer could go on to find readers, and gain popularity, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

          But just because somebody has spent less, does not make them more right. They’ve still spent.

          Then there is the psychological aspect to consider – if a reader goes onto Amazon with the intention of leaving a bad review, and sees 50 five star reviews saying it’s the best book ever written, are they more or less likely to be the first person to leave a bad review? Or will they take the road of less confliction, and not write a review at all, making the decision to not to be the first and only person to stand out in a crowd of people who – supposedly – love the book?

          I believe, and herd mentality and all sort of experiments into the psychological behaviour of humans will back me up, the reader is less likely to leave any review at all.

          So, what happens is an arena is artificially created where only good reviews generate, at a slower rate, because of the foggy and manipulating early payment. That, I believe, is unfair.

          You can see the psychological impact for yourself, pick out any book with a load of great reviews and a few bad ones, the people leaving the bad reviews leave them, full of apologies for having their own opinion.

          Time, as they say, reveals all…and I believe over time, my blogpost will prove to be more right than wrong, more honest than not. More based in fact, than you are willing to accept now at this point in your life.

          *ruffles hair*

          *sorry, couldn’t exist, but I did tell you, that you have very ruffable hair*

          I appreciate your comments and time you have taken to respond, but on this one, I am afraid we have to agree to disagree; I have my reasons why I don’t wish to be the whistleblower, and in future, I will rant about what I wish to rant about, when I wish to rant about it – and people can jump down my throat or agree or disagree and that is wonderful – because the discussion and debates are interesting, and if everyone agreed with me, the world would be – well, actually, it would be amazing; but life would probably be a little too easy. And I’d end up having to create little tiny mini anti me bots to go around attacking my opinion, to make sure my life didn’t slip into eternal grey.

          Anyway, I believe your moral position is on sure ground. And I believe that you are a good guy, and I haven’t read your stuff, but maybe I will, because you are probably, from the sounds of it, a good writer.

          We may disagree on this, but that is okay with me. And I hope that is okay with you. Or, we could literally be here forever.

          I hope you take some of my tongue in cheek comments as just that, you clearly have a sense of humour, and debates don’t have to be solved with anger, missiles and bombs like our leaders show us they have to be.

          In this world, between authors, we can just get along, find friends, even when we don’t agree on key issues – that is what good people do Joe, and I can tell you are one of them. x

          PS my penis is bigger, but you have way more hair and a beard. Which are both cool aspects to any face.

          Also, I quite like “Ruffable Joe” – consider that name, because you have an amazing face full of hair and you are ruffable.

          x

  7. Paying for fake reviews is indeed bad, just as lying is bad, cheating is bad, stealing is bad. I don’t think most authors would argue that. The review process is so silly these days that most don’t pay any attention to reviews, distrusting them instinctively. I don’t blame them.

    Having said that, when something loathsome like buying fake reviews is used to smear innocent authors, that’s as despicable, or more. What’s funny is that with just a little bit of common sense and skepticism, this latest bout of outrage wouldn’t have happened. There’s a blog that’s a character assassination piece naming a who’s who of successful indies, based entirely on provable lies.

    That’s worse than being a review buyer. It’s intentionally attempting to damage careers out of some twisted motivation I can’t fathom.

    So while we’re busy condemning those who pay for reviews, which I have no argument with, let’s add those who falsely accuse authors in order to harm their careers. If review buying is a seven, that’s a ten, I think most would agree, because it’s hard to disprove a negative, especially with those who are too dumb or lazy to do a modicum of research before spreading the lies.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Not sure that it is harder to prove a negative, proof is proof, it exists or it doesn’t, but that aside, I agree with everything you say. I mean, it’s common sense, almost goes without saying, but sadly we live in a time where common sense needs to be said because it seems to be diluted in the glass of the majority.

      Not sure review buying is a seven, that is a bit of an overview; for example it would depend on how many reviews, how often, and for how many books. There are a few sliding parameters; but certainly nobody ever got hurt, except for reading a few pages of something rubbish, by being duped by a fake review.

      Anyone who targets an individual, for a baseless attack is horrible, and I quite agree. (Who wouldn’t?)…Makes no sense to me. Or to most rational people. I like to think people are not like that, but the internet is massive, and caters for all sorts.

      Thank you for reading my post. x

  8. Wow, that was an amazing blog post and rant. I bet that felt good. Now take a deep breath, Craig, and actually read the report that I assume is behind this vitriolic post. Note that (a) it’s anonymous; and (b) it doesn’t contain any proof of what it claims. The Fantasy Book Critic asked the author of this blog to substantiate their claims last weekend, and has gotten no response. So, as one of the authors who was libeled in the report you’re alluding to, I want to ask you do you just mindlessly accept and regurgitate every piece of tabloid journalism you read on the internet? Were you aware that sometimes things are written on the internet that aren’t true? This entire rant you just unloaded, as passionate as it was, was inspired by a fake report written by a troll. Maybe next, a little research before you fly off the handle.

      1. Hello Anonymous,

        I have no idea about authors being attacked, and as I have explained to Blake, I did not and still have not read this anonymous blog. Nor do I intend to.

        I am truly sorry you were named, because I do not agree with this. The naming itself, is proof to me, that the blog is probably nonsense.

        However, that does not make my blog rant nonsense, far from it – my blog rant is the truth, based on my own experience.

        The one thing I am frustrated about with you, is that you are clearly intelligent, but you have assumed, like Blake did, that I am spreading hate and have not researched my facts. This is a great injustice to who I am. Perhaps, you could, if you read this, do a bit of research yourself, on me, by reading some posts on this blog – or my response to Blake – and realise that I am knowledgable on these matters, and so therefore I am able to speak about indie publishing and traditional publishing from a unique standpoint – mine.

        I would never name a fellow author, as I am not the law, and I am truly sorry for any backlash you might be suffering at the hands of slanderous and attention grabbing blogs.

        I do not need to grab attention, I am not a hater, unless I hate myself, because I am a Kindle success bestseller.

        My advice is ignore the idiot who wrote this other blogpost, for starters, if they are anonymous, they are not even presenting themselves to back up their opinion – which is ridiculous. Erm, a bit like you have, but hey, I appreciate and understand why you have done that on here.

        I stand by my blogpost as my truth, which I am entitled to, but I sympathise with you – but please do not confuse me with a troll, I am far lovelier and honest than a troll, and I am never out to attack anyone. And, frankly, grouping me with trolls is just, well, a bit unfair on me and my experience.

        I hope you are okay and everything gets sorted – you know what these things are like, feels big at the moment, but in a week, it will all blow over. Besides, the material of your books is all that matters. If you love your books, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

        Your friend,

        Craig.x

      2. Was that really the response from Fiverr’s legal team? That doesn’t bode well for them, considering they don’t appear to know the difference between libel and slander. Unless the alleged whistleblower was going around reading his report out loud to people, in which case it’s fine.

        1. thanks for your comment BeefChief!

          I had not heard about fiverr, and not clicked on the world literary cafe link until reading your comment BeefChief, and because I did, and because of the ridiculous tone of the blog on the world literary cafe, I have been moved to write the following.

          Anonymous posted:
          As the primary author attacked I second what Blake has written. Please research the facts before spreading the hate. I will leave you with this information from Fiverr’s legal department — devaluing everything that troll posted: http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/content/cowards-never-win-caught-spreading-lies-zon-goes-down-indies-reviews

          For a start “cowards never win?” The only cowards I see, are these few authors denying any writer has ever paid for a review. Which, is bollocks. Cowards drop into a website to threaten people without engaging in conversation, that is what cowards do.

          So, anyway…with that in mind…

          I’ve clicked on fiverr…

          It is clear that Fiverr do not sell reviews – in fact, they don’t sell anything, what they do – is allow people to meet on their website for mutually beneficial reasons. Buyer, meet seller; seller, meet buyer. There are hundreds of websites like this. This exonerates Fiverr from any legal responsibility, and even, from any moral liability on their part. The law states, an individual has a right to make money within the terms of what is defined as reasonable, as defined under the laws of economic freedom. But, one thing writers want, and so one service people ARE offering, is reviews in exchange for money. Like I have said before, that is not Fiverrs fault, because they are not offering reviews or taking money for reviews.

          As this states:

          “We do not promote reviews and never had employees promote reviews for us”

          OF COURSE NOT! They could say this about anything on their website, because their website is simply a platform for people to exchange their skills for cash; they are not responsible, they are the glass holding the water. They don’t care what is in their glass, they don’t care who drinks it, they are making money from being the glass.

          The email means little in relation to the specifics within the website, and so for authors to use this email response as proof of anything, for them to use the email as their counter argument, as their defining ‘smoking gun’ evidence that no author has ever paid for reviews shows these authors to be amazingly, incredibly, stupid.

          Or it could mean, that they are being intentionally stupid, because they don’t want to face the truth, or even discuss the truth.

          Or, it could mean they have reached the point of self delusion.

          Remember, many authors see writing as a business, which is convenient, because when it comes to business, people can turn nasty, and morals become blurred.

          Fiverr do not promote reviews and they have never had employees promote reviews, fact – Fiverr is a facilitator, it is a facilitator for lots of services, Fiverr makes it’s money from its users who pay Fiverr a monthly/annual fee to stay on their website, because the website is a platform to offer their skills to a potential customer base. Also, potential customers, shop for a skill.

          Those people who pay to be on Fiverr then make their money by selling services to people who require those services. Fact.

          One of those services is offering to write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads for money. Fact.

          This is not up for dispute, it is fact. And, because I am tired of the self-righteous patronising nature of those few authors denying it happens, here are some of the links I have been talking about:

          Firstly – a quick look on fiverr, reveals loads of people taking money for amazon reviews. Which completely destroys the counter argument on world literary cafe.

          Here is one link, to a person, offering amazon reviews in exchange for money:

          http://fiverr.com/graphicdesignsq/do-a-killer-review-of-your-website-or-product

          Read the comments beneath his profile, applauding his work…Pay careful attention to this one:

          “Great job by a great reviewer! I like the way he elaborates in detail and creates a positive spin.”

          Fake reviews are out there, they are happening, they have been happening and they are a fact.

          This article was in the Huffington Post recently, which was an interesting read:

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-shaffer/five-stars-for-five-dolla_b_3997107.html

          Here is People Per Hour, another website similar to Fiverr, which does not offer the services of paying for reviews, but offers people who offer the services of paying for reviews their platform to offer their services:

          http://www.peopleperhour.com/hourlie/review-your-book/36826?ref=search

          Again, there are loads of Amazon/Goodreads reviewers to be found on the site, and plenty of authors bidding, actually bidding, for their services. This is also a fact.

          Here is Freelancer; another website that operates similar to Fiverr, please note the MASSIVE writing on the first page that reads:

          “Outsource amazon reviews Jobs! Need assistance with amazon reviews? Outsource amazon reviews today! Here are our top 10 Amazon Reviewers!”

          http://www.freelancer.co.uk/work/amazon-reviews/1/

          I could go on…and on…and on…

          Here are another 50 websites all offering the same thing. PLEASE NOTE 50! (5-0)!!!

          Now consider that on each websites, are 20,000+ people, not all offering amazon reviews, but a % of those people on each of those websites are, certainly hundreds.

          http://www.siteslike.com/similar/peopleperhour.com

          Are you still denying it happens?

          Here is an author, a brave man, stating he paid for reviews and his reasons why, and I understand all his reasons, at least he has the balls to admit he made a choice. I don’t agree with that choice, but fair play, he made his decisions:

          http://litreactor.com/columns/why-i-paid-for-a-book-review-and-why-i-wont-do-it-again

          This is not really about paying for reviews now, this is about the blanket of denial, the oppression, the utter bollocks pertaining from some people who refuse to admit, fake reviews happen all the time.

          Here is an article in THE NEW YORK TIMES! Excuse me, but I think that the New York Times might just check its sources:

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          Is anybody still denying people pay for reviews?

          Oh, yeah, of course – the world literary cafe. Which, to me, looks like a blog…created by a writer.

          As for world literary cafe, the self appointed moral beacon of the indie world – on their very website, to the right, if you click on the link above (posted by the very non-cowardly anonymous) are various options to exchange money for marketing. For $20 I could market my book with them. Money, money, money.

          The entire tone of the article on world literary cafe is actually nauseating. The writer is clearly so proud to be mentioned with some names, the writer actually blows smoke up their arses, almost reminiscent of Halle Berry’s Oscar speech from 2002.

          Which you can see here, because it’s always funny:

          The author is completely biased, blinded, like some others, by their craving to become a top-seller.

          I don’t like the overall tone of the article on world writers cafe, according to the world writers cafe the conversation about paying for reviews is black and white, there is no argument; the tone is ‘we, the authors, are the good people, and anyone who speaks out against us is evil”

          The author even goes as far as saying “See, most people ARE good”

          Oh, please – what you mean is “everyone who agrees with us is amazing. Anybody who disagrees we will bully, or get our readers to bully on our behalf.”

          I already know most people are good, thanks.

          I am a successful indie author, I haven’t sold millions, but I have sold thousands upon thousands, and I’m working towards hopefully one day being a successfully traditionally published author, and I’ve got to say, if this is the truth to be found in these writers books, I look forward to outselling them all in the future.

          I love the hypocrisy too, the authors who insist paying for reviews has never taken place, have demanded from me proof and links that it does – whereas, the world literary cafe is just a blog, and has been taken as gospel despite the fact that all names and links have been removed from the so called crucial piece of evidence, but, that’s ok. It’s still apparently solid.

          Not to mention the evidence they have presented, does not actually back up their argument, but they are too stupid to understand the wording of the Fiverr legal department.

          Time and time again you will hear the advice from some authors, saying their writing is a business, well, that is what it has become – some authors are putting money into it, and like a business, they are protecting their investments at all costs, so woe betide anyone who dare speak out, or offer an opinion, that goes against that business.

          Well, a big fat raspberry to you, Sirs.

          You have seen on this blog, authors have not come on to engage me, they have come on to make a blanket statement to protect their own interests and left, like “anonymous” did.

          The world is not black and white, this is not good versus evil, I do not think these authors are bad people, but I really do not respect their immediate attempts to attack and close down anyone who offers an alternative opinion, or says something they don’t agree with.

          And if anyone thinks that the badly written article on world writers cafe, and small email from Fiverr is unequivocal proof that no author has ever paid for a review – in light of the overwhelming evidence I have now shown in this reply (which I did not want to show) – and what I have shown here is only the tip of the iceberg, there is plenty more all over the internet, and on Amazon itself (just go see) then, well, I do not agree with you.

          Some authors pay for reviews, this is a fact.

          So, my advice to readers is this…

          And this is only my advice, based on my opinion, you can take it or leave, or course:

          Look for books on Kindle that have 15-50 positive reviews. And make sure the book has been around for a while to gather those reviews. I am sure there are some amazing, genuine, indie authors out there (most of them, I like to think) who have hundreds of 5 star reviews, and certainly try them – but, if you have tried them and thought their book did not match your expectations, maybe stop looking for who is meant to be the best, and dig a little deeper. It might be time to dig beneath the well oiled wheels of marketing, and search out those other authors; because as the indie author has sold millions and become mainstream, the real indie authors are the ones with one book, that took them years to write, who have put their heart and soul into it.

          They are not the machine, pumping out a book a month, with 30 books in their name, these people are business. Big business, and I wish them well – hell, they have already done amazingly well, and I respect their talent and success – but, don’t forget the little people. The starving authors who are not writing because they know the next book will mean another $10,000 guaranteed – look for the authors who are hungry. Look for the authors who need to be looked for.

          There are plenty of books with 14-60 5 star amazon reviews. Why not broaden your horizons?

          The chances are, a book with less than a hundred 5 star reviews is from an honest writer who has not spent money on marketing. I would, and will from this point, be giving those writers a chance.

          The millionaires don’t need my money, and I don’t trust the reviews.

          Yes, my books – Life Knocks has 32 reviews, and The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness has 53 reviews – fit into that category. And of course I want you to read them! But, you know what? I am not going to spend money to manipulate you into thinking you should. The people who find my books and read them, say they are like finding treasure, and you know what? I bloody love that.

          Then again, one reader did say The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness was “off the wall nonsense” – and there is certainly some truth in that too.

          Anyway, I am bloody proud of the honest reviews my books have achieved because they are REAL.

          Should my books ever explode and be read by lots of people, it won’t be because I paid for it to happen.

          And that’s another fact.

          Peace out. x

    1. Hi Blake,

      Let me first say, this is not all directed at you, this is also a general response, to some bizarre tweets I’ve received, but, I think, from your response, I’m starting to see why…

      You have assumed I have used information from an anonymous source, which means, you are mistaken. I have never heard of any fantasy blog critic!

      You are confusing me with an idiot, who has read an anonymous blogpost, and then attacked the world, based on the words of some mysterious unprovable source – which is sadly far from the truth, because, as I just pointed out, I am not an idiot.

      I have alluded to no ‘report’ in my blog either, so even you have to admit, your entire response is based on an assumption, which is, funnily enough, what you are accusing me of doing! I am guessing there must be something that has hit the internet recently, and that’s what is making you think I have acted on that information? I haven’t. Another author mentioned this on Twitter, actually, and called me a hater, and grouped me in with a group of haters; I thought it strange, because my blogpost is just a rant – but it must have coincided with something I haven’t seen. At least that’s a bit clearer now.

      As for mindlessly regurgitating information, my Twitter timeline alone should reveal a little more about what I think about the media.

      In fact, click on the below link, it’s a blogpost, written by me, on this very blog – attacking the media and how it manipulates people. It clearly mentions here how the media manipulate the minds of the all too easily impressionable:

      https://thoughtscratchings.com/2013/04/09/paris-brown-goodbye-good-luck-and-on-behalf-of-any-adult-with-sense-im-sorry/

      When you say my blogpost was inspired by a troll, you are completely wrong. I say this not to challenge you, but it is just the simple truth.

      First of all, I know authors pay for fake reviews. I know they do. I know this from my own observations as a successful Kindle author. I know this because I have been approached personally by two companies offering to give me fake reviews in return for cash. Now, these companies would not be able to survive, they would not be offering the service, they would not even exist, if there was no demand.

      So, that is first hand information. As a man of logic, you will understand first hand information is pretty solid.

      Google “how do I pay for fake reviews?” – And you should, within a few minutes, be able to find quite a few willing to take your cash in exchange for reviews.

      So, to be clear, so far my knowledge has not been taken from some anonymous fantasy blog I have never heard of, my knowledge has been gained from:

      1) I have personally been approached asking if I want to pay for fake reviews. Twice. By two separate companies.
      2) Anyone can Google, and find a lot of companies willing to provide the same service.

      You can also Google, and find out, that the discussions about paying for fake reviews did not start from some recent anonymous fantasy blog that I have never heard of, it goes back years, from when the first entrepreneur realised there was serious money to be made from authors who wanted a leg up in the indie publishing world.

      Then, on top of my own first hand experience, and the fact (fact) that these companies exist and are making money (find one of these companies, find their public limited company trading name, put that name into whatever the equivalent to companies house in the UK is, and search their annual accounts. Because, this information is available freely on the internet.)

      I know, because that’s what I did.

      (Please note, none of this has anything to do with an anonymous fantasy blog.)

      If I name the company I researched (I had several to choose from) you (or anyone) could find out what I found out. Some people might decide to then name the companies making money from reviews – but I do not agree with singling any one person, or any one company out to take the heat. Because, I am not the police, what I say is not the law, and nor should it be.

      I am not here to name and destroy any author, I don’t want any one person strung up and made an example of – BECAUSE THIS IS JUST MY OPINION ON WHAT THEY ARE DOING. I do not want a company attacked on line, hence, my rant, on my blog, exercising my freedom, based on a whole load of searchable and provable facts.

      Lastly, I don’t want to name the companies, because I don’t want to promote the companies. If authors want to pay for favourable reviews, I am not going to help them by listing a big list of the companies here so they can go through them one at a time, and have 500 popping up on Amazon in the next month for $500.

      Some authors might think, as they have a right to, that because they have the money, they should use any available resource open to them to try and push their book into the public domain.

      And, well, I don’t agree with that, but that is their choice as people with free will…And I have no right to name an individual or individuals and I have no desire to, because I am not judge, jury and executor and people are allowed to use their own methods in this wonderful world of personal freedom and individuality. And I have to respect that.

      Likewise, I am allowed, if I wish, to ascertain facts based on my own personal experience and, make my own judgement call based on those facts to have a rant on my own blog.

      Which, I have done.

      Lastly, I have studied Amazon rankings for 4 years, I have 3 books out on Amazon, all high in the Amazon rankings – I am an Amazon bestseller myself – with over 75,000 Twitter followers – so, I am not some irrelevant, anonymous entity, posting from a fantasy blog I have never heard of – I am on the inside of this, I have first hand experience of this, I can see, from my own experience that Amazon reviews can and are manipulated through money changing hands.

      It is a fact some authors pay for reviews, it is a fact, paying for reviews is called ‘marketing’ and has been exercised for years by mainstream publishing houses long before the introduction of the Kindle. It is a fact, traditionally published books are pushed by the media, it is a fact quotes on books are used as marketing, and the author has often not read the book. I could name one example now that I know of and will always make me smile, but I won’t, because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I know what I am saying is the truth. I’ve been to an internationally respected book award ceremony, because I was shortlisted for an international book award in the UK and have SEEN IT FIRST HAND FOR MYSELF. I’ve sat at a table over, from some of the biggest and most famous names in UK publishing, big author names, and I’ve watch them laugh at stuff that isn’t funny, all in order to promote an average book to a room of potential buyers.

      Some authors really have no idea how the marketing game works, or they pretend not to know, because they are part of the game. Stop being blinded by some fantasy blog I have never heard of (I mean, who reads fantasy blogs anyway?!) and find out for yourself. Or, take my word for it, because I am a full time writer, this is what I do, and believe it or not, I know what I am talking about.

      Here’s an idea, why don’t you (or anyone else doubting people do not pay for reviews) find one of these companies that exchange money for reviews, pretend you are a writer, (or maybe you are, in which case, this is easier!) and throw $100 at them and learn a little bit about the process, then you can come back here and tell me it doesn’t happen because an anonymous blog cropped up somewhere that has been discredited. (which, if you really think about it, is more suspicious to me, because the historical fact of fake reviews within the industry – both indie and traditional – cannot be dismissed by one anonymous blog!! Also, if I was an author who wanted to spread through the internet fake reviews were a myth, so people like yourself could jump on a completely false bandwagon of justice, I’d probably make that a “fantasy” blog too – because I would think it was funny. Regardless, fake reviews are fact. Hence the companies turning an annual profit for offering the service).

      I have not named the companies that approached me, which is my decision, for the reasons I have stated and because people have a right to make money. And, although I do not agree with it, who really, am I, to try and stop a kid getting their Christmas present etc? I just wanted to rant, by naming no author or company; my rant is only that – a rant. A bloody far more honest than you could ever realise rant. I know it is the truth. There will always be authors who want a leg up and so there will always be people accommodating that for profit, and well, that’s business. It is not how I would choose to make money, but I don’t blame the person taking the money, and I understand, to a point, the desperation of an author just wanting to be a read.

      All authors, I see as my brothers and sisters because I understand their struggle, so I could never name an author.

      If that fantasy blog has named authors, then let me be clear – that, I think, is a disgrace. Because, for me, it is not about attacking an individual – no individual needs to be attacked, people are free to discuss their opinion without naming names.

      And let us be even clearer – this is not the crime of the century (it’s not even a crime!) – the worst thing that happens here, is that a reader might be fooled into reading a rubbish book. Not that big of a deal, nobody gets hurt, nobody dies, nobody gets physically assaulted.

      BUT all that changes, when names are named. Because there will always be an idiot out there somewhere who feels like they are God, and who will verbally attack authors who have paid for reviews on some moral crusade.

      I am totally against that. I am totally against any kind of name calling and attacks.

      Any rational person would and should be.

      These facts do not take away my right to rant. In my name. On my blog.

      That said, if I was one of the authors who paid for reviews, I wouldn’t give a shit what anyone thought of me. So, my advice for any author starting out would be this: Don’t pay for reviews if you are unable to handle criticism aimed at the practice of paying for reviews.

      Quite simple really.

      At the end of the day, what it boils down to, is the material. is the book good enough? If it’s not, if it really is a terrible book, if it’s a terrible book by an author nobody has ever heard of, and the book despite it being by an unknown author and badly written gains 300 book reviews in the first week and goes on the have over 400 in the first month – people are not stupid, they can draw their own conclusions on the authenticity of the reviews. And when I mention this, I am thinking of one particular book, that is poorly written, (that I won’t name because I am an author too) that has gained a massive following, and it was part of a traditionally published marketing campaign, where the publishing company paid for thousands of their own reviews and friends to review the book. That is not an attack on the author, she/he wrote the best book he/she could and in this case the publishing company did the rest. But, for the truth to overpower the tsunami of fake reviews gained in a month, will take years. Because the general public do not review as much as people who are paid to review. That is what publishing companies are now starting to do, to address the balance between the Kindle, and traditionally published books.

      I wonder if I am still sounding like an idiot, or if you will at least meet me in the middle and – if you do not agree with me – respect my point of view?

      All that said Blake, I thank you for your response on this blog, and hope you keep reading it. I like people who challenge my views, I like people who speak their minds, and that is what this blog is all about – so thank you – thank you for speaking your mind, that’s all I did.

      You still might not agree with me, or you might dig a little bit, it is up to you, but whatever you do, please know my opinion on this matter, or on any matter, is never down to one source; I, like you, do not believe anything I read in the media, I question the news, I have lived long enough to think for myself, so in that light, we probably have more in common than you may think at this point.

      Also, I use capital letters to highlight points, not because I am angry.

      Peace out x

      1. “Lastly, I have studied Amazon rankings for 4 years, I have 3 books out on Amazon, all high in the Amazon rankings – I am an Amazon bestseller myself ”

        You may be high in the sub-categories for your individual books but the overall rankings are not high Amazon rankings… Yeah I did what you suggested and did some research on you. High Amazon rankings are being in the top 15k overall for the entire kindle store.

        Ranting feels good doesn’t it? Not naming companies because you are concerned readers here might use that info to pay for reviews while at the same time saying the info can be found in a simple Google search “how do I pay for fake reviews?” doesn’t compute to me. If they can Google the names and you are going to tell us how to Google them you might as well name them. In the unusual school I went to we got credit for either knowing the answer or knowing how to find the answer. You’ve told us how to find the answer so you’ve saved idiot authors who might buy reviews but didn’t know how to find companies how to do so. Might have wanted to think more before posting that comment huh?

        No I don’t have a book published yet. No I don’t have 10s of thousands of twitter followers. My blog is pretty slow. What I am is well read. I read blogs from across the publishing spectrum. I’m also a reader (almost 200 books this year indie and trad) and spend a fair amount of time online talking with other readers. I have friends in all parts of the publishing industry.

        Does paying for reviews happen? Yep? Do I think its right? No. Do I think talking about it does anything about the situation? Nope. Those who pay for reviews will keep doing it. Those who don’t will continue to work hard for reviews. Readers will have less faith in reviews (hmm, maybe that does change the situation making it worse because of a small percent of cheaters). But then ranting does feel good.

        One of the things I usually love about the indie community is how supportive we are of each other. How we try to think about how what we do impacts more than ourselves. Yes there are bad apples. But each time we put the focus on those bad apples readers are apt to go back to the comfortable trad books where all this drama isn’t happening (they do a slightly better job of keeping it behind closed doors). Each time an indie rants or behaves badly I get to hear about it from my reader friends as one of the reasons they don’t read or review indies. We are too emotional. We are always out to attack someone. We are scary. It’s hard to convince bloggers, reviewers, readers differently when every week we have some new breakout/scandal. Last week it was false accusations of bought reviews. This week hopefully readers will be too caught up in the Goodreads mess to notice what’s going on in the self-publishing community. Something to think about. Maybe hanging out with readers more and analyzing Amazons algorithms less would leave you less angry with authors and move your sales up?

        1. “High Amazon rankings are being in the top 15k overall for the entire kindle store”

          Amazon rankings fluctuate every hour. As a result, my books are often in the top 15k. They occasionally peak in the top 10k. They are also often out of the rankings, and at 100k, 50k, 30k, 20k…Like most popular books. But it is good to know that when they are over 15k, they are high in the rankings according to your good judgement.

          “Might have wanted to think more before posting that comment huh?”

          Not really, because I don’t think I have taught anyone how to use the Google search Engine. Pretty sure people have known how to use the Google search engine before my blogpost.

          “Does paying for reviews happen? Yep? Do I think its right? No.”

          Super! Then we agree. Thanks for your support.

          “One of the things I usually love about the indie community is how supportive we are of each other.”

          Yay! Only wait…when did I sign up to be part of this community? I wish to part of nothing that curtails my freedom of expression.

          “each time we put the focus on those bad apples readers are apt to go back to the comfortable trad books where all this drama isn’t happening”

          well, the most obvious point is that there is no way you can speak for the reaction of millions of readers. You are guessing based on how you might react. I disagree that every time there is an argument between authors, readers throw their £140 kindle, packed with new books, out of the window; then go and pick up an old book they have already read from the bookshelf wearing a facial expression like they are chewing an onion. That is, well, nonsense scaremongering. What happens, based on real people being real, is they grab some popcorn, sit back in their chairs, and read the debates because they are interesting.

          Then, they go back to reading their Kindle.

          Maybe I just think readers are more intelligent than you seem to.

          Do you honestly think people don’t enjoy drama? Breaking Bad is a TV show watched by millions of people all over the world. People watch it for the drama. People love drama.

          I could cite every film ever made, or any 24hr broadcasting news channel. Live sport…

          …And a load of other stuff too; oh, like books – but you get my point.

          “Each time an indie rants or behaves badly I get to hear about it from my reader friends as one of the reasons they don’t read or review indies.”

          But you are defining what ‘behaving badly’ is and I don’t agree with your definition, so therefore don’t agree with your friends either. Nobody is going out setting cars on fire, nobody is being assaulted, nobody is even been called names. I wrote a generic blogpost about my opinion based on my observations of amazon rankings (and other sources which I’ve discussed at length).

          I did not attack or assault any individual.

          Blake and Anonymous made the assumption that I based my rant on some erroneous fantasy blog.

          Their response to me was agitated, partly because they assumed my source and intentions.

          Any recognition of error from these indie authors now I have explained they got it wrong in believing my rant was based on some fantasy blog I have never heard of?

          No, of course not.

          Anonymous, even though I know who he/she is – even refused to post under his/her actual details.

          Nice.

          If these indie authors are a reflection of the wisdom within the community (and I’ll assume they do not) then it is their actions which reflect badly on the community, not mine.

          At least Joe responded and explained, and although I don’t agree with him on all his points, and he does not agree with me, at least we can agree to disagree. I can respect that, even if I don’t agree with it. To just throw an arrow at me, then run behind a cave, speaks less about me, and more about the people throwing their plastic spears.

          And, as for your friends deciding to not read kindle authors because kindle authors occasionally express their feelings and opinions on very real subjects close to their heart, well, frankly, if an honest good old fashioned rant upsets your reader friends, if online intelligent debate upsets your reader friends to the point when they don’t want to read indie books – from me to them personally – maybe they need to stop being so precious, because at their age, all they seem to have grown up to become are whiny children in adult costumes. I don’t want those readers reading my books, because they would just be offended by the material. Tell your reader friends to keep their heads buried in the sands, to read books for children, where the world is a big fluffy place where children aren’t dying of cancer and half the world isn’t starving to death.

          I do not say this last point to offend you – but I am trying to get across the point that I don’t agree with the attitude towards me from a very small minority in the indie world for expressing my opinion. There is a shade of darkness to it. I posted a rant about the church raping children that got pulled apart less than this. That is how ridiculous this has become. You are not even saying you are offended (unless you are being passive agressive) you are expressing offense on behalf of invisible people you say might be offended; which I find more silly than a policeman clucking sweetly at the cold green edges of a fresh out-the-fridge cabbage.

          “We are too emotional.”

          Nonsense. We are human beings. We are meant to be emotional. Give me emotional human beings over the lobotomised society you seem to want to live in any day, thanks.

          Also, if this mystical indie world and the people within it are ‘too’ emotional, then so are the people of the world outside of this mystical indie world. Because, believe it or not, we people inside this mystical community are not mystical. We are normal people, so excuse me for being normal.

          “We are scary.”

          intelligent on-line debates are scary? To who? 5 years olds? Stupid people?

          Scary is a parent dying and not being able to do anything about it. This is called a conversation. My rant is called a rant. Opinion is just opinion. These things are not scary, they are crucial components to seeking truth.

          “Last week it was false accusations of bought reviews.”

          I think you mean legitimate discussions about the pattern of paying for reviews to companies that exist. Which, the traditional publishing world has been doing since it came into existence.

          “Maybe hanging out with readers more and analyzing Amazons algorithms less would leave you less angry with authors and move your sales up?”

          And there it is! In a nutshell. “Maybe Craig if you made more friends with indie readers/authors, and spent less time educating yourself with actual facts, perhaps through your fake behaviour of creating the illusion of friendships, you would benefit from increased sales.

          Well, despite the fact that, according to you, my books are often in the top 15k so already selling well…

          NO THANK YOU!

          I will not be silent to generate book sales. I will not sit in the apple cart, ignoring the rotting apples to increase books sales. I will not get to know authors for the sake of getting to know them for the sake of increasing my book sales. I know the people I know, those relationships are not fake.

          I would rather have less book sales, than take the approach of generating friendships purely to boost my sales. And then, what of the people, these so called friends who read my books and increase my sales purely because I started hanging out with them so they could buy my books and increase my sales?

          Oh, let me guess…I receive a tsunami of 5 star reviews. All from people I know.

          Which is lovely, because I was silent, because I played ball, because I told them their rubbish book was exceptional so they told me my rubbish book was out of this world.

          Except for the fact that it gives a false impression of what the book is like. Except for the fact that the more fake reviews, for a variety of reasons, that appear on Amazon (through friendships/payments) the weaker the entire Kindle network becomes in the long run.

          You see, you think not talking about what is going on will help sales, maybe it will in the short term – but in the long run, I think if we don’t start talking about the issue now, there could possibly be nothing to discuss in 20 years; just people reading their friends books, out of politeness, in a medium that died, so they can get their book read by the same friends.

          The method of creating friendships for reviews is so complicated, so fake, I can’t imagine how it even works?! I would have to be at the PC 24/7.

          The truth, is far easier. I write a book. I say what I want on my blog when I want, some people buy my books, some people don’t. I owe nothing to anybody, and some people might review my books and some might not, and some might think they are great and some might think they are bad.

          When did that get so complicated?

          If everybody did that, we would know what the good books are. But people will be people, and temptation will always be temptation. And dreams will always be able to justify the route through temptation many people take.

          Give me less reviews, less readers, and let the reviews be honest and the readers who read my books read them because they want to, and not because I want them to.

          Thank you for your comment and views.

          1. No where did I suggest you hang out with indie writers. Reread what I wrote. I suggested spending time with READERS. Readers, you know the people who buy the book and read it? The people who will be moved by what you wrote? The people whose lives you want to touch? Those are the people I said to spend time with. I NEVER suggested spending time with indie authors. READERS man READERS. Why is it so hard for writers to get that they should be blogging and tweeting and talking to READERS on social media and in real life?

            From my experience books rarely go from top 15k to in the 100,000 range except for special promotions. Books that stay in the top 15k for months/years are a different animal from ones that hit the top list for a couple days and then drop back down to their normal range.

            You do seem to have a lot of anger. I’m sorry my post triggered more.

            I do think readers are pretty intelligent. I also think that they group people (as humans are apt to do). We don’t have to join a club to find ouselves part of it. You are an indie if you are not traditionally published no membership fees or forms to fill out. Ain’t it great?

            Angry authors and authors who bully readers/reviewers/bloggers discourage readers/reviewers/bloggers from reviewing books by indies. You may not think being bullied or attacked on the Internet for leaving a bad review is scary but many readers/reveiwers/bloggers do (also easy to find if you Google). You may disagree with them but it is how they feel.

            You broad stroked lots of indie successful authors as buying reviews without naming names. You’ve told your readership to beware of indie authors with good reviews as those reviews might be bought and paid for. I’m aware of the author who Joe Konrath is talking about. That author is easy to find if you use google. It helped get his name out. But his future success is due to his writing. If you are going to say go Google it’s going to be my default it was all over the news last year as well as sock puppeting and a group put up an oath/statement authors could sign stating they would never sock puppet, buy reviews – Google Barry Eisler & buying reviews/sock puppeting for more info.

            People enjoying drama does not mean they buy books by people creating drama or groups of people constantly pointing out how people in their group are unethical and try to cheat the system and trick readers. If the readers can’t tell who is ethical and who is trying to cheat them they may, and I know a number that do, go elsewhere or don’t review and promote indie work even if they like it. One of the best ways for books to get sales is word-of-mouth but you’ve just told readers not to trust reviews. And a small number of writers harrass anyone who writes bad reviews. Now it’s not just you. This topic comes up at least once a year. Some years a bunch of people jump on the bandwagon other years it’s only a few people.

            No where did I say anything about kindle authors. You are aware that most trad houses now release books on kindle? And that there are more places than Amazon to sell books (both ebooks and print)? And that indie authors can do print books and if they are selling well or network well they can get into bookstores, at least indie stores? There is a wide world beyond Amazon and it’s growing. I use indie publishing and trad publishing for a reason – words have specific meaning. I read books by indie, hybrid, and trad authors. Last year I reviewed more indie books. This year it was more trad books. Next year I hope it will be more balanced.

            My friends are not afraid of intelligent debate. Rants against stuff that makes them exposed to things they didn’t know much about that makes them question reviews even more than they did before I consider detrimental to all authors. That is my personal opinion. The less reviews are believed to have value the harder it is for all authors to sell books. Again a few bad apples are not worth in my opinion tainting an entire system that helps us sell books.

            I posted a rant about the church raping children that got pulled apart less than this.
            I can fully support a rant against the church ignoring behavior by its clerics/priest raping kids. That is serious stuff that needs to be wiped out and dealt with. It’s disgusting how are religious and secular institutions have protected perpratators and predators and put our children at risk. Anyone who doesn’t support dealing with those things is someone who I’d be afraid to be alone with. My reader/reviewer/blogger friends would be right there supporting such an issue.

            You know if you focuson your books, writing the next great one, promoting current ones, reaching out to your readers, you’d get what you want. You don’t have to compromise. You just have to keep your focus on your goals and what you are doing.

            I suspect that les than 1% of authors cheat the system. If they don’t have a good book that money they spent is wasted. If they have a good book, yeah it helps them, no it’s not fair that they got a leg up by cheating, but I ask you has life been fair to you? Do you know anyone who life has been fair to?

            I know my life hasn’t been fair, some things have really sucked, I’ve gotten a few unexpected breaks, the two have not evened out to fair. I’ve got friends who got more lucky breaks and less crap. I’ve got friends who got more crap and less lucky breaks. I’ve dropped friends who I found out didn’t hold up to my most important ethical standards. I’ve chastised but kept friends who violate less important standards. Mostly I try to focus on myself and what I can do to help the immediate people around me be better people. Every now and then I get sucked in by a blog post and forget my “don’t respond for 24 hour rule”.

            I hope that what you got out of this comment was:
            1. Readers are the people to spend time with – they are the ones that matter
            2. Life isn’t fair, it sucks, we have to learn to work with what we’ve got
            3. How much is the review system actually harmed by the cheaters?
            4. Do we want to totally destroy the current review system by constantly bringing attention to the few bad apples (you are one in a long line of people to blog about this)

            1. “I hope that what you got out of this comment was:
              1. Readers are the people to spend time with – they are the ones that matter”

              People matter. Every single person matters. Every old person matters, every young person matters, every person from every religion matters, every person from every county matters, every person from every ethnic background matters, every person from every upbringing, disabled, abled, rich, poor, able to read, illiterate, intelligent, unwise. They all matter.

              Every. Single. Person.

              Those people who find ways to cheat honour systems, to me, go into the box marked ‘people who matter a tiny bit less.’

              2. Life isn’t fair, it sucks, we have to learn to work with what we’ve got

              Life is ‘random’ and ultimately out of our control – I am talking about ‘people’.

              I am not talking about a Tsunami, an act of nature, or cancer – I am talking about people. People make choices. People control those choices. In this case, people choose to pay for reviews, that is a choice. It is a choice made by the individual to give them a leg up above other people.

              There is nothing random or unfair about it.

              As for learning to work with what we got, I am afraid I don’t agree with that either – people don’t have to learn to adapt to being a victim, to playing the fool to the cheaters – that, to me, is extremely unwise.

              We can choose to take a stand against what we think is bad behaviour, when we think we need to. That is how people stop being victims and start making changes for the positive.

              Sticking with what we’ve got is one idea, I’ll be striving for something better.

              Paying for reviews is specific, it is a choice, and I don’t agree with it.

              3. How much is the review system actually harmed by the cheaters?

              Any sliding scale of morality is a concern. In life, when governments have to firefight hundreds and thousands of problems at once, occasionally, it is a necessary evil. However, we are talking about this something we can control because the environment is relatively small compared to the wider society, and so therefore we don’t have to have a sliding scale of morality.

              As such, how much the review system is harmed, is irrelevant to the fact that it is being harmed.

              You are calling these people cheaters, then sort of making it okay by suggesting the review system isn’t harmed that much because you have invented a statistic that says only 1% of authors do it.

              4. Do we want to totally destroy the current review system by constantly bringing attention to the few bad apples (you are one in a long line of people to blog about this)

              I wrote a rant, that I wanted to write, on my blog, about what I wanted to write about. It’s a simple as that. I wanted to rant about the people you have called ‘cheaters’ – I wanted to call a cheater a cheater, without naming names – and that is what I did; but you seem to want to accept that some people do cheat, then justify it away by saying that it’s okay because they don’t cheat all that much.

              Even though, you don’t actually know how much they cheat.

              I have stressed here already, that it is not the crime of the century, but I am allowed to rant about what I want on my own blog.

              Please do look up the meaning of the word blog.

              I am 100% certain in the small print of my blog contract it does not say that my blog must adhere to the laws of a few top selling indie authors and their fans.

              In fact, here is the meaning of blog, in case you struggled to use Google:

              “An easy way to share your (my) thoughts about current events, what’s going on in your (my) life, or anything else you’d (I’d) care to discuss with the world.”

              So, there you go. Last time I looked, this was my blog.

              “Every now and then I get sucked in by a blog post and forget my “don’t respond for 24 hour rule”

              And I am sure that 24hr rule is there for a reason 😉

              Oh, and I should say, you seem to want to project onto me this angry guy that I am not. I wrote my rant in the style of a rant, I have responded to you in the first instance with a smile, and I have also typed this response with a smile on my face. As I write this, to be clear, I am happy.

              We may have to agree with the bits we agree on, and disagree with the bits that we don’t!

              That is completely okay – pretty sure neither of us are coming at this with bad intention 🙂

  9. As a musician and writer, this problem has been around forever, only accelerated by the Internet. I think it’s interesting that, pre-Internet, it was considered skanky to do this and it was usually known which publications were willing to take money over and sometimes under the table for reviews.

    So, really, it is only the ethically challenged who think purchased reviews are OK or a “compromise” one has to make for money (on either the giving or receiving side) or simply another way to market.

    Does the anonymity of the web magically make fraud equivalent to fairy dust?

    1. Agreed, it’s been around for years and will be around forever, in every industry. Film, Music, Books and even beyond the entertainment industry. Come to think of it, people get elected only after millions has been thrown at campaigns brainwashing the brainwashable. I agree too that people have to make their money – that’s why I’ve named no companies or authors in my blog rant. People have to make their own mind up, and, although I don’t agree, paying for reviews is still a method that’s not illegal, and an option they can take up if they wish. x

  10. I think this is not as big of a deal as you think. Sure, it’s lame and ethically questionable, but in every aspect of life there are ethical compromises we could make that might improve our financial success. But that doesn’t ruin the whole world. We just go on doing what we believe in, and trust that everybody gets their due, regardless. It’s a huge leap of faith, I know, really things just work better for me when I behave as if that is true, in spite of any evidence.
    Even so, the market for ebooks is still expanding phenomenally, and there are more readers every day looking to buy new material. The problem continues to be how to connect with those readers, and our ( i.e., writers’) job is to figure out solutions to that problem. You and I don’t have extra cash lying around to throw at this problem, but we are creative people, and the solutions we find will be cooler and more exciting than paying for reviews (zzzzzz. . . ). It’s all good. Don’t let the undeserved success of others bring you down. We have more important things to put our energy into.

    1. true, I don’t really think it’s that big a deal, just wrote the blog in a ranting style, sometimes I love that style – it’s good to just let fly and free write. Thank you for your kind words, I won’t let anyone bring me down, and I will continue to work towards writing the best books I can, and marketing them fairly. x

  11. I’m glad you were able to rant because you have every right to. The people who did this did not think things through. Life takes many turns and one day, their reputation and their money may not be what it once was, and they may find themselves waiting tables like Jon Gosselin and struggling to get their writing voices heard like the honest folk. In addition, from a more spiritual standpoint, they have sort of ruined it, or at least made it harder for books that are worthy or even necessary, to be read. For example, my book SUKI is far from a bestseller, but the people that have read it are grateful. Not only is it an entertaining read, but it’s being hailed as “healing” and just last night, a reviewer said she was “thankful that this book was given to at just the right time.” How many other books that can have a huge impact on even just one person are now lost in the shuffle because of a few corrupt but loud voices?? It’s not about the money. It’s about the connections we feel and the perspective that is brought when one is lost in a good read. No worries though…I believe in Karma and it will come back to these people even if we are not permitted to see it publicly. Continue to do and be good and your intentions will reflect back on you Craig. I wish much love and many blessings for you.

    1. I agree, and I would rather less honest reviews, than hundreds of people I’ve paid money to talking shit. Some would say that is stupid of me, and the only way anyone gets to the top is by being cutthroat. Maybe it is. But, well, if that’s the case, maybe the top is a horrible place to be. I mean, paying for reviews is a bit like putting yourself in a room full of employees to laugh at your jokes at the office Christmas Party, so you can walk around in public like a famous stand up comedian. It is weird, and delusional.

  12. It’s crazy to me that people will do this!

    Okay, society can suck sometimes so I really shouldn’t be surprised, but to me it speaks mostly to insecurity over their book, and their career. With enough hard work, and a GOOD book that doesn’t need fake reviews, word of mouth gets around and people can be really successful.

    This makes me sad, actually. I feel kind of bad for those authors.

    1. Yup, but then people are crazy. I sort of understand, because when you are an author, all you want is to be read. Dreams are a funny, and often darkly destructive things, that hide behind the illusion of white clouds and fluffy linings.

      Word of mouth is, I agree, still one of the best ways of hearing about a book.

  13. Well said, and shame on those cheats and liars, they have no soul. Your rant was an eye opener for me, I hope it reaches the people who need to hear it and see how dirty they have become.

  14. This explains why some books with rave reviews turn out to be awful! I have put a lot less faith in reviewers lately since I have been conned into parting with my hard-earned cash for some books which turned out to be truly awful. I have even struggled through some books thinking that it must be my fault that I am so stupid that I can’t “get it” as it has so many rave reviews! How could people stoop so low.

    There are some excellent books out there and I can understand how frustrating it can be for any author to get a bad review but to actually pay people to give a false review is quite sickening. Thank goodness for the facility to download a free sample before purchasing from Amazon which is the online equivalent to reading the first chapter in a bookshop.

    1. Precisely Linda. I’m starting to put more faith in 3 star reviews, or sometimes the bad reviews. But yes, the best way a reader can decide, is to ignore all the marketing, and decide for themselves by DL the free sample. There is no better review than your own brain. Like the sample, DL the book. Simple as that.

  15. I actually had never heard of this. Paid reviews. That’s a scary concept to grasp. Granted, I just started sharing my poetry on Blogger in December, after writing since the age I learned how to print with a number 2 pencil. I, of course, have always thought about what it would be like to sell an awesome novel. I also am just now beginning submissions for poetry magazines. I have no education as a writer other than a high school diploma. Here’s the thing for me. At age 18 I entered a poetry contest. Won!! To be published along lots of other ‘winners’. No obligations, except if I wanted my poem in print to own, I’d have to pay $80 for a book of poets that nobody knew, myself included. I’m wary of scams. Especially with self publishing and the technology that wasn’t around in 1994 when this happened. I got duped through regular postal mail. Though at 36, I would love to believe I am smarter, I would hate to pay money and it be a scam. I understand poetry on it’s own hasn’t made anyone rich in close to 100 years without them speaking at conferences, or I could pull a Sylvia Plath and ‘try’ to commit suicide. I am coming to my point which is your post is greatly appreciated, a huge eye opener, and people have no character. Now, I’m wondering if authors I’ve met on and off in the ‘blog world’ really had great reviews or money for great reviews. How do you distinguish between real and fake??

    1. It’s a practice that has been about for a long time, some authors generally don’t think it happens, which is fair enough, but all anyone needs to do is Google “How Do I Pay for Amazon Reviews” – Forget paying to see your poetry in print, why don’t you put all your poems on a word document, and upload them to Kindle? You will need to make a front cover, but you will then have your book available for people to download through Amazon on the internet. Then, if you wish, you could go to createspace, and self publish. FOR FREE! Then, if you want to but your poetry book, it will cost you $8. Not $80! Don’t be fooled by handing money over to publish, you just don’t need to any more. There are other, better ways to see your words in print. Thank you for your comment, and good luck with your poetry! :)x

  16. Ballsy! Not just the blog, although that would stand on it’s own, but I had to find out who you were. More power to your elbow Craig.
    I wish……….! When I was younger I just wanted to run away, and I did, eventually, to Australia. It didn’t change anything, I was still me; but in a different place. I was still running, hiding. Still am!
    My dad still asks “why did you go?” I can’t answer, because I don’t know the answer! Even now, at 67, I still don’t know, shit! I don’t even know who I am!
    I am in the process of writing my first book, hoping ……hoping.
    All the best mate.

    1. Thank you Chris. Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest anyone take my route, but somehow, I’m not dead, have a beautiful wife and don’t sleep under a tree anymore. And, somehow, I made it to being a writer! hope your first book is going well, and thanks for commenting. x

  17. I agree with you. There’s enough “fake” in this world without paying for fake reviews. For me, it’s first and foremost about writing a great book. Marketing will be important, when I get to that point. But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on the writing.

    1. Marketing has it’s place, but I agree, make the book brilliant first. We should have a book world where years are spent writing the book. What we now have, are a few months on the book, and years on the marketing. Some authors have 20+ quickly cobbled together books, pay for marketing, and they are making full time money. Which, I actually don’t blame them for! (but it’s quantity over quality) But, for the sake of art, I think it would be better to be poor, spend two years writing one book, and make that book brilliant.

      1. Yes, this it what I don’t understand – churning out book after book in short amounts of time. I read people’s tweets and every month they seem to have a new book coming out. What?? I’ve been writing the same book for just over two years – I’m going for brilliant!

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