My apologies to Beyonce, but she does have a point especially in these days of books being ranked on Amazon by reviews they get. There are a lot of controversies regarding positive reviews, negative reviews and purchasing reviews. But when you’re a brand new writer trying to make an impact on Amazon, what are you supposed to do?
Positive reviews on Amazon are amazing when it comes to how Amazon markets your book. You get bumped up on “what buyers looked at” type of link lists and pages. People who go to your page and see it has been reviewed dozens or hundreds of times are more likely to consider taking a chance on your book. Amazon has built a culture among authors of encouraging them to get reviews or risk being dropped into the bottom ranks of obscurity, rarely ever getting a chance to get seen by random book shoppers. Interestingly enough, there are some shoppers who immediately ignore 4 and 5 star reviews because they they have been purchased or are somehow fraudulent otherwise. The problem with this tactic is that some of those reviews are honest and once you get into 3 star territory, that is where people who don’t like the book or possibly competitors will say how bad a book is to purposefully give it “bad press”. Truth be told, no one pays for 3 star reviews. My personal feeling is this applies more to consumer products as opposed to books, but you can still run into an ex-significant other who may want to cream your book for the sheer joyful malice of the act.
Negative reviews are an interesting concept. Sure, an avalanche of bad reviews may keep you from getting a product, but Amazon is infamously lax in weeding out unscrupulous reviews by competitors. Just like the recent Indiana Pizzeria controversy, there can be a flood of bad things to say about the place by people who’ve never been there if they have an agenda to press. Alternatively, that same location has gotten a ridiculous amount of donations to support it – “they’ll never have to sell pizzas again” type of support. Like the Yelp review site, it’s incredibly hard to get rid of bad reviews whether deserved or not. Unfortunately, without some kind of review process, it’s impossible to manage these reviews for their consistency and truthfulness.
Enter the purchased reviews! These are specifically against the Amazon terms of agreement. You cannot “pay” someone for a review. Amazon is even going to court against some of these purchase review sites. These sites have conflicting language about how they go about getting these reviews posted. Some of it states the “reviewer” will not have to actually buy the product to write the review. Other language says to send the reviewer an empty box, so they can still be a “verified buyer”. In other words, these sites are using Amazon’s rules and tactics against them to get around the intention of the rules. Amazon is so big, it’s nearly impossible for them to sift through the billions of reviews on their site to find the ones that may be bogus. They can’t review every purchase and confirm a product was actually sent or an empty box. In short, while Amazon may fight these sites in court, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stop the bogus reviews from coming in from other providers. The really crazy thing? This doesn’t mean the products or books purchasing these reviews are bad; they’re just trying to work the system like others already have, including the larger companies that post their own bogus reviews via pseudofake accounts without ever going to an outside provider. If the big businesses are doing it, why can’t the smaller businesses and independent authors?
The obvious answer is – it is dishonest. The disturbing realization is – you the consumer and the honest product providers are getting hosed by a system designed to be taken advantage of, even if it is “against Amazon policies”. So, here’s my challenge to you consumers and readers out there. Post reviews of the products you use and the books you read! isn’t hard and is only a little time consuming, but by doing this you will reduce the demand for the fraudulent review providers. If you’ve bought and used the product on Amazon, post a review of the product and the company you purchased it from! Viva la revolution and all that jazz.
It is incredibly hard to get a review of your book (and even your product) from your trues readers/consumers. I know, I’ve tried. I realize I’ve sold many books, some even given away for free. I have one review for one of my two books. It’s been a whole month. I’ve personally asked people buying from me IN PERSON to review the books. Nada. I have a single review from a friend who downloaded a free copy from Amazon during the free promo period. Don’t get excited – I asked 15 friends. With that kind of response, you may be able to see why authors and companies resort to purchasing reviews. I’ve had people literally gush about how much they enjoyed my book…in person. Those same people will not write a review for it. I’m in a quandry. I know it’s a good book, but I can’t get reviews to save my life. It really is a head scratcher.
I would be totally jazzed if you bought The Adventures of Reztap and/or the prequel short story book Mishaps and Mayhem – A Primer for The Adventures of Reztap AND WROTE A REVIEW! However, I would be equally happy if you looked at the last things you purchased from Amazon and did your due diligence and wrote a short review of that product and/or company you purchased it from. Get out there and make Amazon reviews a truer reflection of the consumer experience! If you don’t, you’re going to continue to read purchased reviews and possibly experience a negative result from trusting them.
So what’s it going to be America, United Kingdom, Australia and India? I hope you step in and make this baby your own! I’ll let you know if I see any results on my end in about a month or so.
Keep on reviewing!