Since being published and finding myself checking in with my books on Amazon from time to time, I've become quite familiar with the various abuses of the system that are going on.

For starters, you can spot the author-under-pseudonym reviews a mile off. Usually they award themselves 5 stars. The review is usually only a couple of paragraphs, presumably because they fear waxing on at too great a length, they might give themselves away. But the real give-away is when you go and check the reviewer's other reviews and find, surprise, surprise, there are none. It's as if said reviewer had winked into existence just to post the one (glowing) review, and then vanished into obscurity.

Poor thing.

I think of these as 'phantom reviewers'...and they usually puff into existence, as if by magic, after a particularly negative review has been posted. And they don't come in ones. Oh no....the phantoms miraculously appear in two and threes, post their gushing 5 star opinions, and then disappeared amidst a cloud of wishful thinking.

So does seem a lot of authors are out there playing a bit of a dodgy game. I do think it's damaging the value and integrity of Amazon's review system that there is so much of this going on. As well as an author I'm a big reader and trawling for something new to read, I rely very much on what other readers have said about a book.

So bad is the proliferation of author-authored reviews, that the only reviews I'm beginning to trust are the negative ones! Even then...I suspect some of the really bad 1 star reviews are either posted by rival authors in an attempt to spoil each other's potential sales, or acquaintences from an author's distant past - perhaps some old school bully who's stumbled via Friends Reunited or Facebook onto the fact their one time victim actually managed to achieve something...or an ex-partner looking to stick an anonymous boot in.

I'd like Amazon to tighten up this system somehow. I mean, it's so open to abuse, that bigger name authors now have Web Pr companies busily heaping praise on their books no doubt hiring an army of monkeys to cut and paste generic glowing-praise reviews for their clients.


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As obvious and distasteful as these bogus reviews are to us, from talking to co-workers a few months back about this, I think they do fool the average nonauthor. At least the co-workers I talked to never thought about authors being desperate and underhanded enough to waste their time posting a bunch of bogus reviews. These guys assumed some of the reviews were coming from friends, but mostly took the reviews at face value.
I'm surprised by the number of books I look up by credible authors and there's a review twisting the blade saying, "I hated the book, abviously plants by friends and family, blah, blah." Which is a pretty harsh claim when it comes to Charles Dickens. :-)
Simon--that's great! That damn Dickens having to post disingenuous reviews! But again, I think readers think these bogus reviews are coming from friends and family, not the author. But they can end up attracting pissed off negative reviews because a reader has been suckered into buying something far less stellar than they were expecting. Whether or not these bogus reviews end up attracting attention to an author's book, the author is better off maintaining their dignity and integrity.
Well I'm definately one of those pissed off readers. I've had my fingers burned quite a few times buying books based on overly extravagent reviews. Of course...I'm much wiser to it now.

I think there's definately a danger that over contamination with bogus 5 star reviews will eventually register with Joe Public and the system will quickly become redundant. As it is, there's evidence now that the general public are very sceptical of cover quotes assuming it's authors scratching each other's backs, or apparent high praise ripped out of context from a luke-warm review.

I think as yet, authors still command a great deal of respect from book readers...but we're in danger of losing that if we descend to the level of double glazing salesmen.
Yes, I agree about the author blurbs. Many are sincere, but others are kind, or have been requested by the author's agent or publisher. I do read reviews from respected sources (PW, LJ, BL, and even Kirkus -- as well as major newspaper reviews.). I also like recommendations on web sites by knowledgeable people.
Amazon reviews tell me nothing because I don't know the person's taste.
I'm a reader and Amazon reviews really don't push me much until I check out the "was this helpful" score. This Amazon feature rates how helpful reviews are and display that rating. If 14 of 15 readers find the review helpful, then the review has gained credibility with me;. if 0 of 15 readers find the review helpful, then review and reviewer are suspect.

If I read a book and don't like it, I don't pan it and I don't flame it at Amazon. I just tell friends I didn't like it and I don't buy or read any more of that author's books. Occassionally reading friends talk me into giving the author another chance but usually, one stinker is enough; too many good authors out there I haven't yet read.

I will occassionally -- once or twice a year -- post reviews on Amazon but only for books and authors I enjoy, and typically for debut authors or writers I believe need a few positive strokes. You writers are a solitary bunch often filled with self-doubt, internal turmoil and misgivings so I may post a glowing Amazon review (if I liked book) to assist in the "nurturing and feeding" of the published author.

Writing a credible review of a good book is hard to do
You're a kind and generous man, James.
Richard Curtis just shared an article he wrote about the value of Amazon reviews with Backspace - "Do Amazon Reviews Count?" You can read it on our newly redesigned website here.
Sorry, but I still say that customer reviews are a very mixed bag. Usually it's possible to tell the more literate and thoughtful ones apart, and those by all means take seriously. Unlike Richard Curtis, I don't believe that an amazon customer review will ever appear on any but a self-published book.
I was able to get a "flame" review removed from my Amazon page. I sent my objection to The negative review was removed within an hour of my lodging the objection.

I've heard from other authors that Amazon is sensitive to complaints, because they have had lawsuits. It's particularly effective to object when the review contains blatant errors or personal attacks.

On the other hand, I've heard that the reader reviews of your book are not considered "real" on Amazon until they include a negative reveiw! If you have only high ratings, they say people assume that only friends and family are reviewing your book.
Thanks, Kathryn. That may be useful information some day.


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