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Authors Paying for Chatty Readers

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Special Monday Rant: Recently an author emailed me saying that there was some low level chatter about buying blog comments. Essentially you could pay blog commenters to go around and recommend your books.

I scoffed at this because it just seemed so . . . unsavory. But then there were two posts and two recommendations that appeared at DearAuthor in the last month or so that were recommedations to authors I had never heard of and that were unrelated to the blog posts. Unrelated comments aren’t entirely abnormal as off topic comments are generally par for the course.

But the posts niggled at me. As I toured blogland the last two months I saw a similarity in the comments left at my blog and those that were left on other blogs. I counted up to 8 different blogs that featured a nearly identical blog comment promoting a particular book during a two week period.

I did some further investigation and found a site called “BuyBlogComments.Com”. The site offers packages of blog comments in quantities of 100, 500, and 1,000. Essentially they hire out blog commenting to freelancers who “speak English really well.” The site promises to target blogs in the purchaser’s niche and that they have every niche you can think of.

What really raised my eyebrows was that one of the comments that the reader made here included a link back to the author’s blog where the commenter has the option of entering her own website. I eventually emailed the commenter about the situation and asked for clarification but none was forthcoming.

What I think is particularly pernicious about this is that we readers really rely on other readers to give recommendations that are free from financial interest. When a reader gives a recommendation, we presume that it is from their heart and not from their pocketbook. The idea that there are readers out there who are essentially paid commenters really disturbs me. I know that it is tough out there in the marketplace, but the two authors who I suspect are doing this aren’t going to be read/reviewed by me anytime soon.

Maybe I am all wet. What do you all think? Is paid comments okay for you? What would you think of an author who paid for these types of comments?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

83 Comments

  1. Jill Myles
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 12:57:26

    I think a few individuals are going to ‘ruin it for everybody’.

    To me, this is a lot like Amazon.com reviews. When I first discovered amazon, I was AMAZED at the amount of really cool books that I’d never seen at the store. Sure, the covers were kind ugly on some of them, but they sounded so neat! $20 for a paperback? Pricey, but worth it if the story is awesome! And everyone raved about them in the comments. All 5 stars! How can I go wrong?

    Little did I know that these were self-pubbed authors and their friends all gave them 5 stars. Yeah. Once I figured that out, it made me quite angry and I stopped buying ‘blind’ on Amazon. I only buy now if a reliable friend recommends it to me.

    So yeah. I think these ‘blog comments for sale’ are going to discredit the genuine word of mouth, and then we’re all hosed.

  2. Robin
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:04:42

    OTOH, I think it’s validation of the growing influence of online reader voices. But OTOH (the one I write with, aka the dominant hand), it seems dishonest. I don’t fault an author for seeking out creative promo, but this feels deceptive. Do people actually read these books, and even if they do, is it only books they love? Or is it just cash in exchange for a positive comment, no need to read or like the book (and if you’re being paid for a comment, can you read a book objectively, anyway)?

  3. azteclady
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:05:07

    What bugs me the most is that the likelihood of paid commenters actually having READ the books they are so enthusiastically endorsing is… well, nil to none.

    Like Jill above, I’ve learned to check out recommendations from more than one source, and I indulge in browsing the books I buy more and more [which is why I really like the "look inside" feature at amazon]

  4. Kathryn S
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:17:24

    Like most authors, I want my books to get glowing reviews, but not ones I have to pay for — that kinda creeps me out.

  5. TeddyPig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:19:11

    Well, there’s egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam

    Which is why I moderate my comments and report spammers. These are spammers.

  6. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:22:42

    At the first comment, I didn’t know that it was spam. It was an odd comment, but I just never thought anything of it and I don’t think I would have thought anything on the second comment if I hadn’t been alerted to this by someone else.

    When I started doing some googling on the subject, I realized that the commenter seemed to be one of those ‘paid commenters.’ I don’t have any confirmation other than the similar blog posts and so forth.

  7. Jaci Burton
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:22:48

    Ack on the pay-for-comments thing. Just…..ack.

    Why can’t an author just do their damndest to write the best book he or she can, let people read it, and let the chips, i.e. opinions, fall where they may?

    Geez.

  8. Jessica Inclan
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:28:01

    It’s weird but it doesn’t surprise me. The truth is, bloggers have power in the marketplace now and as our society is based on a “free” market, it is a new frontier of profit. So I guess it’s sad and weird and spam, but not really a shock.

    Wasn’t Dave Eggers and crew found guilty of posting good amazon reviews on friends’ amazon pages? As if Dave and crew need more sales–but they recognized the need for those glowing five stars. People are out there reading blogs, reading amazon, and those wanting to make a buck are paying attention.

    It would be nice if authors could just right good books and sell–and sometimes that does happen. But it doesn’t always, so there will be people who do this stuff.

    Buyer beware.

    Jessica

  9. Chantal
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:29:22

    I have had a few of those replies show up on my blog, too. It’s annoying. I just delete.
    I don’t take recommendations from paid reviewers, so I sure as shit am not going to take recs from someone who is spamming me and has probably not even read the book they are talking about.

    It is kinda sleazy. I don’t like it at all.

  10. TeddyPig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:29:44

    But and I gotta say this… This is just like paying people to review your book.

    I consider it underhanded and sad. It’s false pretense and the reason when I find a review site that sells reviews I let people know it is FAKE. Pretty much like how certain well known magazine prioritizes their reviews based on buying ad space. How FAKE can you get?

    If you want to write commercials, go write commercials.

  11. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:30:52

    I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’m appalled, but I suppose, if there’s an angle, someone will exploit it.

  12. Julie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:37:45

    Paying for blog comments is just wrong. I remove any spam that makes it through my filters, and this type of stuff is spam plain and simple.

    Along with the obvious bias issues, I despise sneaky attempts at free advertising.

  13. Sybil
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:45:55

    I don’t find it surprising in the least, if authors are paying people to set up and run their myspace pages and blogs why not pay someone to pimp it out.

    As a reader, I treat any ‘drive by’ comments as suspect. Why would ‘mary’ who loveses ‘authorsue’ have left a link to the authors site where you are suppose to put your own? As a blogger I would check out any comment that linked back to an author site and it would depend on the content as to if I deleted it or just the link. Of course I am cynical like that…

    I don’t the idea and would lose respect for the author but at the same time don’t know if I could ‘fault’ them. In theory it works, sort of like review sites taking ads, review sites only posting good review but ‘no really we liked them’ and authors giving honest reviews a la whatever that site was that just opened. BUT in practice I think it smells and can’t work.

  14. TeddyPig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:46:14

    I reserve the right to gush enthusiastically about random eBook authors in an off topic manner but no one pays me for that. I just have a short attention span and… Oh, look at that. It’s shiny!

  15. Holly
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:48:30

    But and I gotta say this… This is just like paying people to review your book.

    I agree with Teddy on this. Paying for blog comments is pretty much the same thing as paying for a “good” review, isn’t it? I guess for me it’s kind of a non-issue, since I don’t take recs from readers I don’t know (i.e., if someone leaves a comment..meh. If Jane, etc leaves a comment, ok), but I do think it’s dishonest on the part of the author.

    I think an author would be better off sending a book to a review site and letting them decide for themselves. Hell, even bad publicity is better than no publicity at all….

  16. Tracy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:54:33

    Authors paying for a good review or a good blog comment just bothers me. If I’m reading a review, I want honest. WHY did you like it? Why did that work for you? Not just “I love it, here’s a link, read it” bah

  17. Kathleen_MacIver
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:56:42

    Just another version of spam, to my mind! We have to continually sift through the spam in our email inboxes… and now we apparantly have to sift through it on blogs, too. Bummer.

  18. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:05:41

    Uh, I think it’s weird… and the authors who are using the service probably need to look at a different avenue of promotion. Seriously different.

    On a sort of related side note…

    Like most authors, I want my books to get glowing reviews,

    Call me weird, but I actually don’t like glowing reviews. Some of my fave reviews come from people like Mrs. Giggles. Honest, sometimes harsh, rarely glowing, but they help me find the weaknesses in my stories. Every author is going to have some sort of weakness, something that can be improved upon. If you can look at them in the right light, the less than glowing reviews can often be one hell of a tool for writers. You can’t find that in a glowing review.

  19. Lila
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:18:54

    I agree with the people who point out that this sort of deal goes on outside of blogs.

    Is it the money that bothers people? Or the dishonesty?

    And is it any worse than an author/blogger talking up a book just because someone they know wrote it and then promoting it on their website with all sorts of flowery comments that may not match the book’ content?

  20. Lisa
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:19:24

    AFter hearing about how Amazon comments are bought, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s why i’ve mostly stopped using comments and rating systems, and internet babble to decide which books to get. My recs come from blog authors themselves, online friends I know are real people not publicizing for some author or publisher, and friends I actually know.

  21. Donna
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:51:29

    Talking about the Amazon review function, about a year ago I checked out an author's new release. IMO this author had been going steadily down hill for a few years. I wanted to see how the new release was being reviewed. There were about 25 reviews, ALL one star, saying the book was bad… except for one reviewer who gave the book 5 stars and a glowing review.

    I checked with a friend of my who is more review/book savvy than me, she told me this reviewer always puts up good reviews about any book. This way the reviewer keeps getting free books/arc's from authors. Isn't that a form of payment? I don't trust one review, I look over all of them. Sometimes reading a bad review you realize that what the reviewer didn't like about it, you will like.

  22. Gail Faulkner
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 15:11:15

    Paying for blog comments feels like the author is attempting to trick people into reading a book. I know advertising is supposed to influence, but this goes to a bad feeling place. I don’t see how it can have anything but a negative influence on the author’s work. I suspect the authors are being scammed as much as anyone else.

  23. Julie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 15:35:14

    And is it any worse than an author/blogger talking up a book just because someone they know wrote it and then promoting it on their website with all sorts of flowery comments that may not match the book' content?

    If the blog author happens to disclaim by stating that the book author is a friend, I’ll take it with the appropriate grain of salt.

  24. Kristie(J)
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:03:13

    OK – call me naive but I’m rather shocked by this. I think it a horrid thing. I blog about books for the love of books and that reason only. The thought that some people are getting paid to talk them up just seems so wrong to me.

  25. Jennie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:03:30

    It seems really pathetic if an author resorts to buying positive comments. And I think it wouldn’t be very effective — most of us readers are web-savvy enough to tell the difference between a genuine comment and spam.

  26. TeddyPig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:04:00

  27. Caroline
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:13:09

    Is this publishing’s latest form of viral marketing, like that cartoon show that put LiteBrites all around cities for promotion (and caused a big bomb scare in Boston)? If so, it doesn’t seem all that clever. I once bought a book that offered a $10,000 prize to whomever could solve the puzzle at the end of the book first; now THAT was marketing!

    Why can't an author just do their damndest to write the best book he or she can, let people read it, and let the chips, i.e. opinions, fall where they may?

    But this isn’t really about the opinions expressed, or getting a 5-star average on amazon. This is about getting people to buy the book in the first place–deceptively, I agree, but it’s really just about sales. I am sure the people doing it would happily trade huge sales for bad reviews.

  28. HelenKay Dimon
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:14:35

    I heard about this practice a few weeks ago and was stunned. Strikes me as pretty unsavory stuff. Don’t pay people to write fake comments and don’t write comments for yourself using fake names. Both are invitations to be called out and humiliated.

  29. Jules Jones
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:19:00

    And there I was angsting last year about whether or not to mention that the book I was reviewing, having bought it with my own money, was by someone I know…

    It’s sleazy, and eventually it’s going to be counter-productive when people notice what’s going on. I’m not surprised to hear that there are idiots buying comments to pimp their book — a similar outfit selling forum and blog posts has been discussed extensively over at Making Light in the last year or so.

    One of the best bits of advice any new author can have is “put your reader hat on”. Whatever you’re doing, stop thinking about it as an author for a minute, and think about it as a reader. How would you as a reader react to another author doing this? If the answer is “run away”, then don’t do it yourself.

  30. Bev Stephans
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:47:04

    Just when you think that you’ve heard it all, something new comes along. Authors paying bloggers to give good reviews is despicable. These are probably authors that I wouldn’t ready anyway, but still it really is beyond the pale.

    As for the reviews on Amazon, you just have to read the majority of them to get some idea of the book being reviewed. If there is only 1 or 2 reviews, you have to take your chances.

  31. Charlene Teglia
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:52:30

    *shaking head* I’m amazed that such a thing exists, which probably shows a lack of imagination on my part. I hope paid comments die a fast death, because I find a lot of book recs via bloghopping and I really don’t want that to change. : (

  32. Catherine
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 17:14:42

    I am disappointed in this, but I can’t say I’m surprised. While browsing different reader blogs I have noticed odd comments. I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with the comments and why they would post it, but I never really connected the dots. Slow me…

    It really makes me wary about finding accurate recommendations. I no longer impulse buy (I’m never happy) so I depend on recommendations because my dependable authors don’t come out with a new book every day. I don’t take all recommendations seriously because people have different tastes, but at least it gives me a chance to browse the author and check him/her out.

    This practice just makes me less likely to risk a new author.

  33. Julie Leto
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 17:16:10

    I think this is a quick way to piss off readers, personally. I mean, once you’ve hung around a blog or review site long enough, you start to see who regularly hangs out there. If, one day, one of those people recommends a book, you pay attention. Or at least, I do. But some stranger who just pops in with no real sense of what is going on? I’d totally disregard this.

    I wouldn’t automatically think the author had paid for the mention, but I would be suspicious, for sure.

  34. Tracy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 17:20:53

    Is it the money that bothers people? Or the dishonesty?

    Both. The dishonesty bothers me the most. The money is part of the dishonesty. The person saying they loved the book is only saying that b/c of the money and most likely never even read the book.

    And is it any worse than an author/blogger talking up a book just because someone they know wrote it and then promoting it on their website with all sorts of flowery comments that may not match the book' content?

    this doesn’t bother me b/c most reviewers will say on their site “I am friends with this author. . .” or some other disclaimer. Then you can read the review with that in mind.

  35. sherry thomas
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 17:53:48

    I’m not surprised it happened. It was quite a few years ago when the practice first started in other areas of advertising, i.e., companies paying attractive people to talk to other people in bars and such and slipping endorsement of the company’s products into the conversation. Was only a matter of time before it showed up in blogland.

    Cuz word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of publicity there is and everyone wants some.

    So it again becomes about whom you can trust. I think there are plenty of reveiw sites with good editorial control. But still, this leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because I want to trust people, and I want to believe that if they take the time and trouble to talk about a book it’s only because it affected them enough.

    Oh, well.

  36. Alyssa
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 18:48:11

    I’ve had a couple of unusual (read: somewhat out of place) comments at my blog. Then I saw a similar one here for one of the books mentioned at mine. This was a turnoff, to say the least.

  37. raine
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 18:54:24

    Well, I guess I’m naive too, because I’m a little stunned.
    People are really DOING this stuff?

    If I were a reader/reviewer, I wouldn’t jump on a book because of a total stranger’s haphazard recommendation.

    And as an author–what does it say about your work that you feel the need to pay people to do this, or about your own feelings about your writing?!

  38. Julie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:03:45

    And as an author-what does it say about your work that you feel the need to pay people to do this, or about your own feelings about your writing?!

    Some vanity-pubbed authors see that as the norm. Anything to get word of your book out there is fair game. No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

    Please note that I said some. Many more vanity and self-pubbed authors stay away from that kind of garbage.

  39. Ann Bruce
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:10:54

    Color me stunned.

    Paying for a good review or blog comment is like false advertising because I doubt these reviewers/commenters even bother reading the book. Why read it if you just have to gush about it even if it sucks big time?

    And I agree with Shiloh. A bad but constructive review is generally more helpful than a glowing one because writers should always be working to improve their craft.

  40. EC Sheedy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:13:19

    Nice words about your book for money . . . hm-m-m.

    I wonder who came up with this idea, because it really does give off a rather unpleasant odor. I’d have more respect for an author who walked around bus stations wearing a sandwich board that shouted, Buy one, get one free!

  41. Jeaniene Frost
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:15:55

    I don’t think it’s right. When I get a review, I want it to be unbiased, whether the review is positive or negative. Paying someone for their opinion is the height of bias. It shouldn’t be called a review, it should be called a paid advertisement, and labeled as such.

  42. Ann Bruce
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:19:56

    Now, I ALMOST want to know who these authors are just so I can boycott them.

  43. vanessa jaye
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:29:00

    I’m not surprised because I’ve seen some ‘odd’ posts on messageboards over the years that just seem stilted and off. Although, I never thought those post were being bought, just thought it was the author, or the authors friend planting a fake post/recommendation.

    Segue: This is why I always need to read an excerpt. Always. Doesn’t matter if the review/rec is coming from a trusted source for a favourite author. I don’t even need a glowing review, just enough information to be intrigued.

    Needless to aay, I find this development despicable. If feels like fraud. That’s my hard earn money the fake commentors are trying to con me out of by posting bullsh*t reviews.

  44. Jennifer McKenzie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:45:44

    You mean people pay for reviews at AMAZON!!!!!! *mouths drops open*.
    Crap. I’ve reviewed books on Amazon because I loved them or didn’t love them. AND my book is reviewed by a fellow author who loved my book. I didn’t ask her to, but how can you trust that?
    I really hate this. It’s hard enough doing promotion. See, I see this as lazy AND dishonest. Oh, it’s so much EASIER to PAY someone else to find blogs and comment. It’s not like actually building a readership so that you’ll have a core of loyal fans who will then grow into Nora-like proportions.
    I don’t review books I haven’t read and I’ve often been a squeeing fan girl for fellow authors for no other reason than I love them.

  45. Devon Matthews
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:48:13

    This is the first I’ve heard of this, and it really ticks me off. As a newly published author, I live in hope that some reader will like my book enough to mention it to others. For authors to buy these kinds of comments is just dirty pool and will end up hurting the rest of us who play by the rules. When in doubt about an author, I always see if they have a web site, read an except and legitimate reviews, if there are any.

  46. Devon Matthews
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:49:19

    Geez, you’d think I’d know how to spell “excerpt.” :o(

  47. Chantal
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:01:04

    Now, I ALMOST want to know who these authors are just so I can boycott them.

    I had the same thought.

  48. Keishon
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:03:05

    It’s spam to me. Any link in a post is moderated so I get to look and decide. I’ve had people try to promote their sites and whatever with links and it gets caught in my spam filter, never to be seen again.

  49. Lynne
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:10:43

    If I found out an author was doing this, he or she would instantly go on my do-not-buy list. It’s sleazy and dishonest. I don’t like people using deceptive means to sell me stuff.

    A few years ago, I bought a particular book on the strength of its glowing Amazon reviews and its first place win in an online contest that previously had a good track record for picking that year’s best books in the sub-genre. I have no idea what happened to jack up the results for the contest that year, but OMFG. That was one of the worst — and I mean worst by any objective standard — books I’ve ever read. Phew!

    I’ve been suspicious of too-good-to-be-true reviews ever since.

  50. Darlene Marshall
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:16:43

    I come from a radio background and this sounds like “plugola”, where dj’s used to get paid under the table to hype a particular record or artist. I was wrong then, and wrong now, just a different medium.

    But I believe in the power of readers who know the difference between valid review sites and less-reputable sites and reviewers. They’ll sift the wheat from the chaff.

  51. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:32:00

    I’m just so stunned by this. Oftentimes I do go by word of mouth about a book to help me decide what to check out next, but I usually have to see a rec. by several different sources who have different inputs about the book before I’ll pick it upf. Something like this type of advertising would be so lost on me.

  52. Meredith McGuire
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:34:25

    I was thinking about this while making dinner, and another potential repercussion occurred to me. Say this becomes a popular marketing tool. If random people are increasingly hired to do drive-bys on blogs, then when it comes to discussions, people are going to be inclined to discredit comments posted by people whose names they don’t recognize, because there will be no reason to think these people haven’t been paid to post their particular opinion. Which lack of dialogue, in turn, is going to discourage new commenters, make for cliquish atmospheres, further fragment the ‘manceland blogging community, and make individual blogs seem all the more insular.

    It’s a bit of a doomsday scenario, of course. I actually suspect that purchasing blog comments is a really poor way to market a book, and that the expense will ultimately prove to outstrip the profit gained — and that the trend will die as a result.

  53. Michelle
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 21:17:36

    It seems tacky and likely to come back to bite the author on the butt. I will shamelessly pimp authors I love on various sites but to simply be paid to do this and not even read the book-bah. I get a lot of good recommendations from authors message boards. Most have sections talking about what other books people are reading.

  54. Tracy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 21:32:45

    Now, I ALMOST want to know who these authors are just so I can boycott them.

    I had the same thought. In fact, a part of me REALLY wants to know b/c the dishonesty is really bothering me.

    And Meredith, you bring up a great point regarding new commenters. I am fairly new here at DA. The first few times you post is nerve wracking as it is, but then to worry about “will everyone think I’m a spammer?” makes it very intimidating to post. However, I do think that if your comment seems appropriate to the discussion people would have no reason to think you are a spammer. It’s the odd/out of place comments that raise a red flag for most people.

  55. Kitty
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 21:39:24

    I think it’s icky. If someone makes a comment to a blog, I’d usually assume it was their opinion instead of a promo. Honestly, I’d think twice about supporting an author that feels they have to resort to those tactics.

  56. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 21:50:42

    Uhh.. no thanks.

  57. Shelly @ Bewitched
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 22:48:52

    Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me…much. I always figure if someone has taken the time to recommend a book to me on my blog that they saw we have sort of the same tastes. Now I guess I’ll have to be a little more careful.

    It’s utterly ridiculous that authors are willing to BUY comments. And like Chantal and Co I kinda would like to know who is stooping so low.

  58. Silke
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 22:56:16

    Yep, ditto. I’d love to know who it is, too.
    Basically, I think those authors are going to shoot themselves in the foot. Once it is common knowledge who those people are (and the truth will out, lets face it) their name is going to be mud. No one will trust *any* review of their books anymore, whether it was paid for or not.
    Their name will be synonymous with “paid for hype”. That’s definitely not a stigma I’d want attached to my name.

  59. Meljean
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 01:21:19

    To me, it’s spam, pure and simple, when someone is paid to post an ad on a site (or in an inbox) without the site owner’s permission.

  60. December Quinn/Stacia Kane
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 01:32:15

    Ugh, tacky. And here I wonder if it’s ethical to have a “blog my book” or a “Listmania Me” contest.

    Spam is spam, and if you’re involved in it you should be ashamed of yourself.

  61. Kat
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 05:08:08

    Well, this gives new meaning to the Aussie phrase “cash for comment”. I don’t know that I’d necessarily blacklist an author for trying it (unless it’s a pattern of behaviour). It does seem underhanded, but not all authors are Web savvy enough to realise that it’s not the done thing.

  62. Jenyfer Matthews
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 06:47:25

    Surprised…and not. People will do just about anything for money and authors will do a lot to get noticed and everyone loves a shortcut.

    I don’t think that I’ve noticed any comments like that on any of the blogs that I visit regularly, but I wonder how much buying a batch of comments costs? And if there is a returns policy if the paid commenter inserts them in inappropriate places and they are tagged as obvious spam? (ha ha)

    While I’d love to see my own books recommended in comments I would never pay to have it done. It just seems underhanded. Authors need to do promo but go and buy an ad, do an interview, send out review copies, start your own blog. Write a good book and eventually readers will find you and tell their friends all by themselves.

  63. Bernita
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 07:31:34

    I’m with Teddy and the rest.
    It’s a cheat.
    And yes, those authors so touted would go on a do-not-buy list.

  64. Jane
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 10:27:40

    I will say that one of the authors who was “pimped” is a blog savvy person or at least she blogs with a group of authors at a popular author blogging site. The other author, a male, I had never heard of.

    Both books that were pimped were self published books even though one book was ostensibly published by a small print publisher – except the only books for sale were by the two owners of the publishing house.

  65. Daisy Dexter Dobbs
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 10:58:00

    Bought and paid for propaganda of this sort is a stain on the professionalism of honest, hard-working writers everywhere. It's unprincipled and creates a lack of trust. Do these foolish authors honestly think no one is going to find out what they've done? Can they possibly believe they've found a valid shortcut to success? Apparently so.

    While I think it's pitiful and disgusting, I'm sorry to say I'm not surprised. Too many writers aren't willing to pay their dues, meaning taking the time to learn and hone the skills necessary to create quality, well-written books – books that don't need false hype or get-rich-quick schemes to appeal to readers. Books that will ring up sales due to word of mouth because they're good reads.

    Regardless of the career (writer, doctor, chef, bricklayer, etc.), there simply is no panacea to replace hard work, honesty and integrity. I guess these pay-for-comments writers believe it's much easier to pay people to tell others how amazing their work is, rather than actually taking the time to make it amazing themselves during the writing process. How very sad – for both those writers and their readers.

  66. Jenyfer Matthews
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 11:53:48

    Self-published and fake comments….not a great start to a writing career…

  67. Dawn
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 13:26:59

    Oh, I think I remember the comment about the unknown male author because I actually went and looked up the book based on the rec. From the other glowing reviews I read, it looked terrible or at least not like anything I’d like, so I have no idea whether the book was any good or not.

    Why not “out” the authors and commenters? Of course, I haven’t been reading the defamation posts carefully enough to know how much trouble you could get into for doing that.

  68. Kate Pearce
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 16:04:41

    Wow-just wow-I just thought I’d write a good book, people would read it and tell other people and so on and so on…obviously I’m so naive.

  69. DS
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 16:11:27

    Ah, a penny just dropped. I saw someone complaining on the Amazon review board about their review being plagiarized. Apparently the person copied and pasted the review then added a plug for another book (you can add links to Amazon reviews now). I didn’t get to see the original review before Amazon pulled it at the original writer’s request so I don’t know which book was being plugged. Two things were suspicious– it was published as a child’s review (which are the only reviews on Amazon now that don’t at least lead to the account and it was a positive reveiw of Sebold’s newest book so it wasn’t someone simply saying, this books sucks, read this book instead. (Amazon encourages comparisons.)

  70. Jill Myles
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 07:33:20

    I don’t know if people pay for Amazon reviews (though I wouldn’t be surprised). What I do find distressing is when authors request that every single negative review be removed, so we get a book that has 40 reviews and ALL OF THEM ARE FIVE STARS. I’m sorry, but in a perfect world, not everyone is going to adore your book. I can understand five five-star reviews and nothing else (just didn’t get a lot of reviews) but I can’t understand forty+ and not a dissenting opinion amongst them.

    To me, this is just as misleading.

  71. spyscribbler
    Nov 07, 2007 @ 09:48:37

    Yikes! I really hope they don’t ruin it for everybody. I really like mentioning books I’ve read and loved, when they’re applicable to the discussion. Sounds like if this practice spreads, people would think I’m spammer! No, no, no! Never!

  72. Pyre
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 01:17:18

  73. Sandy Blair
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 23:36:29

    I’m totally appalled by this practice. If an author has to PAY someone–anyone—to say something good about their writing, they need to quit and start practicing, “Do you want fries with that?”
    Good God Almighty.

    I write to entertain. If a reader enjoys the work, I did my job. If they didn’t, I don’t mind learning why not, so long as they’re honest in their critisism (please spare me the bloody snark.) I do listen.

    Bottom line: I, for one, will rot in hell before paying a reviewer or “reader” for a positive recommendation.

    Sandy

  74. summer devon
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 10:08:11

    Love your blog! Great stuff! by the way, since you care about books, let me tell you about this great new writer I’ve just discovered, Summer Devon. Her stuff rawks!

    Yeah, I’ve gotten a few of those but they are so obvious, it’s easy to ignore. Spam-a-rama. I mean if they’re doing it for money, they’d be in a hurry right? Just plug it in without taking time to read the content of the blog because time is money.

    I hope they are as easy as that to spot. I worry because a writer (well known!) admitted she paid her fans to talk her up. That might harder to discern. But heck, if they really ARE fans then it’s also difficult to decide if the money would change the honesty of the reviews? Meh. That’s murky stuff.

  75. Jackie Ivie
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 10:08:37

    I feel every new technology has the ability to get misused and manipulated. That being the case, I don’t mind reviews about my book that tell me they hate it. I don’t mind those that say they love it. I don’t mind sales on any site that say I’m a bestseller, and conversely those with stats so dismal it must mean my books haven’t sold in weeks.

    I had to quit taking these things at face value, especially those that are so easily manipulated – even sales stats. Yes. I firmly believe the numbers (on and off the net) are easily manipulated, especially if you have deep pockets.

    –and I also wonder if the flip-side of this could be paying someone to write 1 star (horrid) reviews on books that are in competition in a certain genre.

    In other words…you get what you pay for on BLOGs, internet sales site, etc. since you aren’t paying a thing to look at it.

    …and hey. Some readers/reviewers think my books aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Oddly enough, this is probably why it took me over 20 years of rejections and nine books under my belt (Some of which are still unpublished! *gasp*) before I got published. I’m pretty sure it’s because everyone has different taste, and there really are some people that think my writing stinks.

    Luckily, some don’t.

    J.

  76. summer devon
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 10:10:32

    Oh pyre! Thank you for that link. It makes my day.

  77. summer devon
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 10:15:55

    Yo, Jackie! over at Amazon a couple of years ago, someone was doing just that. Not downgrading with a review but everywhere I went there was someone posting the “consider this book instead” on every new romance book listed. I saw it on at least twenty books, none of which were even the same sub-genre (it was a sexy contemporary indie book and was all over the historical books)

    I haven’t seen it lately so maybe Amazon found a way to fix that glitch?

  78. Sophia Johnson
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 11:43:31

    No, Amazon hasn’t caught on yet and I don’t believe they give a hoot about it. Recently I had two bad reviews that recommended the reader buy another author’s book in the same genre instead. I was tempted to write the author and let her know how sleezy the practice is.

    If I had to pimp for a few sales by trashing someone else in the same genre, I’d realize I was a terrible writer and should throw my computer out in the woods.

    Hm, maybe we should start posting the quoted comments and the names of these “recommended” authors?

  79. Sybil
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 12:26:26

    When did it become wrong to read a book because they sounded like someone else? I don’t think there is anything wrong with a reader saying they tried a book because they thought it might be like someone else.

    If it is ok to say ‘If you love Julie Garwood try Sophia Johnson’ it should be ok to say ‘If you were disappointed in this book like I was try Karen Marie Moning.” Otherwise does everyone who loves Julie Garwood email her and tell her she is an ass if they don’t enjoy your book because another reader compared you to her?

    Who is to say KMM even knows and when did writers become readers keepers? It seems to me the point here is being confused.

  80. TeddyPig
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 12:52:27

    Sophia,
    You know the proper thing would be to ignore this junk and delete it where you can.
    BUT… the more I look at the way the internet works the more I think authors sometimes should just smack the people doing this and point out the obvious underhandedness involved. Hell enjoy any negative backlash for doing that. Because you know they will immediately whine that you are a mean mean girl.

  81. Jane
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 13:00:23

    Heck, I think I’ve already cemented that label, TP. I think my concern in not naming names, is that it could be a coincidence. I don’t think that it is, but since my emails to the various parties involved netted total silence, I don’t feel comfortable giving out any names

    But as one previous commenter said, it is hard for newcomers to jump in right away and I don’t want to further deter new commenters for fear that they will labeled a spammer.

  82. Jules Jones
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 13:29:24

    We have a vanity published author in sf who is notorious for going around posting pseudonymous negative reviews of books on Amazon, ending with a sentence along the lines of “If you want to read a *good* book, try something by decent author such as Big Name Author 1, Vanity Published Author, or Big Name Author 2.” For some strange reason he got so upset with newszine Ansible’s mocking of this practice he threatened to sue Ansible’s webhost for libel, and they temporarily pulled the plug on Ansible. (UK libel laws are not the same as US libel laws, and there have been some… interesting… internet libel cases.)

    (I am deliberately not naming him. He greps, and we don’t need that flamewar over here…)

  83. Presque vu XXX - John Baker’s Blog
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 12:06:45

    [...] authors are paying to have their books mentioned in your blog’s comment section. Dear Author has been investigating: What I think is particularly pernicious about this is that we readers [...]

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