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Thursday Midday Links: This kind of fake review is harmful rather...

No deals today.  What, you didn’t gorge yourself yesterday?  Get to it!


  • In the case of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, 24% of customers who borrowed “The Hunger Games” bought “Catching Fire” and 24% bought “Mockingjay,” despite the entire series being available to borrow for free in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. 
  • Debora Geary was one of the top 10 KDP Select authors in February, and 51% of customers who borrowed one of her books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library went on to buy one of her titles. 
  • L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Thriller series, saw that 25% of customers who borrowed one of her books also bought one of her books, all of which are also available in the lending library.

Since the launch of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in November 2011, the paid retail sales of backlist trade titles in the library have seen 229% higher growth than corresponding titles that are not enrolled.” Amazon Press Release

So we’re sympathetic to the position of brick-and-mortar booksellers, even the largest of them: this isn’t a fair fight, by any stretch. Still, it’s essential that authors and readers not become collateral damage. The authors and illustrators who signed contracts with Marshall Cavendish had no way of anticipating that the publisher would assign their contracts to Amazon. For these authors to lose their vital showroom presence in Barnes & Noble stores was clearly unfair and harmful. Children’s books, especially picture books, need to be seen to be appreciated by readers.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble isn’t backing down. Its executives made clear to us that it is making this exception because it announced the policy after Amazon announced its purchase of the Marshall Cavendish titles. For any new Amazon acquisitions, Barnes & Noble’s policy is to ban the books from their shelves.

 Digital Book World

The majority of book readers prefer to buy rather than borrow. A majority of print readers (54%) and readers of e-books (61%) prefer to purchase their own copies of these books. Meanwhile, most audiobook listeners prefer to borrow their audiobooks; just one in three audiobook listeners (32%) prefer to purchase audiobooks they want to listen to, while 61% prefer to borrow them.

This is because audiobooks are mothereffing expensive. Anyway, click away for more interesting details. Info Docket

In talks with the Justice Department, some publishers have proposed keeping keep the agency pricing adopted with Apple but scrapping the provision—known a “most favored nation” clause—that prevented them from giving other book sellers such as Amazon a better deal. The Justice Department has said publishers must go further, according to people familiar with the talks. The government believes that publishers were able to impose the agency model on the industry only through an illegal conspiracy between rivals, those people said. According to the people with knowledge of the case, the Justice Department has insisted on a “cooling-off” period before publishers would be allowed to resume the arrangement. It has argued that the waiting period would allow publishers and booksellers to resume a one-to-one relationship, free of the taint of collusion. The length of such a cooling-off period is one subject of the talks.

Okay, deep breaths. First, I believe any settlement has to be approved by a D.C. Circuit judge. Second, I am speculating that the cooling off period arises from a push for publishers to set up a true agency system wherein they source the books, DRM, collect and report the taxes, and, in essence, act like a true principal much like the Pottermore set up.

Penguin and Macmillan aren’t a party to this settlement says the article. I speculated here that Penguin wasn’t part of the settlement because it was arguing that it was already in a true agency/principal relationship with Amazon. Thus a cooling off period in which publishers are forced to set up an actual agent/principal relationship makes sense as it does that Penguin doesn’t want to settle. This is all speculative on my part, but seriously, why even bring an investigation and come away with this nonsense?

It is possible that these authors are buying their way to success using places like Fiverr wherein people with REAL NAME accounts offer up a review for $5.00. Sometimes the purchase of the book is included in the $5.00 offer.

I will write and post 4 Amazon reviews on anything or any one product . This gig is only to write 4 brief reviews and posting them. For likes please buy our other gigs. Our reviewers are real people and have real names. Our profiles are clean USA IP’s and we give genuine reviews daily. Buy 2 gigs and get 8 written reviews.


Your Amazon success relies heavily on user reviews. For just $5, I will post 3 reviews that YOU write, from different accounts. The reviews can be for one product or across 3. I will also LIKE your product! ?Satisfaction Guaranteed?”””

I used to trust these high number of reviews, but clearly that is tragically mistaken of me. In the comments/feedback to one “fivver” a disgruntled author writes

The ‘reviewer’ didn’t look at the book, not even at the book’s description, not even at the title! Two reviews had no content, the third was blatantly wrong for this kind of book. This kind of fake review is harmful rather than helpful. I complained, got the reviews changed, but am far from happy.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ren
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 10:11:24

    Oh, you were unhappy with the fake reviews you bought to deceive potential customers? Should have gone with the “write them yourself” option to ensure a satisfactory quality of B.S.

    My heart bleeds.

  2. Isobel Carr
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 10:25:10

    @Ren: What Ren said. Ugh.

  3. Maili
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 10:34:31

    @Ren & @Isobel Carr: What Isobel and Ren said. Feh.

  4. anon1
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 11:17:18

    The clicking “like” on Amazon amazes me. I guess it helps? I guess people…readers…pay attention to it? I never did. And when I heard of one publisher asking its stable of authors to go and click like on all their Amazon books, I really started to ignore those “like” things. (You’d be amazed at how many authors couldn’t wait to do this, and were proud to do this, without even reading the books for which they clicked “like.”) Buyer beware is more “like” it.

  5. LG
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 11:26:44

    “The ‘reviewer’ didn’t look at the book, not even at the book’s description, not even at the title! Two reviews had no content, the third was blatantly wrong for this kind of book. This kind of fake review is harmful rather than helpful. I complained, got the reviews changed, but am far from happy.”

    Aww, I’m so sad for this author. He or she paid for reviews and the “reviwer” never even looked at the book? For shame!

  6. Linda Hilton
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 11:32:31

    Fake reviews?? I’d say “no one cares” but obviously there are a few of us. We are, unfortunately, a pathetic and tiny minority. As an author, I’m disgusted as well as frustrated: Is this kind of dishonesty the only way to success?

    Sadly, however, I’m not sure most readers can tell the difference between a well-written, well-formatted e-book and some of the absolute crap that’s out there. And maybe if they can, they read the glowing 5-star reviews and think it’s their own fault they can’t see what a wonderful book they’re reading.

    And don’t bother going out there and posting an honest review of a piece of crap — you’ll only get attacked by the author, their socks, and their paid reviewers. Feh indeed.

  7. Ros
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 11:49:51

    I thought the ‘like’ thing on Amazon was one of the things they use to come up with their recommended reads. So it’s for readers, not authors.

  8. MaryK
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 12:37:28

    Wow. Do authors like this have no understanding of the word “review” or are they just basically dishonest? Fake reviews aren’t that hard to spot anyway. Any review, even 5 star ones, that are completely glowing are suspect, IMO.

    The formatting of this post is confusing me. Are you using italics only when you’ve added your own comments? I figured the first one out because it has quote marks, but I’m still not sure about the second one. Is it all you or all the quoted article?

  9. Linda Hilton
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:07:29

    @MaryK: Do authors like this have no understanding of the word “review” or are they just basically dishonest? Fake reviews aren’t that hard to spot anyway. Any review, even 5 star ones, that are completely glowing are suspect, IMO. “Authors like this” don’t care any more about honesty than they care about good writing. If they did, they’d make sure their writing was competently edited, their e-books properly formatted. Instead they resort to lies and fraud to pump up their sales, and scream bloody murder if any honest reviewer dares to point out their shortcomings.

  10. Kate Hewitt
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:29:12

    This is so depressing.

  11. Christine M.
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:46:41

    I’m also confused as to where it’s “Jane speaking” and and what might be a quote from the article/press release, etc.

  12. Ren
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:55:54

    @Linda Hilton: “Instead they resort to lies and fraud to pump up their sales, and scream bloody murder if any honest reviewer dares to point out their shortcomings.”

    If they know their writing is so bad nobody will have anything legitimately positive to say about it, they really have no other recourse.

    Well, there’s always the option of refraining from inflicting poorly crafted crap on the public, but that makes typing all those words seem like such a waste of time.

    Remember, authors, no matter how bad it is, some buyers won’t return it, and shame profit is better than no profit at all!

  13. Jane
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 14:03:24

    @MaryK and @Christine Sorry about my inconsistent editing/formatting. The italicized stuff is the quotation. I should do a better job of highlighting that in the future.

    I think the problem here is that the BN/author’s Guild stuff wasn’t properly quoted.

  14. Courtney Milan
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 14:18:38

    I suspect it’s less fraud than abominable cluelessness coupled with misplaced ambition.

    Most of the people who have published absolute total crap have no clue that it’s crap. They’re the ones who are shocked! shocked! when someone tells them their story is not solid gold. They don’t see it; their story is perfect and beautiful and did you know how hard it is to write a book? You just don’t appreciate honest effort.

    And they write a book and publish it and…


    So they don’t think, “I’m going to delude the public and get them to pay me money for my total schlock!” They think, “Nobody’s buying my book because I’m an unknown quantity. I just need to give them a little push–I’ll hire someone to say it’s really good, which is not a lie because I know this is genius–and then I will make the bazillion dollars that I rightfully deserve.”

    Most people who do this sort of thing would never think of it as “dishonest.” How can it be dishonest, when they know their book really IS a five star book? They’re just telling the truth. Or, rather, hiring someone else to do it.

    Note that I’m not trying to defend the practice–not at all–because it’s abhorrent. But if you say things like, “It’s fraud!” and imply that these people are shysters who are gleefully, happily palming off inferior goods, the object of your lesson won’t hear the criticism. They’ll nod sagely at the whole discussion and say, “Oh, yes, it is totally wrong to hire someone to lie on your behalf–but I’m not doing that. My book is genius and those reviews are true.”

    Nobody that does this sees themselves in the ranks of the fraudulent.

    That’s why you have that person saying, “You’re faking the review! That’s not helpful!” That person is operating under the delusion that they’re paying someone to tell the truth about the unending brilliance of their book. In their minds, a positive review that cites facts about their books can never be a fake–it’s just a species of truth, and why would that ever be problematic?

  15. Jane
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 14:33:41

    @Courtney Milan: What you are saying is likely true for some but for others, I believe it is a calculated move. There is one YA self published author who publishes under a press that has published only one book. Hers. She has over 40,000 twitter followers and nearly 200 reviews for a book that was published only a few months ago (January 2012). Your book, Unlocked, which was in the top 100 of all Kindle books sold has under 75 reviews. You have sold nearly 50,000 copies of that book, right, or something close to it?

    Veronica Roth who won last year’s Goodreads book of the year, was on #1 on the NYT list for a couple of weeks, has under 15,000 followers.

    Twitter followers are another thing you can buy at Fiverr. I’ve seen a few other YA books with REALLY high reviews and corresponding high Twitter followers for their first self published book. Subsequent books by these authors, however, only have 20 or so reviews.

    Further, many five star reviews on these books have only one or two reviews in their accounts. It’s not something Amazon can even police if they wanted to.

  16. MaryK
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 14:43:08

    @Courtney Milan: People are weird.

    Oh, and I meant to comment on this earlier but was distracted by the poorly written fake reviews.

    inclusion in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library … actually increases customer purchases of authors’ work as well.

    There’s a reason grocery stores have people handing out free samples. ‘Cuz you’re gonna go “Oh, that’s good. Where can I get more?” and they’ll point you to their product which is otherwise indistinguishable from the others.

  17. Linda Hilton
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 15:07:21

    @Courtney Milan:

    You may be correct, Courtney, and if they’re that delusional, they’re even scarier than if they’re just honest(sic) frauds.

  18. Maya Banks
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 15:18:49

    At great risk and terror I feel I must point out the following because no one ever talks about the OTHER side of the coin. There’s no doubt there are a plethora of fake reviews, places where groups have gone and liked liked liked or marked the helpful or whatever it is. And there’s always people pointing out that OMG that person who just posted a 5 star review only has ONE review and a blank profile. (so it MUST be fake) Or that person obviously has 14 accounts and uses them all to post positive, glowing reviews.

    However, the reverse is also true. There are users who post a one star review and A. it’s the only review they’ve ever posted and B. their profile is blank. There are users with 14 different Amazon accounts that they use to post 1 or 2 star reviews of the same book (under all 14 accounts)

    And there are groups who rally the troops to go mark down any 4 or 5 star reviews and mark helpful on their 1 or 2 star reviews because they want the negative review to be front and center on the sales pages. And no I’m not making this stuff up.

    I agree that authors do some batshit crazy stuff when it comes to reviews but I’ve witnessed just as many batshit crazy people on the other side of the coin but no one ever mentions those.

  19. Courtney Milan
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 15:25:16

    @Jane: You have sold nearly 50,000 copies of that book, right, or something close to it?

    110,000 copies. If you include freebies–and for purposes of generating reviews, there’s no reason not to–150,000 copies.

    I do think that other authors are much, much more strategic about getting reviews than I am–possibly because I have the luxury of not having to be strategic. I know authors who put at the back of their book, “If you like this book, please help support me by leaving a review,” and all evidence is that this is a very successful tactic. (As an example, Susan Ee did this–and I think it worked. I know other authors who have, too.)

    The request doesn’t get most people to write reviews, but you only need a tiny amount of success to start seeing reviews–if I did that and I had a 0.5% success rate, I’d have 500 reviews.

    So I have not been strategic about collecting reviews. Other people are much better at soliciting them.

    But you’re right that some people’s strategery veers into awfulness. After I posted this, though, I remembered that there are people who specifically say, “don’t bother editing a book, it’s okay to put out crap as long as you’re putting out enough of it,” and decided I was being a little too rosy in my outlook. Where there is money to be made, there are shysters to be had.

    I have no idea why anyone would pay someone to get them twitter followers. Too much money? Not enough spam?

    If I were Amazon, I would invent a useless button and I would label it, “AUTHORS PRESS HERE FOR MORE SALES.” The other end of the button would be connected to basically nothing, thus diverting all the energies available for shenanigans into button presses.

    I think this button exists, and I think this button is tags. As far as I can tell perform almost zero function on the Amazon site. At this point, the way I judge the accuracy and honesty of book reviews is to look at the book’s tags. When you see that 55 people have tagged a book “sexy urban fantasy” and 55 people have tagged that same book “just like J.R. Ward” and 55 people have tagged that same book “hot vampire fiction” you know that someone is shenanigating something. Real people don’t agree with all the tags on a book in a lump. You can tell when a book has been tagged by a herd of wompuses and when the tags originate organically.

  20. library addict
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:25:05

    but seriously, why even bring an investigation and come away with this nonsense?


  21. Jackie Barbosa
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:33:21

    @Linda Hilton: I remember reading years ago about a study that was done on the relationship between people’s level of confidence in their abilities in a given area and their actual competence in that area. It turns out that higher confidence tends to translate inversely to actual competence. In other words, the more competent one is, the more likely that person is to question whether his/her work is actually “up to snuff”. The incompetent person, however, is more likely to have great confidence in the quality of his/her work. In other words, the less competent you are at something, the more likely you are to think you’re really good at it.

    I sometimes suspect that is going on with some writers. The ones who know they’re producing crap are probably the more competent ones.

  22. Miranda Neville
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:57:20

    A good friend sent me a link to a business that sells reviews. I had a hard time convincing my friend that it wasn’t a brilliant idea. Why should I be surprised? I have equal difficulty explaining to acquaintances why downloading books from lovely, kind websites is wrong. They think it’s a marvelous idea. Such a deal! And some know it’s wrong and don’t care. This is why I try not to think about piracy. It makes me too crazy. I’m fast getting that way about Amazon reviews, too.

  23. Linda Hilton
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 16:59:49

    @Jackie Barbosa: “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Cornell University.

    Thank you, Jackie, for mentioning this, and embarrassing me all to pieces. :blush: My well-thumbed and much-coffee-stained copy of the Kruger-Dunning report is within five feet of my keyboard.

  24. Edward
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 17:01:54

    @Maya Banks: I believe the reason we focus mostly on misbehaving authors instead of misbehaving readers for fake reviews is because authors are held to a higher standard, something called professionalism. It’s one thing to be mad at readers who one-star books out of a grudge, but it’s another thing to be mad at an author who purposely deceive readers out of greed. In our current political climate, greed is the hot topic people rage against.

  25. Moenen
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 17:08:39

    @Jackie Barbosa: It’s called the “Dunning-Kruger effect and yes, it’s unfortunately very common among writers (both published and unpublished). The more competent you are at something, the more likely you are to see the flaws in your own work. It’s why so many genuinely talented people drive themselves into a depression by agonizing over whether their work is good enough. :(

    I have to say some of the means employed by writers to get noticed make me laugh. Paying for reviews? Why not cut straight to the chase and pay people to buy your books?

  26. Ridley
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 17:57:26

    @Courtney Milan:


    This is my new favorite word.

    “Are you kids shenanigating in there?”

  27. Ridley
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 18:02:51

    @Maya Banks:

    no one ever talks about the OTHER side of the coin

    Oh that’s total BS. Authors bitch and moan about this ALL THE TIME, whether the behavior is real or imagined. Visit the KindleBoards, or Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forum sometime.

  28. Christine M.
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 19:05:22

    @Jane: Thanks for the block quotes, it makes sens now! :)

  29. Maya Banks
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 19:28:39

    @ridley first no thanks don’t care to hang out at either place. Second I don’t doubt authors complain but *I* never see it acknowledged on reader blogs or forums. Authors are expected to acknowledge the batshittery of other authors (and we do) but it’s not one sided. And yeah I have proof to back it up so I’m not imagining anything. I mean when an author goes off their meds there is a veritable stampede of authors pointing and gasping. There is plenty of crazy on both sides of the fence. I think anyone can agree on that point.

  30. anon1
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 20:17:00

    “Twitter followers are another thing you can buy at Fiverr.”

    Did not know that. Interesting. I had to get mine the hard way…lol.

  31. Patricia
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 20:35:16

    What is the point of buying Twitter followers? If your “followers” are following you because they’ve been paid and not because they are actually interested in your work or what you have to say, then it seems rather pointless, more of an ego boost than a business strategy. Am I missing something?

  32. MaryK
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 20:54:39

    Found a free book. Gates of Hell by Susan Sizemore. Hope the link works. Copied it from my phone.

  33. Lorenda Christensen
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 23:14:45

    I guess I need to use my account to leave some bad reviews. I read a ton of books, and I rate them using the star system on Goodreads. But for the ones I hated, or was simply “eh” about, I don’t write reviews on Amazon, #1 because it’s not worth my time, and #2 I always assume it was just a personal preference, and it’s not fair to ding the author for my tastes.

    The only books I take the time to write reviews on are the ones I love: Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Joanna Bourne, Karen Chance, etc.

    So now my Amazon account looks fake? This makes me sad.

  34. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 00:26:15

    @Maya Banks – I have seen the Rally the Troops message at goodreads, primarily, but most of the time i see it in response to an author engaging in something that is unseemly but maybe I haven’t the examples that you have seen.

    I do think that there are individuals that are engaging in the one star review for grudge purposes but is the one star review doing as much harm as the 100+ purchased 5 star reviews? When I have been dabbling in reading self published fiction, I was relying on reviews and the numerosity of them was meaningful to me. I had no idea that there were places where you could find buy five star reviews at 8 for $10. That seems very violative to me. Perhaps because I am not an author I can’t appreciate the violative nature of the 1 star review left by a disgruntled reader. I don’t see those two as equivalent.

  35. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 00:27:11

    @Maya Banks: Actually, I would argue authors are expected not to participate in those shenanigans. Acknowledging it and disdaining it in a I-love-reviewers blog-post are bonuses. There isn’t any doubt that such malicious readers exists, it’s more like we don’t focus on them because 1) they’re not professional and thus not worth the attention and 2) the authors are in a powerful position to fight them off with their bigger list of friends.

    So one reason why the reading community focus mostly on misbehaving authors is because readers by default have less resource to push back. Authors, by the action of selling a book, organically recruit friends and fans. Readers, on the other hand, must do it through reviews and social networking site such as GoodReads. Authors will almost always have a bigger friends-list than the readers because it is the authors’ business.

    When malicious authors attack readers, the readers are almost always out-numbered. When malicious readers attack authors, the authors are almost always well-equipped to fight back — they don’t even have to do anything except direct their friends and fans’ attention to those malicious readers. Sometime the author’s friends and fans push back against the malicious readers without the author’s awareness.

    Does anyone here think differently that readers hold more power than the authors?

  36. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 00:27:21

    @Patricia – I believe it is to give yourself the indicia of popularity. It matches the numerous five star reviews and leads people to believe that this author is more popular than she truly is (and thus must have a really good book).

  37. Linda Hilton
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 00:41:45

    @Edward: I’m pretty sure I agree completely with you regarding the balance of power which leans heavily toward the authors in these cases. But I would also ask if it’s possible to provide a working definition of a “malicious” reader/reviewer/review. For instance, is a 1-star Amazon review necessarily “malicious”? And if it isn’t inherently malicious, when is it and when is it not? How does a reader tell the difference? How does an author tell the difference?

  38. Ducky
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 01:02:56

    Ha! I have never trusted amazon reviews. I always found them kind of ….fishy, and that was long before I learned of all the shenanigans.

    So, this agency pricing legal action is not going to amount to anything but hot air? Bleh.

  39. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 01:40:50

    I swear, I must be the most total-fail self-published author out there. My total marketing strategy was:

    * to put my book in my signature at AW
    *to announce it here on DA
    *to put exactly one post on the m/m goodreads forum and bump it exactly once (as per the group’s request)
    *I had planned on adding it to Goodreads, but before it was even published, someone did that for me lol.

    I never asked for reviews. Never responded to reviews. Never asked for Twitter followers. I’ve never even requested a friend on Goodreads. Not even my BETA readers. I’ve just been that terrified by these bad author’s behaviors that I’ve sprinted the other way from intrusive. So I’m not sure we can come to the conclusion that the number of reviews reflects anything other than the genre’s readers’ fan styles.

    I have 56 reviews on my book and I haven’t sold NEARLY as many books as Courtney. It’s possible that the m/m groups are so tightly knit and also socially network savvy and ebook centric, much like YA groups, that they’re more prone to review books. I suggest that this is why Courtney’s books rise to the top, but have fewer reviews.

    Almost all m/m books are ebooks. From their Kindle, most people can rate right after reading. And for the YA, most of them have their phone on hand at all times and I suspect are more apt to visit an author page/amazon page/goodreads page after finishing a book.

    Just a theory =).

  40. sarah mayberry
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 02:06:58

    The thing that pisses me off the most about the buying reviews thing is that it ruins the medium for readers. Can’t trust an Amazon review now, apparently. And while Good Reads seems to better managed in terms of shenanigans, it’s possible it may be ruined as a reliable platform for readers, too. All because of A)people who see a niche they can exploit and monetise (the douches offering the reviews etc for a fee) and B)writers who think that there are shortcuts to making a living from their work. Here’s the deal: write the best book you can. Put it out there. If it’s any good, it will be discovered. (Or, to quote Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come). The rest is bullshit.

  41. Lorenda Christensen
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 03:54:31

    @sarah mayberry:

    Exactly. Only you said it better.

    I feel like all the time I took to write good reviews on actually good books at Amazon has now been wasted, and that because I DIDN’T write any/many bad reviews, my reviews are now automatically suspect.

  42. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 04:21:33

    @sarah mayberry:

    It’s sadly not the only thing a few bad authors have destroyed. I’ve seen the havoc from other bad behaviors from self-pubbed authors and it’s made me more cautious about interacting with my readers. Before all of the brouhahas, I probably would have initiated contact with fans of my book. Or heck, even hecklers, just to get the concrit. The terrible part about this is that, unless a fan initiates a friend request or sends me a private email, they won’t hear from me. It makes me wonder if someone feels slighted, esp someone who took the time to write out a review. I never will know who might have wanted me to reach out.

    That’s the other bad part about all this crappy behavior. The ones who have no ethics ruin it for fans AND authors.

  43. Mireya
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 07:09:54

    I caught on how easy it is to “game” Amazon and B&N reviews early. For over 5 years now I only check the BAD reviews in both sites. Seeing a barrage of glowing 5 Stars instantly indicates to me that there is a problem with the reviews for the particular item. Sadly, it does seem that some people (particularly those that are new to Kindle or Nook, or those that are casual readers) do “buy” into the fake reviews. The issue is not new at all, as someone pointed out. Way back when I was still actively involved in reviewing with a reviews site that I co-owned for several years, one of the members in our team of reviewers wrote a bad review on a book she really didn’t like. A discussion ensued by a number of authors and some proposed writing “counter-reviews”. This is not the same thing as “gaming” Amazon, but it is along the same line of thinking, and this is a concerted, deliberate action, not something motivated by the flawed logic of the person as what Courtney Milan indicated, but more on what Jane pointed out, that not all people that publish a book are necessarily clueless. After so many years, I am a bit jaded. I do think that frequent readers like the people who visit here, do know better, it’s the “casual” ones, like the ones who have fallen for the 50 shades of mediocrity hype, who tend to fall into these “traps”.

  44. LG
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 07:16:37

    @Lorenda Christensen: “But for the ones I hated, or was simply “eh” about, I don’t write reviews on Amazon, #1 because it’s not worth my time, and #2 I always assume it was just a personal preference, and it’s not fair to ding the author for my tastes.”

    I don’t see a negative review as unfair, especially if you state the reasons why you disliked the book – the author has written and published their book, and now readers are free to like it or not. Plus, stating reasons why you disliked or liked the book is helpful to other readers, who then have a better way of figuring out if their tastes are similar to yours.

    I don’t know that I’d totally discount an account that had only 4- and 5-star reviews (I’d definitely discount one with only 5-star reviews), but I’d probably be less likely to trust it than an account with some 3 and fewer star reviews mixed in. Nobody likes everything they read. Besides, I tend to go to 3 and fewer star reviews first, when trying to decide whether to buy something, because I want to know what the primary complaints are. I don’t trust 4 and 5 star reviews to mention anything that might be unappealing about the book, except as a detail the reviewer loved but which I know I’d hate. For example, it was 3 and lower star reviews that alerted me to confusing names (multiple characters with the same or similar names) in a particular book I was considering buying – the 4 and 5 star reviews didn’t even bring it up. And, no, the lower star reviews weren’t making the confusing name problem up – I bought the book anyway, because of other aspects of it that appealed to me, and the names really were confusing, to the point where I wondered whether the author’s editor had been sleeping on the job.

  45. nitnot
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 07:38:58

    For what it’s worth, since I only buy digital books (NOT from amazon) nowadays, I never look at amazon’s reviews anyway. I don’t know how big the market share is to non-U.S countries, but Amazon’s not making itself in any way available to us. In order to buy most things, you have to use an american credit card and even then, they will only deliver as far as Hong Kong.

    I go to blogs or genuine review sites. To all of you who runs your own, thank you! It is invaluable to me.

  46. DS
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 08:13:42

    I became aware of the buying reviews scam when someone (last year?) showed up on a site I was reading and posted about their experiences trying to earn some extra money on the fiverr web site. They were naive enough to think that they were supposed to read the book and post a review, instead they were sent a review written by an author.

    After that I stated looking I noticed that there were a lot of what I would call “contentless” reviews. I couldn’t tell from the information provided if the reviewer had read the book.

    Once I figured out what I was looking for it became like a game to spot the fake reviews. They aren’t hard once you have your eye in.

    Other than the “too expensive for an ebook” review I haven’t noticed a lot of negative review campaigns except for an up tic in fundamentalists posting 1 star reviews on pnr/fantasy books because they are approving of wiccans, negative about Christians or support evolution. The last one I thought kind of funny.

  47. Jody
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 09:13:39

    A series of reviews containing the same wording; variations of “Didn’t want it to end” and “Can’t wait for the next one”; coupled with an amazing absence of information about the book considering the reviewer loved it so much, are the tells.

    I still depend on the honest reviews to make a decision about buying a book, even if it’s free. The fake ones stick out like the sore thumbs they are and those poor authors really are deluded if they think people take them seriously.

  48. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 09:16:10

    Well that explains those authors who somehow get thirty reviews in three days. I knew some authors encouraged their fans to write reviews, and I’ve certainly encouraged mine to do so as well, but I had no idea that you could actually BUY THE FUCKING REVIEWS! I just assumed that some authors had a more enthusiastic fan base than I did, and wondered what I could do to make my base more proactive. I was actually developing a bit of a complex about it and thought I must be doing something really wrong. That maybe I wasn’t treating my fans well or something. I’m so tired of people gaming the system. I feel like I’m perpetually scurrying to keep up.

  49. Maya Banks
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 09:46:36


    Actually I had no idea you could purchase reviews either and when I read the thread I think my first thought was “Oh readers will spot THOSE a mile away” and perhaps that was why I was so dismissive of them while others were angered by it. I mean let’s face it. Readers are smart, savvy, their very cautious and I cannot TELL you how many times I hear even from my own readers “I don’t trust a review that has THAT many four and five star reviews”

    So I have no doubt you’re right. I mean it’s absurd, but even more absurd than the IDEA of being able to purchase 5 star reviews is the idea that this will actually fool readers. Readers can spot a suspect review a mile away. Unfortunately, some genuinely legitimate reviews get cast aside in the fray but shit happens ;)

    I’ve had people say that I was the first author they felt compelled to leave a review for (and believe me they don’t always mean in a positive light ;) I’ve gotten just as many people to leave their first EVER 1 star review. So they probably look like those profiles that everyone points to and says It’s blank! Fake fake fake!!

    I actually didn’t bring up my original point to say “but they do it too!” But rather that there are two sides here, both engaging in the same activity, one we hear more about because of the nature of it, and the other that is quite widespread but quieter because authors don’t have the luxury of pointing and saying Fake fake fake! While readers do.

    Maybe this is why some authors plunk down cash for reviews. I really don’t know. I may be horribly HORRIBLY misguided and if I am I’m sure you can correct the error of my ways, but I’ve just never put that much stock in reviews ONLY because they don’t have any part in MY book buying decisions. I’m a blurb whore/snob. That’s where you’re going to “get” me is with a well written, enticing blurb.

    And well, asking for spoilers haha. As you well know…

  50. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 10:07:39

    I so get that Maya. I pay little attention to reviews either. For me it’s the blurb and the sample. I’ve been reading romances for forty years so I’m pretty good at it. I have my fave authors and will usually only buy a new one if recommended by a friend with similar tastes. If I read a review I have to find something new or intriguing about the story, like a hero with autism or an alpha male killer who is actually impacted by his kills. Given my own lack of interest in them I never paid them any attention.

    I also think the dummy reviews are beyond obvious, I looked over some that I’ve thought were suspect and they stand out in that they
    say absolutely nothing about the book. How does Amazon let this happen? I’d always assumed you had to buy the book atvAmazon to review it.

  51. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 10:11:25

    @Roslyn Holcomb: No, Amazon does not require you to purchase the book to review it. If you do purchase the book it says “Amazon Verified Purchase” or something like that. The problem is that many times, the reviews you buy can come with the purchase of the book so you can get a number of Amazon Verified Purchase reviews from Fiverr.

  52. Melissa Blue
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 10:39:35

    I don’t write off Amazon reviews, because often times (OK all the time) after I read a book I want to know what other people thought of it. So I learned to stick with and wade through 3 and 2 star reviews on Amazon to get a feel for the book. I manage to avoid the BS that can happen with 5 star and 1 star reviews. And I get to know what the reviewer found was meh, hated or loved. Unfortunately feeling meh about a book doesn’t often spur one to leave a review.

  53. Sarah Wynde
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 11:16:44

    To the best of my knowledge, all of the reviews on my book are real — and certainly none of them were paid for — but I’ve definitely been surprised by how many times people repeat the same language from previous reviews. I’ve wondered if it’s because they read the reviews before buying and it subconsciously sticks with them? The blurb that I put on the cover was “the gosh-darned sweetest and most interesting story I’ve read in a long while. . . ” and a bunch of the early reviews also used the word interesting. (Although, oddly, none of them used the word sweet which is really just as appropriate, imo.) Then some of the early reviews used “crafted” and I’ve been surprised how many times that word has shown up in later reviews. It’s not a typical word, really. It’s almost made me suspicious of my own reviews, but I’m quite sure that no one is faking them. I’m the only one who’d have a reason to and I haven’t even bothered to send it out to real review sites, much less spend money!

    I do think, though, that people seem more likely to give reviews for self-published books then they do for traditionally-published books. I’ve been surprised by the number of reviews my book has gotten. I know that most of the earliest ones came from people who liked my fan fiction — since they, obviously, were the people who knew me and would want to read something I wrote — but a lot of the later ones have an element of…well, surprise, in them. A little bit of “wow, this author didn’t suck” that I don’t think a traditionally published book would be likely to get.

  54. Jackie Barbosa
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:03:41

    @Roslyn Holcomb: I also think the dummy reviews are beyond obvious, I looked over some that I’ve thought were suspect and they stand out in that they
    say absolutely nothing about the book.

    A dummy review may be obvious when there are 5-10 reviews on a title and you have time to read them all. It’s not so obvious when there are 500+ reviews. I think many purchasers are more inclined to “trust” a 4-5 star rating the more reviews there are. A book with 5 reviews and a 4.5 star average is more “suspect” than one with 50 reviews and the same average. Many, many people choose books on a combination of cover art, cover copy, price, and average star rating. When authors gin the system by getting all their buddies to write glowing 5-star reviews and/or by purchasing 5-star reviews, it’s pretty clearly a problem for consumers who rely on that average to mean something. There’s no way the average reader who’s considering buying a book with 100 reviews and a 4-star average is going to read every one of those reviews and figure out that the majority of them are “dummy” reviews.

  55. reader
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:13:12

    @Dani Alexander:

    It’s an even narrower section than that, Dani. It’s a certain type of m/m romance with a certain type of reader that tends to get a much higher number of reviews than average. The same way, I think, that certain types of YA novels get a huge number of reviews. It’s a response that reminds me a little of what you see in fan fiction communities; that love of fast-paced contemporary high-angst romance that the group can read and share and swoon over. Every novel of that type seems to draw in a much larger number of reviewers.
    I can see why it’s pulling in more writers, too.

  56. Jackie Barbosa
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:13:58

    @Maya Banks: I actually didn’t bring up my original point to say “but they do it too!” But rather that there are two sides here, both engaging in the same activity, one we hear more about because of the nature of it, and the other that is quite widespread but quieter because authors don’t have the luxury of pointing and saying Fake fake fake! While readers do.

    At the risk of being labeled as an “author behaving badly” (although, hey, it seems to working for others!), I have seen the kind of 1-star bombing that Maya mentioned and I’m quite sure it’s a real phenomenon. What I’m not convinced of is that it’s actually a reader-driven phenomenon. When I’ve seen this happen, it’s typically to a book (often self-published) that is rapidly climbing the charts and has a 4+ star rating average when the campaign starts. All of a sudden, it will begin garnering a rash of 1-star reviews that are notably lacking in detail about why the book is deserving of this rating. The book’s sales will then begin to drop off as the ranking drops from 4 stars to 3 stars or lower.

    Now, I may be overestimating the treachery of some of authors, but I think if they are unethical enough to buy 5-star reviews, they are also unethical enough to try to beat back the competition by getting their friends to lowball *other* books in their genre.

    Can I *prove* this is happening? No. But the evidence I’ve seen certainly suggests that something fishy is going on. I just don’t think it’s *readers* who are responsible.

  57. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:14:35

    It becomes really sad for me to read that people aren’t taken seriously because they don’t conform to what some people are saying are “real” reviews. What’s worse is it discounts the person who wrote them and categorizes them within a group they do not belong.

    Many of you have commented on how to spot a fake review, but I guarantee you that I have not paid for reviews nor have I engaged readers to ask for reviews. My family and friends have not even read my freaking book, so it’s not that either. Yet there are several reviews on my book which many of you would discount as “fake”. That doesn’t affect my rating, there are plenty of long long reviews (good and bad) on my book, but it’s not respecting fellow readers to automatically assume their type of review is “fake”.

    Negative or positive, someone took the time to craft their reviews, and I think it’s terrible that their reviews aren’t being respected =(.

  58. Jackie Barbosa
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:20:16

    @Dani Alexander: The problem is that we KNOW people are “shenanigating” (hat tip @Courtney Milan) the review system, and that makes us naturally more suspicious of all reviews and ratings. If people don’t “respect” reviews any more, it’s because there is enough of a pattern of abuse to suggest that suspicion is warranted.

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing the “honest” authors can do to correct the impression that has been created by the dishonest ones. We are all tarred with the same brush. And that’s a damn shame.

  59. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:27:20

    @Maya Banks:

    I actually didn’t bring up my original point to say “but they do it too!” But rather that there are two sides here, both engaging in the same activity, one we hear more about because of the nature of it, and the other that is quite widespread but quieter because authors don’t have the luxury of pointing and saying Fake fake fake! While readers do.

    Shorter Maya: “But they do it too!”

    If you weren’t using your real name, I’d cry concern troll. As it is, I just don’t think you know what point you’re trying to make and the muddle you’re making of the conversation is accidental, though no less unhelpful.

  60. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:34:48

    @Ridley – I disagree that Maya Banks is trying to intentionally muddle the conversation. I know that there are authors who are frustrated with what appears to be a dual standard: one for readers and one for authors. I think that there is a differing standard, though, because of the platform of the author versus the reader and thus I disagree with the Banks’ sentiment. There isn’t an equivalence.

    Yes, there are some readers that go around and give grudge reviews although I’m not sure if they are pure readers or authors as Jackie Barbosa may have implied. And I have seen goodreads readers indicate that they are going to vote up/down a negative/positive review. As I stated previously, I’ve seen that mostly in response to an author rallying the troops.

    Of course the biggest problem is that a) numerosity of reviews have influence and b) there is no way to ensure these reviews are “valid” versus purchased or left by friends and family. Alternatively there is no way to stop the individual grudge review.

  61. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:47:09


    It’s a certain type of m/m romance with a certain type of reader that tends to get a much higher number of reviews than average. The same way, I think, that certain types of YA novels get a huge number of reviews.

    I’m not so sure. Maybe part of it is that? But I think the largest part is that m/m is 90% ebook readers, it’s a simple touch to go and leave a review. And YA readers tend to have a device for reviewing handy as well. I also think that young adults are much more into sharing their tastes via social media given that they are raised in the Facebook/Twitter generation. (We should call that Generation Facitter? =D LOL)

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing the “honest” authors can do to correct the impression that has been created by the dishonest ones. We are all tarred with the same brush. And that’s a damn shame.

    I’m not really worried about the authors. People whose work stands on its own will have their fair share of reviews, and the blurb as well as the sample should be enough for new readers. For me, the problem is those readers whose voices are reduced to “fake” because they match what “purchased” reviews are saying.

    I don’t place blame on anyone. I do understand why many people here are feeling that way. It just saddens me. As a former reader/reviewer, I reviewed a lot of books. I read almost 10-15 books a week (esp when I was unemployed). My reviews were short and sweet. I now wish I’d spent more time on them–I guess?

    There has to be a way to separate the good from the bad. But in any case, I think reading the sample of a book that interests you is the best way to conclude if the reviews match your impression. If it sounds interesting to you already, a few pages can say if you’d like the rest? I dunno. I realize that’s a lot of work too. Maybe blog reviews like DA are the place to go? I know I read several of them, just to see what take every reviewer has. It gives me a more general idea of the pros and cons–because my tastes don’t always conform to every review.

  62. Ann Bruce
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:47:55

    @Jackie Barbosa: Cynic that I am, I never thought of other authors do the 1-star bombing. I feel so naive right now.

    I always thought it was the freebie phenomenon: everyone downloads a free book whether they like the genre or not; get around to reading the book without looking at the cover or reading the blurb or disclaimers or warnings; and then get pissed off because they only like cozy mysteries or sweet romances but the book with the explicit cover and warnings of explicit content contains sex and/or violence. Then they claim the author tricked them into reading the book to waste their time and defile their e-readers because that’s how authors get their kicks.

  63. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:54:40


    I disagree that Maya Banks is trying to intentionally muddle the conversation.

    To be fair, I did just say I thought she was doing it accidentally. So we don’t disagree.

    Intentional or not, however, she’s not accomplishing anything with her argument beyond downplaying the practice of bogus 5* reviews because some readers post negative reviews vindictively.

    Bogus 5* reviews are enough of a problem that Amazon is looking into detection logarithms to weed them out. You can’t imagine that the practice is anything but massively widespread if a.) Amazon’s acknowledged the problem and 2.) is working on a solution for it.

    There’s no comparison between authors deliberately gaming Amazon’s system and the occasional vindictive reviewer motivated by a grudge. The former is a major, widespread problem undermining the effectiveness of online feedback platforms. The latter is a minor annoyance carried out on a very small scale. To try to claim equivalence between the two is the stuff of concern trolls. “It’s hypocritical to discuss the large-scale gaming of online reviews if we don’t also condemn the few readers who post grudge 1* reviews.” That’s BS.

  64. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 13:57:20

    @Ridley: I don’t disagree with you that it’s a false equivalence. I actually edited my comment to say that. Maybe I’ll buy some fiver reviews to leave one star reviews on an author’s page. That would be gaming the system in reverse.

  65. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:02:47

    Well, I know of at least one instance where my books have been one starred maliciously at Goodreads. It annoys the crap out of me because when you don’t have a lot of reviews every one star really skews your numbers. I also know that as a professional writer I am held to a higher standard than readers are. Plus, readers are iften anonymous. People “know” me. I’m the person who is asking for your money. I so get that. I don’t necessarily think of it as unfair, just part of being an author. What I do think is unfair is the way unethical authors have poisoned the well and made us all look bad by their deceitful actions. I doubt any of my reviews would be suspect as I don’t have a particularly high number of reviews, but that goes back to Dani’s point, of the unfairness of disregarding certain reviews because they’re short. It seems to me that would have a greater impact on those who don’t have a lot if reviews because they’re more likely to be read. Bottom line is, this is beyond fucked up, and worse I don’t anticipate Amazon stepping in to clean it up. I’ve voiced my concerns as both a publisher AND a cosumer, because while I don’t bother with book reviews, I read product reviews diligently and I shop a lot at Amazon. I noticed over at fiverr that people were offering to review anything. If I can’t trust review integrity I’m a lot less likely to shop there.

  66. Maya Banks
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:04:03

    Since I didn’t make that equivalence, it’s a moot point. My main point and I believe I reiterated it twice is that there is batshit crazy on both sides. Don’t have to look very far to see it…

  67. Erin Satie
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:06:13

    I love Amazon & GoodReads for reviews – they work for me because I’ve figured out a strategy for it. The same way when you find an author you like you can glom all their books, when you find a reviewer you like you can glom all their favorites. Gives you a GREAT way to discover hidden gems and new authors and stretch your reading boundaries. The trick is to look for REVIEWERS, to vet their style and tastes, rather than to hop randomly from book to book and seek any kind of consensus of opinion.

    Reviews started out as this giant free-for-all and it was great, I was so glad to have all of these opinions at my fingertips. But now the system has been around long enough that it’s changing. It’s taking on more structure and it’s attracted a fair bit of useless clutter. There are people trying to game the system, just like there are people who’ve really shown how fantastic it can be.

    Personally, I refuse to judge the whole Amazon/GoodReads edifice by its least common denominator, by the crap and the clutter. I think of all the books I’d bought that I’d never have considered otherwise, because I’ve found reviewers whose opinions I really TRUST. This is such a blessing, I can’t overstate it.

  68. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:09:46

    @Maya Banks – but I haven’t seen these bands of readers giving out one sided grudge reviews in the 100s.

  69. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:16:57

    @Maya Banks:

    My main point and I believe I reiterated it twice is that there is batshit crazy on both sides.

    Right, you keep saying that, I know. It’s a non sequitur at best. Why point that out if not to promote some sort of false equivalence between the widespread gaming of reviews by sellers and the odd vindictive review by a buyer?

    What does your point have to do with the discussion?

  70. Sunita
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:20:43

    @Dani Alexander: I agree with @reader. High-angst, sexxoring books get more reviews than the quieter, less let-all-the-emotions-hang-out ones.

    I don’t frequent the m/m group at GR anymore, but I was both impressed and disturbed by its ability to rally support and coordinate activity. I’m not saying the reviews aren’t genuine, but I definitely believe that there are more m/m readers posting reviews for books they like than is the norm in other genres.

    m/m presses also send out a lot of arcs and free copies, which ups the review count and skews them toward 4 and 5 stars. Many reviewers will give a higher rating to a book they’ve asked to review or been given for free. I see this at GR a lot, not just for m/m.

  71. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:27:32

    @Sunita: The fan loyalty of m/m readers has rendered m/m ratings and reviews almost worthless to me. Those people give 4s and 5s to everything.

  72. Maya Banks
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:33:09


    I do think it’s at a lower ratio at least when compared to people paying for reviews. Though I’d really love to know just how big of a business this is. It’s perplexing to me. If an author truly pays 5 bucks per review and pays for a LOT of them, how on earth are they making any money? I’m actually beginning to wonder at the significance or use of reviews at all because everyone looks at them with a cynical eye. People either wonder if the reviewer is BFF or a family member of the author. If the author paid for the review. etc. If there are too many positive reviews, red flags. If too many negative reviews, red flag. People hate meh reviews. So what’s left lol?

    Maybe at some point we’l have a shiny gold badge that says “I’m not BFF, a family member, author’s critique partner, publisher, agent or in any way associated with the author nor have I been compensated for the following review nor do I have a grudge and the author hasn’t recently pissed in my wheaties” for authenticity *snort*

    I might pay real money to see that just for amusement value. Or maybe I’ll offer a kickass pair of shoes for a 6 star gushing review, since at least that would be something different.

  73. Linda Hilton
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:34:51

    @Jane: What’s a “grudge” review??

  74. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:42:14

    @Maya Banks – one of the fiverr offers was 8 reviews for $10. You can get 100 reviews for a little over a thousand dollars. Once you have those multitude of reviews, Amazon starts promoting your book in the If you like this, you might like this feature and so forth. These books become successful because other people believe that a number of people have read it and loved it.

  75. Maya Banks
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:53:32

    @jane oy, that makes my head hurt… But hey, I read somewhere recently. Just don’t ask where because it was one of those things in passing, but now I wonder if it really is true. I read that if you get over a certain number of reviews that Amazon gives you more promotion. So that must be what you’re referring to? So if authors purchase enough reviews to get them over this threshold, then Amazon gives them additional promotion and along with the 100s of glowing reviews, it makes readers want to buy the book. We on the same page?

  76. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:55:13


    I think it depends on the reviewer. There are many who average 3 stars and those who average 5 stars. I suspect many reviewers are like me in that they tend not to review the books they didn’t like. I rate outside the genre pretty at-will, but inside the genre, I tend to review/rate only those books I like.

    A lot of it has to do with the editing problems in general with m/m. The bar is slowly raising and we’re probably going to see some changes. M/M is going through growing pains.


    I don’t frequent the m/m group at GR anymore, but I was both impressed and disturbed by its ability to rally support and coordinate activity. I’m not saying the reviews aren’t genuine, but I definitely believe that there are more m/m readers posting reviews for books they like than is the norm in other genres.

    Exactly =) And I’m not necessarily one to complain about that because that’s how I review in the genre too–mainly because the authors are making diddly squat in terms of monies in the genre. I still think it’s evolving though. WHat it needs is mainstream sales. It needs to breakout of the niche.

    I agree with @reader. High-angst, sexxoring books get more reviews than the quieter, less let-all-the-emotions-hang-out ones.

    I might disagree with you here, I’m afraid. My book does not have a lot of sexytimez (no full sex at all). I can’t comment definitively on the high-angst–for me it isn’t, but that’s just personal judgement lol. It’s also received mixed reviews, mostly high-to-low, so it bucks the theory there, too.

    Latakia, a very well reviewed book has fade-to-black sex. Both books have been top sellers for a while. Latakia has garnered something like 45 reviews (approx) and almost all of them are 5 star, with the random 4 star (no 3, 2 or 1 stars). I have it on my t0-read pile, so I can’t say how I feel about it, but that’s two books in the top 10 that have zero, or very little, sex. And both of them buck the norm by being novel length.

  77. Sarah Wynde
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:00:05

    @Erin Satie:

    The very first thing I check on Goodreads reviews is what other books the author liked to see if I can find anything I want to read. I honestly think in the future that good reviewers are going to be like indie bookstore owners — we’ll all use them to find out what we want to read and the best reviewer will have as much power as best-seller lists do today.

  78. Sarah Wynde
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:05:20

    @Jane: “Once you have those multitude of reviews, Amazon starts promoting your book in the If you like this, you might like this feature and so forth.”

    I don’t actually think that’s how the algorithm works. I think Amazon starts promoting your book in those spaces because of purchases and downloads, not reviews. That said, you can get in a top-rated list based on reviews, and it’s possible that Amazon includes titles in some of the actual promotions (like best books for $3.99 and under emails) based on reviews, but I believe most of the automatic connections are made via sales not reviews. If you know differently, do you have any idea where you learned that? Because I’d like to read more about it — to the best of my knowledge, Amazon doesn’t share much information about how they make those decisions.

  79. Ridley
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:05:44

    Speaking of Goodreads, I’ve actually added a disclaimer to my friend requests. Basically, if you have no 1 or 2* reviews, and/or you gave Twilight 5*, I’m probably not going to accept your request. I want my panel of friends’ ratings/reviews on book pages to be full of people with taste. If you like everything, your opinion is no use to me.

  80. Jane
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:15:57

    @Maya Banks – yes, we are on the same page. I’ve heard the same thing – that a certain number of reviews pushes you into algorithms that increase your visibility on Amazon.

  81. Maya Banks
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:17:17

    That makes so much more sense now *sigh* or not really but…

  82. Sunita
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:06:13

    @Dani Alexander: You’re welcome to disagree with me, but I don’t think the fact that 20 percent of the top 10 is low on sex scenes invalidates my point. I’m not sure which rankings you’re using, so I don’t know what the other eight look like.

    When I talk about high-angst, high-emotion books, I mean books where the characters talk about their feelings a lot, show a lot of emotion either in dialogue or exposition, maybe grovel (or have a big reveal scene). Sure, there are exceptions like Josh Lanyon, but I think that *on average* the high-emotion books draw more (and more ardent) fans, who then are more likely to write reviews. These books may or may not feature a lot of explicit sex.

    I suspect many reviewers are like me in that they tend not to review the books they didn’t like.

    If that’s the norm, it makes it even more difficult for new readers in the genre. Genres grow when you have honest reviews that span the full range. Fannish reviews hurt the genre in the long run (not saying yours are fannish, just speaking generally). Knowing what someone doesn’t like can be as important as knowing what they do.

  83. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:06:14

    @Linda Hilton:

    But I would also ask if it’s possible to provide a working definition of a “malicious” reader/reviewer/review.

    That is the big question. TBH, I can’t answer it because I know a malicious review when I read it. The lack of definitive answer is why these authors vs. reviewers battles occur.

    What’s a “grudge” review??

    A review written out of a grudge. It’s not a review per se as it is trolling.


    The fan loyalty of m/m readers has rendered m/m ratings and reviews almost worthless to me. Those people give 4s and 5s to everything.

    No kidding. OTOH, how people rate and review is their own business. I just hope they realize that passing out high-stars so easily make those high-stars significantly decrease in meaningfulness. Regardless what genre you read and what community you’re in, you’re always better off following reviewers who have a standard and and making friends who have a discernible taste.

  84. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:21:16


    Knowing what someone doesn’t like can be as important as knowing what they do.

    I would argue knowing what someone doesn’t like is equally important as knowing what they do. One cannot have likes without dislikes, they define each other. Think yin-yang.

  85. Dani Alexander
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:00:58


    I’m not sure which rankings you’re using, so I don’t know what the other eight look like.

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. I was associating bestselling in gay & lesbian with most reviewed on Amazon. (As we were talking mostly about Amazon reviews. But I think it holds for GR too).

    Both JF and I are in the top ten (Jeff is probably going to hit number one soonish) and both of our stories have the most reviews of the top 36 books. Taking in the next top reviewed book, Something Like Summer by Jay Bell it’s 136 reviews. Another book with little to no-sex iirc. And the only other stories with over 50 reviews are Hot Head by Damon Suede and Fair Game by Josh Lanyon.

    Of those stories only one has a lot of focused sex (Hot Head). Josh tends to write more mystery/plot stories with sex added as another layer.

    Therefore I don’t see the correlation of angst/sex to number of reviews. What I get most about the reviews is the word “fun” (except in the case of Hot Head). It may be angst, though, but if that were true, Amy Lane books would soar with every book. But she doesn’t.

    What I think is grabbing readers , is the emotional roller coaster (example: take a look Amy Lane’s The Locker Room–lots of reviews). Not all funny, not all angst, not all sex, but a mixture of the range of emotions.

    If that’s the norm, it makes it even more difficult for new readers in the genre. Genres grow when you have honest reviews that span the full range. Fannish reviews hurt the genre in the long run (not saying yours are fannish, just speaking generally). Knowing what someone doesn’t like can be as important as knowing what they do.

    I suspect, but I don’t know if that’s the norm. But I don’t think it invalidates a person’s opinion on a book if they give every book they like five stars. Maybe they loved every book they gave five stars to? It’s still a reaction to the story. Whether they have 1 and 2 star reviews shouldn’t matter. What matters is the substance of the review. I don’t care what someone things about other book, I care about what they think of the book that I’m interested in. If they like a lot of other books, then I know they just …like a lot of other books. LOL Why do I care what they don’t like?

    I ike Amy Lane–when I”m in the mood–because I love being emotionally manipulated. I’m easy that way– bring on the angst. I love Dean Koontz because I know how the story goes–great characters, fluffy love stories, lots of preaching about stuff I already agree with and a HEA (usually >>8( *glares at Odd Thomas*). The fact that I hate Stephen King’s stories shouldn’t matter (no one stab me please).

    What I love about most of DA’s reviews is that they list what they liked and didn’t like. Even in stories they didn’t like at all. I think that is the type of review we should encourage. Not the Don’t Give FIve Stars To Everything. Just straight forward likes/dislikes–even in five star reviews.

  86. Sunita
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:04:25

    @Edward: *puzzled* That’s what I was trying to say. Exactly what you said. The squeeees only make sense in the context of the bleccchhh. So to speak.

    Sadly, I do not think most of the people giving the high-star ratings think they are decreasing the meaningfulness of the review. I think they think they are boosting the signal and getting others to read the book.

  87. DS
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:20:06

    If anyone wants to rubberneck, there has been another author meltdown. . The story is on Goodreads However, the author has ranted from Absolute Write (nothing really to do with reviews, she was posting as representative of her own publishing house when she went off) to Twitter to her own blog. Very much a train wreck.

  88. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 18:09:00


    I think they think they are boosting the signal and getting others to read the book.

    I have no doubt that is exactly their intention. Those readers are good people, but they do make it hard for other readers of more selective taste, especially new readers that are used to the quality of mainstream books.

  89. statch
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 18:11:48

    I got interested in the issue of fake reviews on Amazon a while back and spent a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back following some review trails. I had been assuming for a while that the contentless 5-star reviews written by someone with few other reviews were fake, but this time I tried looking at the ones by reviewers with many reviews of different types of products (not just books). I found that many of those people had all reviewed the same seemingly unconnected items. So, for example, five reviewers of a particular romance novel might have all reviewed the same beginning Spanish book and some other non-book item. (I wish I had kept track of this but at the time, I wasn’t expecting that result.)

    I still read reviews but I only pay attention to the detailed ones (no matter how many stars — I’m just as likely to buy books with bad reviews as good ones, depending on the reason for the bad reviews).

  90. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:23:51

    @Dani Alexander: Absolutely. And while I really am not disagreeing with the problem of fake reviews at Amazon, I am not sure if I agree that only smexxy books get all five reviews in MM. I definitely tend to grade on the higher scale, but truly and honestly, it is not even because I tend not to review the books that I dislike, but because after several years of reading MM I know what I want to read and tend not to spend money on the books I know I will dislike (like when I see the author who in my opinion writes only sex and no plot – I will never buy her book (unless I am in the mood for short erotica, but I am talking about romance here) and my only misses happen when I try the author unknown to me. I also have several books outside of MM genre (I of course read other genres as well) which I hold as the Shiny examples of what I consider phenomenal writing. For me those books are ten, but I do not think it is fair to measure some really good mm books towards those books, so I figure that five for really good ones is fair, even if they are not work of genuis. Does it make sense?

    Oh and Latakia is a great example of the book which to me deserves every single five star review, despite some technical imperfections, really loved it. Thanks for mentioning it Dani and cant wait for your new one hehe.

  91. reader
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:33:36

    @Dani Alexander:

    It helps to know you don’t consider Amy Lane’s books all angst. Then I have an idea of where you stand on the angst-meter (much muuuch higher than I do.) I think the angst is an enormous draw in m/m (just as it is in fan fiction) and I do believe it’s a higher draw than the sex, itself.

    I think there are very specific elements that raise the appeal for those readers who love m/m. From what I’ve seen and read, the more of those elements you have in an m/m romance, the more sales and the more reviews that book will have. I think the same is true of other types of fiction, with differing elements.

    In m/m, the relevant draws are angst, sex, perceived gender of the author (I think male written m/m is aided by female fascination with male-written romance. Some readers believe, even if they won’t say so, that they are getting a truer male point of view), setting (contemporaries sell better), pace (fast, dialogue-heavy reads), writing style (whether well written or not-so-well written, the leaner the style, the more popular the book), and to a lesser extent, books that keep the focused narrowed tightly on the two leads.

    These elements separately do a good job of attracting readers. The more elements thrown into the mix, the more popular the book will be. Take K.A. Mitchell as an example. She has nearly every element listed; consequently, she kicks butt in sales. Josh Lanyon may not write a lot of sex scenes, but he writes lean, intelligently-written stories that are quick, entertaining reads. He has most of the elements listed. Go on down the line and you find that most, if not all, of the authors you’ve listed have a greater number of the same elements.

    There are occasional exceptions, yes, but I think it generally holds true that this is the case.
    I’m not saying this necessarily a positive or negative thing. Readers like what they like. I’m just saying that most books following a certain type are the ones with the greater number of sales and reviews. I think a lot of readers who move from reading fan fiction to reading original fiction, whether it’s m/f or slash, are looking for the same intense rush that comes from reading high angst h/c (whether physical or emotional or both) and when they find it in m/m fiction, they devour it whole.

  92. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:34:26

    @Sunita: Hmm, but what about the readers who tend not to buy the books they wont like? I mean, yes, you are right, a lot of five star reviews can and often really make it all meaningless, but what if reader really and truly feels that book deserves it? I mean, even I, an ESL reader could saw some technical imperfections in Latakia, but do I think that characters will give a run for their money to MANY MANY books in MM genre? Absolutely. Do I think that I could not catch my breath from all the excitement of the plot very often? Yes. So while I definitely cannot pick apart the writing (do not feel qualified), as a reader the book provided several hours of great fun for me and all of that for 99 cents. What if the reader truly feels that way? And I am using this book as example only because it was mentioned here, I can bring up many books which made me feel that way, actually, Latakia was one of the few that had a great money value.

  93. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:38:29

    @reader: I agree that angst is one of the elements that attracts. Heh I also consider Amy Lane’s books as a rule to be VERY angsty, and while they are extremely popular, I also agree, in several situations it could be a turn off (I know for a fact that it could be a turn off and not just for me, but for several other readers). I can handle a very angsty book, but what I dislike (and I definitely think that Amy Lane’s books have it sometimes) is emotional manipulation. I can read an angsty book if I can see a reason for all the angst, and such reason better not be able to be resolved in five minute conversation, or action, which for some wierd reason characters tend to avoid having. I am not even sure which point I wanted to make now lol.

  94. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:52:57

    Oh I also want to add that I find the rating business to be the hardest when I review. I often wonder how to measure my niggles if that makes sense, like how much should I deduct, if I dislike one thing, two things, etc, etc. Like I disliked some things in Dani Alexander’s book, but overall enjoyed it very very much, but how does it compare with other books I rated similarly? I have to constantly remind myself to grade every book on its own. Anyway, love writing reviews, but find the rating very hard, just wanted to share and sorry for many posts :)

  95. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 19:55:22


    For me those books are ten, but I do not think it is fair to measure some really good mm books towards those books, so I figure that five for really good ones is fair, even if they are not work of genuis. Does it make sense?

    Going to have completely disagree with you there. I feel it’s unfair not to measure m/m romance against mainstream books. Not doing so belittle the genre as a whole and doesn’t particularly encourage authors to write better. I say that because I remember an author once said “bad reviews make you crazy, good reviews make you lazy.” How can the genre grow if most of its readers are always 5-stars rating every book that comes their way? Readers cannot complain about the low quality on some of these books and then at the same time 5-stars rate them. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

  96. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 20:00:04

    @Edward: You misunderstood me, sorry for being unclear. I absolutely think that mm romances SHOULD be weighed against mainstream books, I was saying that I am not going to measure them against VERY few mainstream books. For example – War and Peace is the book I grew up with and which I reread every year. Would I measure mm romances against this book? NO. But I would not measure vast majority of mainstream books against this book and few others. I for example think that “Whistling in the Dark” by Tamara Allen is a book which would measure very well against vast majority of mainstream books, all of her books IMO, and if I were to grade on ten scale I would give her a solid 8 or 8.5, but do I think Tamara Allen is Leo Tolstoy? No, but I think 99% of the writers are not Leo Tolstoy and not even close. Hope I am making more sense. I do not give five stars to the books I think low quality.

  97. Edward
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 20:51:39

    @Sirius: I see now. Personally, I wouldn’t have any problem if you or anyone else did rate a m/m romance or something else against “War and Peace”. I myself rate my books against everything I read, including the classics.

    Oh, and not to sound snobby, I must repeat that it is no business of mine or anyone else how other people rate and review. As long they’re not gaming the system like what was reported here in DearAuthor’s article, then we’re good. I would prefer people to rate according to my standard, but that’s my egocentricity talking there. Hehehe.

  98. KKJ
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:15:49

    @Dani Alexander:

    I suspect many reviewers are like me in that they tend not to review the books they didn’t like. I rate outside the genre pretty at-will, but inside the genre, I tend to review/rate only those books I like.

    I’m the opposite – so far I’ve only written reviews for stuff I *don’t* like, because snark is *much* easier to write. I’m still struggling with writing a four- or five-star review that doesn’t make me sound like a squeeing fangirl.

    This might make me sound like a total snob, but I tend to ignore ANY book review that’s badly written. Whether it’s a one-star or five-star rating, if a reviewer can’t use halfway coherent spelling, capitalization or punctuation, there’s no way in hell I’m going to trust his or her opinion on what constitutes good writing.

    The god-awful writing of the *reviews* of 50 Shades was one of the biggest reasons I never bought it (that, plus I refuse to pay $10 for a self-pub ebook, what a f’ing joke).

    This rule is void if the book is free or cheap, of course. I’m not THAT much of a snob.

  99. azteclady
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:55:52

    @Courtney Milan: yes, yes, this a thousand times, particularly this bit:

    Most people who do this sort of thing would never think of it as “dishonest.” How can it be dishonest, when they know their book really IS a five star book? They’re just telling the truth. Or, rather, hiring someone else to do it.

    They honestly, truly, sincerely, don’t see the difference between that and hiring someone to do PR for them.

  100. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 22:00:58

    @Edward: Sure, people rate differently and if Amazon system had ten stars instead of five, I may have rated a little differently myself. The main thing for me is that MM romances that I rate as five are good, enjoyable books for me, and as I said for me they measure pretty well against the books I liked in other genres, but to me it is just not fair to rate them against five or ten books (I read hundreds of stories every year just to compare) which I feel are above and beyond of 99% of the books I have read. They are good, many of them are memorable for me and definitely deserve five stars. Look, just as I can name of the top of my head fifteen or twenty mm authors which I will always buy (till I will be dissappointed by several their books in a row), I can also name twenty- twenty five mm authors which I will *never* touch – period. And I do not mean because I did not like their online behavior (I usually calm down pretty fast when I read about authors’ meltdowns and only have one author which I will not buy because of his online behavior), but simply because I tried their writing (and I usually try two books, not one) and their writing is not to my taste ( usually it is all sex, no plot, or shallow characters, or whatever). I think this alone can explain why my ratings are on the higher side. The main reason why I weighed in originally is because I of course also read about high graded fake reviews on Amazon and more than once. I guess I wanted to share some of the reasoning as somebody who grades high enough, just to reassure potential buyers that not all five star reviews are fake.

  101. Sirius
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 22:07:48

    I just realized something though. Since I have read those authors which I will never touch months or maybe couple years ago, I have not left reviews on all of their books. I suppose whatever I remember (and some of those books were indeed quite memorable for me – seven footed alien werewolves and tiny long haired humans, who become their mates in a blink of an eye still give me nightmares sometimes :)), I will leave the reviews.

  102. azteclady
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 22:23:08

    @Sarah Wynde: This has been the case for me for many a year now–and why I don’t usually post reviews at amazon or goodreads. I don’t see that they would do much good there to anyone. The readers at Karen’s blog, on the other hand, will actually read the reviews there–whether they agree with my taste or not.

  103. Linda Hilton
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 22:35:20

    @KKJ: Yes.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m so appalled at the lack of quality in the majority of the self-published writing I’m seeing, but I’m much more moved to comment on the bad stuff than on the good stuff. Fear of backlash, however, keeps me from actually posting reviews. I’m less afraid of indulging in embarrassed fangirl squeeing, except that I don’t think I do it very well. So I do neither.

    But what does one do when reading a supposedly “edited” e-book and it’s got an error of fact in the front matter that’s so absurd and hilarious it sends one into gales of “WTF how could anyone be THAT effing stupid!?” laughter? That’s the kind of shit that drives me up the wall and makes me want to write a review that’s actually addressed to the author, not to readers or potential readers.

    I think the whole digital transformation, in terms of both publishing and social networking, has removed barriers between authors and readers that used to protect the writers. It’s not only the gatekeeping of editors and publishers that’s disappearing, but it’s also the emotional buffering. Authors can’t blame their editors and publishers because the editors and publishers essentially don’t exist any more. And so when the authors are expected to interact with their readers in promoting their books, they are subsequently vulnerable to the negative reviews that become personal because the barriers are gone, or at least blurred.

    I’m not defending the authors on this, even though I are(sic) one. I think reviewers/readers/critics have a right and a responsibility to call the authors on their shortcomings. I think writers have a responsibility to put good stuff out there or suffer the consequences. Nobody forced anyone to publish. If the author can’t handle the criticism, well, take the damn book off the Kindle and go back to scrapbooking for a hobby.

    But I also think both writers and readers owe each other a standard of honesty that seems to have disappeared, too. The idea of a malicious one-star review, or even a campaign of them, worries me much less than a climate of bought-and-paid-for fans. I spent a good portion of this afternoon and evening reading literally 100s of Amazon reviews, and while I saw some pretty nasty ones, I didn’t see any bunches of one-star reviews that I thought were dishonest or malicious. Were there some from angry, pissed off readers? Yeah, no doubt about it. But I didn’t see any that directed their criticism personally at the author. Then again, maybe I have a high threshold for viciousness.

    I did see what sure looked a whole lot more like five-star astro-turf.

  104. T
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 08:58:44

    “This kind of fake review is harmful rather than helpful. ”

    implying, surely, there is some kind of fake reviews which is helpful?

    (and I got no pity at all for anybody who buys *reviews* and then complains about them. None)

  105. Lynn
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 11:04:37

    I am incredibly disturbed. Not in a crazy way or anything. I just had no idea it was this bad.

    I knew authors were engaging reviewers that didn’t like their book and starting fights on Amazon, GR, Twitter, and person blogs. I knew they gathering mobs to up-vote positive reviews and down-vote the negatives. And I’ve personally experienced the WTFery that Jamie McGuire and Rebecca Hamilton brought to the table recently, including RH creating fake accounts to 5-star books that had starless ratings she assumes drags the book’s rating down. But I had no idea you could buy reviews. It makes my skin crawl thinking about how when I read their book, I’m kinda in their head… the same head that thinks that type of “shenanigating” is acceptable. It’s squicky.

    So, I’ll continue to read the reviews of Kat, Stephanie, Sofia, Wendy, The Holly Terror, and DA (feel free to suggest other reviewers). To hell with the rest of them, because as least I know those women can’t be bought and have a firm grasp on reality along with their morals. I’m pleased to see some well-known authors here making it obvious that they don’t approve of the devious behavior other authors are taking part in.

  106. Lynn
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 11:07:39

    We’ll pretend I didn’t make any spelling errors or grammatical snafus, and that everything I said made total sense. But I totally meant “The Holy Terror”… not Holly. I fail.

  107. Sunita
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 11:26:19

    @Sirius: I think Latakia is a great example of the difficulty inherent in evaluating a book with so many 5-star reviews. Now, I totally believe that the readers who 5-starred it love it and loved the reading experience. And when I read your 4.5-star review of it a while back, you gave me enough information to let me conclude that I was unlikely to enjoy the book.

    But it’s getting raves, and it’s in the Top 10, so I think to myself, maybe I should take a look. And it’s only $.99. So I downloaded a sample and started to read. And I discovered that my initial impression was correct. I found the sample to be exactly what I don’t like in m/m: unbelievable characters, unlikely (and for me, cringeworthy) dialogue, way too much telling and other exposition, basically amateurish writing. And the sample ran out before we got to the really unbelievable parts of the storyline.

    I can see how people would enjoy this book, but the idea that it represents the best that m/m has to offer boggles my mind. The 5-star ratings are telling me about the readers’ emotional experience from the read, I guess, but without knowing what doesn’t work for them, or what other books provide the similar experience, these reviews are worse than unhelpful for me, they’re misleading. I know the reviewers are sincere, but for me 5-star represents the highest achievement, and objectively, in terms of craft, this is not it unless it changes dramatically after the sample, and the lower-starred reviews suggest that it doesn’t.

    If you rate a book 5 stars because you loved the experience and it gave you an emotional high, that’s fine. Just tell me. Don’t tell me it’s a great book. Because when I find out it’s not, I’m going to be really annoyed, and I’m going to avoid your reviews like the plague after that (not you, Sirius, the general you).

  108. Sirius
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 11:32:14

    @Sunita: I have not read the sample. Does it start from the very beginning? The sample I mean? If so, then yes, pacing picks up after first two three chapters. But if you concluded from my review that you are unlikely to enjoy the story, I am not sure if it will make sense for you to read further. I thought the characters were terrific and action was great, but I dont know if this is the same as emotional high. I thought first couple chapters dragged a little bit, sure.

  109. Sunita
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 11:55:54

    No, I don’t think characters and action are necessarily the same; but in some of the reviews I read, they’re definitely talking about the emotional reaction rather than a more comprehensive assessment of the novel. Your review was more of the latter. We can disagree on whether the characters are well drawn, because that may well be a judgment/taste call. I thought your review did a good job of telegraphing what you thought were weaknesses despite your overall favorable reaction. It’s possible that I would like the book in the end if I read the whole thing, but I sincerely doubt I could get past the prose style and the dialogue, and I’m not enough of an action/military romance fan to make the attempt.

  110. Dani Alexander
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 12:12:56


    It helps to know you don’t consider Amy Lane’s books all angst. Then I have an idea of where you stand on the angst-meter (much muuuch higher than I do.) I think the angst is an enormous draw in m/m (just as it is in fan fiction) and I do believe it’s a higher draw than the sex, itself.:

    LOL ah no, I think you misread me. I said I found The Locker Room a mix of things, from funny to angsty to all kinds of emotions. I think Amy Lane’s books are nothing but emotional manipulation, but I LOVE them for it. I know when I read it, I’m going to allow myself to get pulled into emotional turmoil. For me it’s like watching Law and Order SVU–I know they’re piling on the melodrama, but I keep coming back week after week after week.

    But I do say that those books are emotionally manipulative when I talk to friends online–when they ask me to rec books. And I, and many others in the m/m community, know what turns a lot of people off. You’ll notice in reviews that a lot of the 5 stars will say “this contains cheating” or “this has three-way” etc. That’s giving readers the information they need.

    As Sunita mentions above, her and Sirius have very different tastes. And that’s what it’s all about, taste. No one’s is better than the other, they’re just different. And my 5 star and my 1 star ratings won’t do certain people any good. What would be good is if it mentions those things, Likes–Dislikes.


    Oh and Latakia is a great example of the book which to me deserves every single five star review, despite some technical imperfections, really loved it. Thanks for mentioning it Dani and cant wait for your new one hehe.

    I haven’t read it yet, Sirius, but I’ll probably do so after I’ve written NSI. I’ve put aside everything to focus on writing lol, so no reading until I’m done. I do love a Navy Seals story.

  111. Sirius
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 12:22:13

    @Sunita: Ah you mean simply saying I loved it, I loved it without explaining why? I am sure I did my fair share of those on Amazon, even though I am trying hard to get myself in the habit of saying why I liked or disliked even if I write one or two paragraph mini review these days.

  112. Sunita
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 14:15:46

    As Sunita mentions above, her and Sirius have very different tastes. And that’s what it’s all about, taste. No one’s is better than the other, they’re just different. And my 5 star and my 1 star ratings won’t do certain people any good.

    Sirius and I may disagree on Latakia, but in general we overlap a lot on m/m. She likes more books than I do, I think; but that’s true for a lot of people. I’ve become pickier and crankier about quality over the years.

    I’m happy to grant the (rhetorical) point that taste is subjective. But that’s *not* the only thing “it’s all about.” Reading enjoyment isn’t just about visceral reaction for every reader. There are objective components like craft as well. And I totally disagree about finding 1-star and 5-star reviews useless in the absence of “what I liked and what I didn’t.” If someone honestly ranks books using the full range, I can learn useful information from star ratings alone (as long as there are enough of them).

    @Sirius: Not always just “I loved it,” but the rest of the review is basically empty of information. Like this one at GR:

    This book is absolutely awesome. Would have benefited from an editor strictly for tightening things up, not because there are grammatical flaws or structural plot holes.

    The story itself is gripping, ( I stayed up until three am to not realizing how much time was passing- finally had to give it up for the night when the SO reminded me the alarm goes off at 530!)the characters are compelling. I’m buying this authors back-list and stalking his GR page for news on upcoming releases.

    For 99 cents, you can’t go wrong with this one.

    And that’s by an *author.*

  113. Sirius
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 15:24:53

    @Sunita: That review is a very good example, thank you. I am also wondering if I could contact you privately. I really want to ask you reviews related question, but do not want to hijack the thread even further.

  114. Linda Hilton
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 17:09:14


    And that’s by an *author.*

    My OCD has really kicked in on this issue and I’ve lost a lot of sleep and spent a lot of time on it. No, don’t feel sorry for me; I actually enjoy my OCD!

    But don’t you think maybe there are different kinds of reviews that serve different purposes and it’s less a matter of making them all fit the same template than it is a matter of recognizing which reviews fit which need? For instance:

    1. The fangirl/boy squee (I can’t believe I’m using these terms!) intended to convey emotional engagement or just enjoyment. This is the review/endorsement that comes from like-minded readers in a community who are generally looking for a similar experience and can more or less rely on the reaction of a majority of their peers.

    2. The biased squee posted by the sisters and the daughters and the cousins and the aunts, because of course they’re going to squee, and the problem is that the reader doesn’t know who the sisters and the daughters and the cousins and the aunts are in order to distinguish them from the trusted community.

    3. The paid $quee.

    The fact that the content of the reviews in all templates is generic and lacking in analytical information allows the $quee to have the same validity as the others, and in the algorithmic arcana of the Amazon system, $quee can make a big difference in visibility and thus sales.

    As a reader, I have never put much stock in reviews or ratings, but I can see where most readers do tend to rely on reviews and ratings to give them some idea what to choose. And I also think that for most readers, the emotional response is the primary motivation in choosing a book even if it’s not the most conscious motivation. The best-seller lists have been and are frequently populated by books that strike that emotional chord even while having huge, huge flaws in terms of what the “discriminating” reader sees.

    I enjoy reviews and analysis even though they only occasionally influence my reading choices. They do, however, strongly influence my writing. So I guess I’m really not surprised that a writer would write a squeeing “empty” review, if that’s what the community of readers who would be reading that review finds most appropriate.

    But I’m not involved in any of those reader/review communities, so I could be totally wrong.

  115. Courtney Milan
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 12:41:07

    Anyone who thinks that contentless reviews wouldn’t make a difference is kidding themselves.

    The #1 reason why a book gets purchased is because someone clicks on it. You can’t see the content of reviews when you click on a book–just the general star rating. If you’re browsing, you are much, much more likely to click on the book with a five-star rating than the one that has no reviews.

  116. Chelly
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 20:25:29

    This is my second time commenting at this blog. My co-workers and I (we work in a large medical complex for multiple healthcare providers) started a book club after Christmas when a lot of us got new Kindles and Nooks. We usually read romance even though we’re starting to add some men to the group (they try to act like they don’t like romance). None of us are writers. And also, none of check reviews before buying books. We just look around to see what samples look good to us. We go to where you can browse by genre and we click on the little icon that pulls up “Kindle for the Web” so we can read samples right there of a lot of books without having to spend a lot of time at Amazon. We don’t care about reviews at all. We pick out a few books on a random Monday morning and by noon we send some emails and we have our pick for the next meeting. It’s all based on if we like the sample.

    I am fascinated to know that people think their reviews are worth so much. There have been a few books that all of us absolutely loved and thought about going to Amazon to leave a review but the reviews there were so mean! Why? I don’t care if a book is “Indie” or not. I didn’t even know what that meant! I don’t even care if it has some errors, honestly, and neither do most of the people in the group, including those with Ph.Ds. I am just shocked by the outrage about reviews and bad writing and all this stuff. It’s happened to more than one book we’ve read, where I go to Amazon to leave my good review and I see hatred. I did finally leave one review and some nasty person came behind me and left me a comment telling me I’m stupid for loving this book and my review must be fake because the only thing I’d reviewed at Amazon was that book and a sippy cup. I deleted the review because it upset me, and it also made me sad for the person who wrote the book. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

    Maybe before the days of sites like EreaderIQ, books sold based on reviews??? I don’t think they do anymore. I think it’s the writing and I think there is way too much jealousy. Of course, I can only speak for myself and the ten other people who actually enjoyed “The Marriage Bargain” by Jennifer Probst and a few other that were not liked on this blog. I’m not going to tell you the name of the book that I left a review for where I was ridiculed. I don’t want to unleash more hateful people on a writer I love. I just want to enjoy my books and I think some of you need to calm down.

  117. Ridley
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 20:34:45

    @Chelly: tl;dr

  118. Linda Hilton
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 20:56:13

    @Chelly: Well now, Chelly, unlike Ridley I did read your little note. (“Little” because it’s actually a lot shorter than many of mine.) And y’know what? You’re entitled to your opinion. If you want to read books based on your random sampling of “Look Inside!” that’s your choice. And if you find you thoroughly enjoy books that other people dislike, hate, make fun of, or even throw (literally or figuratively) against the wall, you have that option. No one is trying to tell you what you can or can’t, should or shouldn’t, read and enjoy.

    If you’re bothered by the reviews, don’t read them. You don’t have to. No one makes you. They’re kinda like the Terms of Service agreements that we all get now and then, with a box to check that we’ve read and agree to everything even though most of us don’t read a single word. Except with book reviews, you don’t even have to check the box and lie about it. With book reviews, you can just skip ’em entirely. You can even pretend they aren’t there!

    But guess what — there are readers out there who DO rely on reviews. They have limited time and funds and they appreciate that someone else has read the book — or part of it — and shared with other readers that the writing is bad or the history is inaccurate or the hero is a jerk or the heroine a whiny twit.

    You have the option of ignoring reviews if you so choose. But if no one were allowed to leave reviews, you’d be imposing your preference on all the people who do appreciate them and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of something just because you didn’t like it.

    Remember that reviews are for other READERS; they are not critiques for the authors. If the authors aren’t prepared for negative reviews — and sometimes some really harsh negative reviews — then they shouldn’t put their writing out there and ask people to a.) pay for it and/or b.) give their time to it.

  119. Chelly
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:16:52

    @Linda – What upset me is the fact that I can’t leave a review at Amazon without someone telling me I’m stupid. It was an honest review and I’m entitled to my opinion. I see a lot of the same talk here that I saw in that nasty comment someone left to my heartfelt review. I didn’t know I was leaving a review for a book that someone obviously had their eye on. I have a feeling that some of what you guys are calling “fake reviews” are actually genuine, whether you want to believe them or not. I’ve been researching this a lot the past few days and it’s shocking to think that anybody cares enough to go attacking a book. The Amazon forums are a nightmare. I am not a stupid person by any means. In fact, I have a Master’s Degree, and I don’t appreciate someone at a retail website telling me my opinion is stupid, and I’m stupid, and everything I’ve ever done or said is stupid. If you’ll notice, there are a lot of books with a bunch of five star reviews that haven’t made many sales at all (learned this in an Amazon forum – an experience that may unfortunately result in nightmares for me) and when I looked through the samples I could see why. They were not books I would have picked from my EReaderIQ browsing.

    But I HAVE picked some books at EReaderIQ that had low star averages and I didn’t even bother to look. I still won’t bother to look. I don’t think I’m the only one. I think there are a lot of great “Indie” books out there. In fact, I know there are. Maybe I should start my own review website. I haven’t been this pissed in a long time.

  120. Jane
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:18:24

    @Chelly: I’m confused. You don’t think reviews are helpful but you leave reviews. You don’t think reviews are helpful but you are going to start your own review website (which I think you should do because the more review websites, the better for readers).

  121. Ridley
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:31:40


    I haven’t been this pissed in a long time.

    You might consider your own advice:

    I think some of you need to calm down.

  122. Chelly
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:40:01

    @Jane – You’re right. I did contradict myself and I did so in haste. I am still extremely angry about the response to my review. I left that review because I truly loved that book and I’m not the kind of person who usually leaves reviews. I did it because I was placing an order and came to some menu where Amazon asked me if I’d like to review a recent order. So, I did. :) The comment that was left in response to me was disturbing. The person had left similar comments to other books and was obviously targeting a few authors in particular. I was SO attached to that book, it was as if someone had just slapped my daughter or something. And you can ask my mother-in-law what happened that one time she slapped my daughter. I know, it’s just a book!! But damn it, I was attached.

    I might just start leaving reviews and see what happens from there. I wasn’t much of a reader until I got my Kindle. That’s what too many years of school did to me – totally burnt me out on reading. But I love my Kindle and I have found a new passion in reading. It’s heartbreaking to find an author you love so much (I bought several of her other books and read them within three days of reading the first one) and find that there are other people who obviously keep authors on their radar so they can trash them in reviews. It was confirmed for me in my little trip to the forums.

    You’re right. Do you think the world really needs another review website though? I think more people just need to go to EreaderIQ and ignore reviews.

  123. Linda Hilton
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:44:43


    Chelly —

    Forgive me for making this assumption, but you’re sounding a little bit more like an author than a reader, and an author who has been hurt by some negative reviews.

    If you want to leave a review, by all means leave one. And if you don’t want to read that someone thinks your review is wrong, DON’T READ THE COMMENTS.

    But if you start a review website, is it going to be one where you don’t allow anyone to challenge your reviews? Someone might disagree with you opinion and even tell you you don’t know what you’re doing. Are you prepared for that kind of response?

    And what about the authors? Are you going to Harriet all the books you read and give every author 5 stars or 10 hearts or whatever the top rating is? I’m sure the authors will love you, but will the readers? If you like EVERYTHING, what’s the purpose of your review?

    If you disagree with the comment someone makes on your review, for crying out loud DEFEND YOURSELF. Of course you’re entitled to your opinion. But keep in mind that so is the other person.

    I’m not really understanding your point about 5-star books with low sales. Maybe the reason those multi-5-star reviewed books don’t have many sales is because some of those reviews are fake. In other words, the author rallies friends and family and twitter friends to log on and leave a few lines of “Oh, this is the greatest book I ever red! I can’t wait for it to be a movie with Johny Depp and Orlando Broom! And the sequil will be even better!” But all those 5-star reviews don’t turn the sow’s ear into a silk purse. The plot still leaks like a collander, the heroine is still a bimbo, and the hero reminds most of us of our least-favorite brother-in-law.

    But there may be people who don’t care about details like that. They just want something to read, something they don’t have to think about, something that’s going to transport them to another place, another time, another life. (This is the way my mother reads.) And that’s okay too.

    But some of us do care. We care a lot.

  124. Jane
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 21:50:12

    @chelly – i think your bad experience leaving a heartfelt review is a direct result of all these fraudelent reviews. If there wasn’t a proliferation of fraudulent reviews, people would be far less wary of five star reviews. Your heartfelt review and the author you love are being diminished by the proliferation of fake five star reviews.

    And yes, there is always room for another reviewing website because the more options readers have to find good books, the better.

  125. Chelly
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 22:10:19

    @Linda – I am an enthusiastic reader who has been too busy with work and motherhood for the past ten years to subject herself to Internet snark. My loving husband, however, is a geek by trade who spends a lot of time on sites like Reddit and has openly mocked my naivete regarding how actively nasty people can be online.

    My husband’s immediate response to the comment I received at Amazon was “don’t try to argue with crazy.” That’s when I deleted my review. He knows how I am, and I would have sat there all night going back and forth (like I’m doing now, he tells me, although I think this may actually be a beneficial discussion). Next time I will know better than to click the button that says “email me if there’s a comment.”

    You’re right. I loved that book enough to defend my review and I think I will leave my review again. But the more I think about it, the more pointless it seems to worry about a review website. I said that in anger. One of the books I liked so much has already gotten very popular despite the bad reviews, which tells me reviews aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. There is a whole thread at Amazon devoted to attacking this book (and no it wasn’t Fifty Shades of Gray). I think I’ll just leave my reviews at Amazon and ignore the comments. I don’t need to subject myself to arguing about why I like something. I’m entitled to my opinion as much as anyone else. A review blog is something I would consider if I simply had more time. My husband calls himself a “Kindle widower” with my new hobby.

    Now, if I thought it was fair to leave reviews based on a Kindle sample? Oh my! One stars galore! But I don’t think it’s fair to review a book if you have only read the sample because that’s what sifts out the buyers from the people who don’t buy. It would be funny to see a “Kindle sample” review site though. If only I had more time. I don’t consider that “snark.” I consider it “comedy.” :)

  126. Chelly
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 22:13:06

    @Jane – thank you for letting me vent, and thank you for acknowledging that I had a real opinion. It was such a shocking experience and I have done multiple searches in the past few days and keep finding your blog over and over looking for ‘bad reviews’ and such. The comment to me was just way over the top. Unfortunately, I let the person win by deleting my review. I’ll leave it again.

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