1. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Paid reviews on Amazon??? Review wars? Wow.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jeff Countryman, Oct 20, 2015.

    I only heard part of the ABC Nightly News report this evening about 'paid reviews' on Amazon and think it was about all their products, not just books. Apparently there are 'fly by night' companies of ill-repute offering anyone and everyone 5 bucks to write a review regardless (good or bad or indifferent) if they know/used any of the products or even read the book.

    Sounds like another headache/nightmare for all us writers.

    I peruse my favourite genre on Amazon to find books I might like to read. By far, the reviews are fair. However, when a 'no-name author' has a hundred 5-star glowing reviews within a week of releasing his/her 'book'......then it's not worth my time (the person has a hundred friends OR paid for one of these review services).

    On the other hand, it raises their novel in the ranks and thus it gets promoted over the honest authors who are really trying.

    A "catch 22" situation? Do you do reviews on Amazon of the novels you've read? How do you know which reviews are honest versus paid?

    Granted, there's a lot of crap on Amazon being lauded as "best sellers" by the author's friends and family BUT there's also gems as well.

    Makes me want to give up the idea of trying to compete in the 'paying' writing market.

    Vent over.....for now :).
     
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  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I also read this the other day:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34565631

    I think we were all aware it went on, I have read several glowing reviews for novels where the following extract is just trash.

    The absence of checks and balances or accountability on the likes of Amazon and Kickstarter just leads me to shun them entirely. It is far too easy these days to monetise anything regardless of quality. At least with traditional publishing you know that a certain threshold of quality had to be achieved, and with bookshops you can at least vet a product prior to purchase. I do wonder if consumer confidence will be irreparably damaged by the sheer quantity of crap on the market.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    On Amazon you have to look at the sample. The reviews aren't often worth much - whether on traditional books or self-published ones.
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I only want friends to write a review if they've actually read the book. The problem isn't that it's friends writing it - it's whether it's really their honest opinion. I would say that a 3 star review from a friend may have been 2 stars instead if we didn't know each other. In that sense the book would come off as slightly better than it is. But the intent to be dishonest is absent in this case from both sides. And how else do you want to get those initial reviews if you're self-pubbed?
     
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  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Forget "on Amazon", and "by friends and family".

    There's a lot of crap being lauded as "best sellers".

    There's even a lot of crap being lauded as literary masterpieces.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The rating system on Amazon is not entirely reliable, for sure. However, after you take a while to get used to it, it's relatively easy to spot the fakes. And that goes for everything on Amazon. Fakes tend to be either 5 or 1 star reviews, and they don't go into the kind of detail a buyer really wants to know. Any ones containing only 'general' observations should be ignored.

    I don't write book, film or TV reviews very often. I will write one if I loved a book, series or movie and I feel it's not getting enough attention. I only write negative reviews of books if their blurb gives a false impression of what the book contains. So much of fiction, however, presented, is subjective. However, I don't hesitate to negatively review non-fiction that maybe isn't up to scratch.

    Product reviews are the ones I pay attention to when I'm going to buy something. The more expensive the item, the more detailed the 'helpful' review should be. I write lots of reviews of gadgets, appliances, etc—positive, negative and middling. I think people often want to know more than the listings tell them about what the product can do.

    I'd say pay very little attention to the number of 'stars' an item has received, and instead read the actual reviews themselves. Ignore 'best thing since sliced bread' reviews as well as the 'worst product ever, don't buy' ones, and make up your mind from what helpful and more thorough reviewers have said.

    I often comment on reviews. Especially the ones I call 'votes.' "That's not a review, that's a vote."
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My friend is travelling and was looking for work she can do online to earn a bit of spending money. She stumbled on one of those sites offering people cash to leave good reviews for products they'd never used. I suppose it should have been obvious that it was going on, but I'd never thought about it. She wouldn't do it, even though she needs the cash!

    I've certainly come to recognise where self-published books have been reviewed solely by the author's friends and family, though. I avoid them like the plague.

    Unfortunately, I've started to avoid self-published books full stop for similar reasons to @Chinspinner. Some kind of regulation will have to happen soon. A kind of accreditation system for self-published books. A stamp of approval that says "this gets basic SPAG right" at least.

     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The thing that saves Amazon, as far as self-published books go, is their "Look Inside" feature. I'm not sure, but I think it's up to the author how much they 'allow' to be read this way. Surely, if the author posts a chapter or two (and many do), a potential reader can get a good idea of whether or not they would want to read the whole thing. Reviews are less helpful than this single feature, when it comes to books.

    I think the main thing that we, as consumers, need to stop doing is trusting the star system. Pay no attention to the stars. That's the most easily manipulated feature of Amazon. Instead, check inside the book and also read the reviews, but with caution. Some will be fake, some will be slanted ...and some will be honest. Like with anything else, let the buyer beware.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I realise that this may be tricky, but are there any books that people could identify where the reviews are very different from the content. E.g. the 5* reviews saying masterpiece, but the book is dross. I don't think I've seen one of these. Probably that means I haven't been looking hard enough. I'd like to see one. Any recommendations?
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert is right. People are forgetting the samples at Amazon. Get the sample and you'll get a good idea of how well the books is written. If there is no sample, don't buy the book.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. You can pretend you're an agent, getting a submission. And chucking it into the bin, more often than not!
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I mass-download books and then work through them one by one. So I might look at 30 books to find 10 (Kindle Unlimited max) to download. I should probably use Look Inside more than I do (hate reading on a computer screen) but downloading a sample and trying it out takes just as long as downloading a book and trying it out, and much longer than skimming the reviews.

    I just want to be able to look at it and know "yep, this has basic SPAG right and hasn't been written in a day by a twelve year old". You know, like you get from a bookshop!
     
  13. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Amazon are suing!!

    Amazon: Online Retailer Sues 1,114 Defendants Accused of Selling 'False, Misleading' Reviews
    The suit filed in Washington Superior Court claims the unidentified defendants were selling reviews on online marketplace Fiverr.com. Fiverr is said to be cooperating with Amazon.
     
  14. RikWriter
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    RikWriter Member

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    As someone has already said, it's fairly easy to pick out the paid reviews. And even if they're not paid, the ones that just spout generic "best book ever!" or "best book of the summer!" are pretty much worthless anyway.
    I pay the most attention to reviews that go into detail, which more or less gives evidence the person writing the review actually read the book.
     
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  15. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I agree with much of the above. People who review books with one liners are not helpful reviews and likely to be false. If I love or hate a book enough to bother writing a review about it, then I'm going to make sure, my opinion of it comes across, whether I bullet point it's flaws or gush about its prose. I like reviewers, who give *spoiler alerts*, it actually means they read it, and they want to tell you the plot to...always a good sign.
     
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