Blues Over Fake Reviews

Ever since I addressed how to keep your Amazon reviews safe a few weeks ago (read that post here) I’ve been getting messages on the topic—most of them complaints against authors they think buy fake reviews.

I have a dozen plus emails with links asking me to investigate and expose. I apologize, but that is not what I do. But… let’s talk about fake reviews.

It used to be pretty easy to tell a fake review. They were five stars and one or two lines. Often the review came from someone anonymous.

Here’s a good example of this type of review. Not all of them are fake. I have one of these myself on Bitter Suites and I do know who left it. Very funny, D.

I’m probably damning myself here because so far Bitter Suites has all five star reviews, but all five star reviews is another sign of potential review fraud. It’s unlikely that everyone loves a product without complaint, especially books. When you see nothing but gold, start looking critically at these reviews.

A lot of times these fake five stars are easy to pick up because none of them talk about the book’s details. They will give general, glowing statements like “best book ever” or “will change your life.” But… there is another way around that.

Now writers can essentially write their own reviews about their books and pay someone else to post the review. Great deal for the fraudsters—they don’t even have to do any work now—copy/paste for pennies.

Click to enlarge. Courtesy of USA Today

These fake reviews are much harder to tell because they do give details about the book. You can find offers for reviews like this on sites like Fivrr.

Unless you have a big name and following, it seems painfully hard to drum up reviews. People are happy to stand in the coffee line and tell you how much they loved your book but these verbal reviews don’t do much except boost the ego (and if you’re a seasoned writer your ego got crushed to dust long ago so there isn’t much left to boost).

So how do the mid-level writers get these glowing reviews by the hundreds? According to research done by Matt Moog, CEO of Power Reviews, a company that makes ratings and review software, only 5-10% of customers actually write reviews. So to get 500 reviews, around 5,000 books need to be sold.

I get why someone would want to just buy reviews. Each review is vital. Just one increases the rate at which online window-shoppers actually click the “buy” button by 65%, says Moog. The magic number for reviews of any product on Amazon seems to be 20.

“You need to get 20 reviews and you’re golden,” said Keith Anderson, strategy officer at Profitero. Bad reviews get absorbed into the cushion when you have that many and you look established. My oldest book available, End of Mae, has just 28 reviews. It’s taken me eight years to gather that many reviews.

So here’s what I’d like to know… how do we get the big numbers of reviews honestly? I’d like to see comments left here or sent to my email sharing your best review snagging strategies. Don’t ask me to go on a witch hunt for fake reviewers… let’s just figure out how to get the reviews honestly… and share the knowledge.

I’ll let you know what I can find out.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith's work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
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