News from yesterday’s Sunday Times (17/10/15) that Amazon are lining up lawsuits to prosecute 1,100 people offering Amazon product reviews for money, should have some authors if not quaking at their keyboards, at least a tiny bit worried, as they have also launched an investigation into 370 authors. Whilst we don’t yet know the scope of these reviews, whether they were used to boost the sales of electronics goods, gardening equipment or any one of the hundreds of other categories in the Amazon marketplace, a ST ‘sting’ operation that possibly prompted Amazon’s lawsuit, involved a fake book about bonsai plants.
Reviews sell books.
There is no doubt that reader reviews sell books. The dictum of the more the better is self-evident, but the idea of a magic number, some say it might be 35, is nonsense and it’s probably different for every genre and style of book. The ST story involved buying 5-star reviews to boost their written-in-a-weekend bonsai book to the top of the horticultural charts, but let’s not forget purchasers often look at one, two and-three star reviews as well to see if they share the same reservations. If you look at reviews before buying a book, and who doesn’t, but you’ve never written one yourself, try it. It’s not difficult to do and you can write as much, or as little as you like.
Traditionally Published Authors
Traditionally published authors often get the first five or ten reviews for a new book from their publisher, using office staff, their own list of beta-readers, and paid-for websites like NetGalley. If you don’t believe me, do this. Select two or three well-know authors and examine their earliest reviews. If it states at the site of the review, ‘Verified Purchase’ the book was bought from Amazon, but invariably you will find this missing.
Self-published authors do not have this luxury and depend on friends, family and contacts made through social media to post reviews, many more honest than they would like. Is it any wonder that some have resorted to buying good reviews? When the dust settles, Amazon may take a draconian approach and delete any reviews that look suspect to them, including those from an author’s family, people with a similar name to the author, fellow authors or people the author has never met and only knows and only communicates with through social media. In extreme cases an author may be banned from using the Amazon website altogether – ouch, that’s gonna hurt!
We know the web is a vast place and Amazon’s attempt to sue these miscreants, in this case, all users of Fiverr will only encourage them to move to another website less willing to cooperate with the American behemoth. Watch this space.
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