There has been quite a controversy lately about on-line reviews. In particular, about the validity of the reviews. It appears that there are services that you can pay to give you enthusiastic reviews on your product/book, regardless of the quality. Here is the NY Times article about one such service that has created quite a bit of a stir in the publishing world.
Why would someone buy reviews, you ask? Because they provide the appearance of legitimacy to the product. When I buy something on line, I generally check out the reviews and see what they say. I trust (perhaps a bit naively) that if enough people had a good experience with the book or product that I will be pleased with it as well.
This generally holds true, unless someone is trying to game the system. Then the whole thing starts to fall apart. It becomes like the issue with performance-enhancing drugs in sports – the ones who are cheating the system put unfair pressure on the ones abiding by the rules. It becomes harder and harder to compete on an unequal playing field.
Fortunately, it’s a relatively short-term solution. People who have been tricked into purchasing something by good reviews will often come back and leave a negative review since their expectations were rather abruptly violated. Soon you will see a lot of 5-star and 1-star reviews with much fewer in between.
That is why I always read the positive and negative reviews before purchasing something online. If someone didn’t like a product or a book, I want to know WHY. Was it the product, delivery, writing style, genre, or something else entirely? Was their issue something I care about? Generally it is the content from the ratings that I find most useful, not just the number of stars. This comic from XKCD.com points out the danger of looking at the average ratings for a product.
I want to assure any of my readers out there that I have not used any services to purchase reviews. All my reviews are from people who have read my books and posted a review of their own volition. The large majority of them are from people I have never met. I never even blackmailed or bribed friends or family members to leave me positive reviews. 🙂
The NYT article estimates that about 1/3 of all reviews out there are fake. Which is pretty disheartening. The truth is that good reviews do drive sales for books, and people buying reviews put authors like me at a disadvantage. I will not stoop to their level and invest in one of these services. I think my books stand on their own merits, and that has been shown by the number positive reviews they have received so far. So, while I will not attempt to purchase reviews, I will send out a request to any of you who have enjoyed my books (I’m assuming that’s why you are here) but have not yet left a review. It would be very helpful to me if you could take a few moments and go back onto Amazon and leave an honest review. (Especially for Unbound since it is newer and has fewer reviews.) It will help others find my books and make the decision to buy easier for them.
So, if you liked the books, please leave a review and spread the word!