No Reviews Are Better Than Fake Reviews

Star of starsI was just following along with a discussion on one of my favorite review groups (Wanda’s amazing Amazon reviewers on Facebook) and the discussion was about paid review sites. Are they ethical, and how do we feel about Amazon going on a witch hunt for them.

I’ve never used a paid review site, but I consider it often. Rumor has it that 20 reviews is ‘the magic number’ on Amazon to trigger their cookies to promote you.

It’s taken me four years to get 20 reviews on End of Mae organically. When the book was first published I asked for reviews from a handful of reviewers, but other than that I don’t ask. If the book is reviewed, that’s a gift to me. I don’t hunt down and seek reviews much because I don’t have time.

If I could simply pay someone that would guarantee me 20 more reviews, I would do that gladly. The most important thing, however, is not the reviews but the honesty of them. A glowing, dishonest review is a nail in the author career coffin.

I have bought a few books based on five star reviews. After reading a badly edited and pointless work, I went back to the reviews wondering if I was crazy and missed some vital part that magically made the book steller or was I a victim of the emperor’s non-existent new robes? I have decided the latter, and that author gets blacklisted on my reading list. I will never buy a book of theirs again.

The sad thing is that author may be quite good some day. To a writer, seeing our name in print is the biggest reward sometimes and we can fall prey to publishing lust. The urge to get it out has to be reined in, but is a forgivable offense. Publishing a rough manuscript can be overlooked by most readers, but no one likes to be lied to. A glowing review on literary junk will not be forgotten.

So I’m all for paid review sites but I won’t use one until I can find a guarantee that they are unbiased. Ironically, I already tread in dangerous water with my meager 20 reviews because they are all four and five, a little suspicious for a first novel. Mr. Bonejangles, published at the end of 2013, is picking up steam with 11 reviews already with an average rating of 4.7. Again, a little high for beginning works. I love it and am happy (please don’t stop!), but I feel hesitant to promote that at the risk of looking dishonest. It’s a conundrum—if I talk good about me it looks bad. If you talk good about me I must be good.

So here’s the kicker in the author world as I see it today: if you write a genuinely good book it can look like a crappy one because it has too many high ratings. If you write a crappy book you can sell it temporarily as a good book but eventually you will be found out and blacklisted. The only way I have found to have success as an author is slow, boring, boring advice steeped in persistence.

Write a good book. Polish it until it gleams. Hope your readers will feel inclined to give you word of mouth promotion, the most effective kind, and will review it honestly. There is no quick path.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third generation Uchinanchu and an award-winning American poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), a Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020.
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