The Ins and Outs of Book Reviews (Part One)
This is a post I have been dreading to write, but feel the information is too important to ignore. Better this is discussed now before a possible mistake is made (assuming you haven’t made one of these already). Do not take offense to what is being said here, I am putting it out for your own benefit. This is not meant to be an attack by me, but rather something I am trying to help authors understand should they not know already. Please believe I have your best interest at heart. If none of this applies to you, great job, but if it does you might consider fixing it.
Lately there have been a growing number of readers on various forums who are discussing the validity of certain book reviews, particularly on Amazon. It has become a hot topic that could be detrimental to an author’s career and sales if they are caught doing certain things. Some of them are against Amazon guidelines while others are simply considered bad taste. I’m sure for most writers their goal is to gain a large readership. Part of this is done by word of mouth. The thing is, word of mouth can work against an author as well.
Therefore I want to explain how some of the reviews authors receive for their own work, as well as write for others, may be red-flagged. Don’t get upset about these, just calmly think about why they may have a problem with them.
1) Self reviews of your own book. This is absolutely forbidden and Amazon will take them down (eventually). The product description area is where an author may put all relevant book information. Most people know this one and abide by it, but there are those who don’t. To add to this, you can’t let your family use your Amazon account to post a review. You also can’t post someone else’s review with your account. These are two of the main excuses given, but they’re still not considered acceptable.
2) Posing under a different name and reviewing your own book. This happens more often than some of you may think. I just saw a case of it yesterday where the so-called reviewer had the same picture on his account as the author did in their profile. It is generally easy to figure out when an author is posing as someone else by a number of methods. There are whole threads where readers catch this and discuss it with each other. The practice makes an author look dishonest and unprofessional. Do not do it.
3) Having family members (especially ones with the same last name as you) write reviews of your book(s). Yes, there are cases where the last name is a coincidence. You can’t exactly help that. Yet a discerning reader can still tell the difference most of the time, especially if that person lives in the same state as the author and gives a glowing five-star review while having never reviewed a book before. I know everyone has family that wants to be supportive. That is wonderful that they are, but their reviews are going to hurt more than help so it’s best to not let them do it.
4) Writing reviews for other authors, particularly if they wrote one for you as well. This is a tricky situation, and I know many of you have done this. Sometimes it’s hard to find reviewers so these exchanges seem like the only way to get them. Believe it or not, I’ve seen numerous instances where readers have checked to see if the authors reviewed each other’s work. They don’t take those reviews seriously and believe both sides to be false in their sincerity, even if the authors were completely honest in their opinion. Unfortunately it isn’t easy to tell the difference so they assume the worst (I know this is frustrating but I had to include it because this is being discussed out there). The main way readers know to look is because some authors sign their reviews with “Author of [insert book title]” or have it as their reviewer name. That brings me to my next point
5) Signing your reviews with “Author of [insert book title]” is a very bad idea. Some authors believe it makes their reviews seem more legitimate because “who can do a better job reviewing a book than a fellow author?”, but to most people it actually doesn’t. Very few authors post critical reviews (yes, there are some but not many). Today I saw a discussion on it where readers were questioning the practice. At this time it is unclear as to how much this violates Amazon guidelines (it could be argued that it is a form of advertisement) but you would be better off not putting it at the bottom of your reviews. It doesn’t inspire most people to look your books up anyway. Plus there have been cases where Amazon did come and delete part of the signature. You can always tell because it says “Author of [blank]” (the book title having been removed).
6) Other people who should not be reviewing your book besides relatives include editors, publishers, agents, or anyone with a financial interest in the book. This is straight from Amazon’s review guidelines page of what is not allowed:
• Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
• Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
• Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package
I’m going to stop there on issues of reviews for this post. Once again, please do not get offended by the things I have listed. This is a subject that is going around Amazon and other sites right now and has been for some time. Forum comments even include author names of anyone found guilty of one or more practices above. Don’t ask me where. I will not give that information out here and end up starting some kind of battle as that is not my intention. The point is, if a growing number of people (potential customers) are discussing the topic, it might be worth considering if you are guilty of any of the above. Do not be that author who gets talked about. I want to see writers have successful careers free of this kind of drama.
If it will help any, I do plan to write a future post on how you can get legitimate and reader-trusted reviews. Those are the ones that would help your sales far more than any of the above practices.