I follow a popular publishing blog, which often links to other interesting posts around the Internet. I don’t read every article, but I scan it every day, and came across this worrying piece yesterday: Paid Reviews: Why Authors Should NEVER Buy Amazon Reader Reviews.
How could I have a problem with that? I don’t. I totally agree with the title: you should NEVER buy Amazon reader reviews, or Goodreads reader reviews. (I think Kirkus offers paid reviews to self-published authors, but Kirkus doesn’t guarantee a biased, 5-star, all-positive review.)
REASONS NOT TO BUY READER REVIEWS
-Misleading to those who read the reviews
-Gaming the system
-Disrespectful of the website & its readers
-Undermines your book’s worth (that it can’t gain positive reviews on its own without you BRIBING people to review it positively)
-Money better spent elsewhere
Anyway, with a title like the article’s I expected to see my list of reasons reflected. Instead was something else entirely:
It can also draw the ire of the vigilantes who hang out in the Amazon fora, Goodreads, and BookLikes, who are some of the nastiest cyberbullies on the ‘Net. To them, an accusation equals guilt and you are never allowed to prove your innocence. These are people who learned their ethics from the Salem witch trials.
This goes to show that you can agree with someone about something, but still DISAGREE with their reasons for coming to that conclusion.
I generally haven’t had negative experiences on Booklikes and Goodreads, because I stick to my own sections – my friends. I don’t troll reviews looking for someone to tell they’re wrong. (Someone did that to one of my reviews recently. After I blocked her, she returned – under another account – to my review, claiming she’d “won” the argument because I’d blocked her. Uh, NO – her returning just goes to prove that my gut-instinct blocking of her was completely justified.)
As for the fora, I only visited a few threads, and don’t go there anymore because of people like the article’s author – people who see nothing wrong with BUYING reviews (if they’ve vetted the reviewer) but don’t want to be called out for it. In other words, they have no problem BEING unethical, but they don’t want other people to KNOW about their unethical activities.
She also wrote (TRIGGER WARNING: Racism):
The reviewers at those journals are trained and vetted professionals writing for well known magazines that have a reputation to uphold – not a bunch of guys in a cafe in Sri Lanka stringing together a few words for five bucks.
“Those journals” refers to Kirkus et al that I mentioned earlier. Her sentence here insinuates that unless reviewers are “trained” and published by trade publications and magazines, any other review is invalid. Because heaven forbid regular readers and customers share their honest, unpaid opinions.
And the part referencing Sri Lanka just seems racist. Because she thinks reviews written by white people are the only ones that matter? (Remember when Authors United displayed their racism? Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. If you want people to take you seriously, leave your racism out of it.)
If you believe, truly BELIEVE, that your work is excellent and awesome, there’s no need to stoop to purchasing reviews – because readers will discover the awesomeness for themselves, and you can keep your money. If you wish to spend money promoting your work, instead consider hiring a publicist, or purchasing ad space on blogs. (Not THIS blog – I don’t sell ad space. I’m happy to promote a book for free, if I actually have any interest in the book.) Or you can post ARCs or finished copies to reviewers, and spend your money on postage or the books – NOT reviews.)
If you find yourself considering purchasing a review, ask yourself why. Could your reasons be achieved through other means? Do you really have so little faith in your own work? Do you really disrespect the website and its readers that much?
If you truly believe there’s nothing wrong with purchasing reviews, why would you worry about other people finding out? If you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong, why do you care what other people think?
If you worry about other people discovering that you’ve bought reviews, then that’s probably a very good sign that you shouldn’t buy reviews – because you, yourself, know it’s unethical. Otherwise you’d have no problem with being “caught” doing it.
The author’s fear-mongering says more about her than she realises.
P.S. In this post, I’ve written as though authors have bought biased or POSITIVE reviews. That’s because these unscrupulous authors aren’t going to pay for an honest or NEGATIVE review – they’re paying for a certain outcome, guaranteed.