Friday, May 24, 2013
Authors Furious Over Paid Reviews: Are You All New?
Published: October 22, 2012
New York Times
recently revealed that authors are paying for reviews by the boatload. The horror! Tweeps and Amazon trolls have shown immense outrage over the revelation that John Locke, the indie author god, has also paid for reviews. Why? Because they feel betrayed, lied to…jealous?
Is paying for book reviews anything new? No, but it’s definitely sparked some interesting activity in Cyberspace.
I used to get irate when I’d get an email from an author offering to trade good reviews, but this is beyond that. Hell, trading one good turn for another seems pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things, no?
Some folks are angry at the reviewers. Why? This practice is not limited to publishing. Movies, music, and books have long been “plumped” up by such practices. It’s a marketing ploy as old as the industry. I have freelanced for clients who offer payment for all kinds of reviews. I’ve never come across contracts for book reviews mind you, but I have seen offers of payment to review movies, music, restaurants, services, products; the list is endless. The pay sucks. It really does. But they get their reviews nonetheless because freelancers have to pay their bills and a review is so easy to pump out. And PS: Some are asking how a writer could possibly take money for writing a review. Let's get real here. Book blogs and the like have done it forever, although they make the disclaimer about receiving some sort of compensation and most are honest about the quality of the book, but no one sniffs about this at all. What you may not realize is that most freelancers paid in the same manner as the ones in the Times article aren't fiction writers. They're journalists, stay-at-home parents, and newly unemployed folks trying to earn a living. I’m saying don’t be angry with the folks taking the cash. It’s not their fault either. The money was there, and their bills were waiting.
The practice of an author paying for positive book reviews is dishonest and skeevy, but I learned long ago never to rely on customer reviews of anything. The majority of the high and low reviewers have some sort of agenda. Very rarely does a review that goes to the extreme end of the rating system come from a genuine reviewer with no ulterior motive. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that all online endorsements or reviews need to make it clear when there is a financial relationship between the reviewer and the publisher/author, but enforcement is of course minimal and we can’t really know who was paid and who wasn’t. So…what’s to be done?
Let’s blame Amazon. Come on, everyone’s doing it. Being a company that centers on consumer review systems, Amazon must be at fault because if it didn’t place so much importance on ratings, we wouldn’t have authors desperate for positive reviews.
This is not Amazon’s fault.
Paid reviews are no more or less reliable than the average unpaid customer reviews. Not on Amazon anyway. Come on, guys. Authors set up bogus accounts and review their shit all the time. Not just on Amazon, they do it all over the Internet. Family and friends join in as well. I gave up reading any reviews online a long time ago because they simply can’t be trusted. Not only are the five star reviews likely to be bullshit, the one star reviews are posted by liars too. And with this new "revelation" we now have folks standing in line to get on and try to "bring down" books with too many five star reviews by putting up bogus one star reviews. They feel they’re justified because these authors paid for reviews, but this behavior is just as dishonest. Two wrongs never make a right. Besides, ever hear sayings like “there's no such thing as bad publicity” and such? The more we call these dishonest folks out in this way, the more attention they’re getting and the more people become curious. When folks become curious and angry at the same time, they buy books so they can jump on the bandwagon that wants to discredit said authors.
A sale is a sale. Just ask John Locke or E.L. James and the like. They don’t care if we rate their books with one star. They don’t care if we tell the world that they can’t write worth a damn. You see, they’ve got the money and their loyal fans, and that’s all that matters in the end: they're still selling books.
Some refer to John Locke’s success as “discredited” now that his paid reviews have been revealed, but that’s not true. He’s still successful. He’s still got his fat bank account, his traditional contract, his loyal readers, and he’s still got those sales. His honesty and his integrity are discredited, but that seems to have little effect on book sales anymore. You see, in this wonderful new publishing era, things like skill, honesty, and ethics are useless. If they had any merit, we wouldn’t have the dredge that we have on the virtual book shelves. We wouldn’t have folks publishing whatever shit enters their head and calling it “art.” Locke, the paid reviewers, and Amazon are tangible targets to throw our anger at, but they’re not the biggest problem.
No guys, this is the
faults. This is the fault of those too lazy to do the marketing and WORK necessary to produce a book people want to read. This is the fault of writers who no longer respect craft, readers, or their fellow authors, and instead place importance on sales. They want to be at the top, even if they have no place being there.
Amazon’s system sucks, yes. They aren’t likely to police reviews very heavily when they know it will alienate their most profitable customers: authors. I don’t think policing will affect the dishonest authors out there at all. They’ll find a way around the system, because that’s what they do. They’re not interested in actually earning their way. Being at the top, by whatever means necessary, is the focus and they’re quite good at it.
I say let them pay for their reviews. Readers aren’t stupid. Publishers aren’t stupid. Yes, we’re in a bit of a fix at the moment, but eventually things will right themselves. If they don’t, I plan to become a rock star stamp collector.
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