Most readers before making the decision to buy a book look at what others are saying about it. More specifically, they peruse the reviews--the good and the bad. I, myself, tend to scan the 1 and 2 star reviews first. My reason: THEY TEND TO BE FAR MORE BELIEVABLE. They tell the truth. Now don't get me wrong, there are some seriously bizarre people out there who thrive on the negative. They're not pleased with anything in life, the poor souls, and it shows in their reviews. And of course, there are those carpet bombers who leave a 1 star review just to pull down a successful authors ratings (these can be bought too--shameful, huh?). What I'm talking about are the 1 and 2 star reviews with a great deal of meat behind them. I read those first. Why? Because more and more now days it's hard to trust a five star review. I'm not alone in this belief either. Check out this article when you get a moment.
But Angela! Why would you say such a thing? You're an author! You know how hard it is to get reviews, any reviews for a book and five star reviews are AWESOME! Authors KILL for them! Okay, that's an exaggeration. Authors don't really "kill" for reviews...but they have been known to lie to get them.
Ever heard of best-selling UK crime author, RJ Ellory or another author Steven Leather? If you haven't, then click those links, but I'm quite certain you've heard of John Locke who bought 300 reviews from an online business that actually offered this as a service (the website GettingBookReviews.com shut down but you can read more HERE. Even though this one business is gone, there are dozen of others out there still). Steven Leather admitted to doing this very thing and actually said, "everyone does it".
No, Mr. Leather, not EVERYONE is doing it. I don't do it and I know MANY MANY wonderful authors who choose to go the honest route, however hard and long it may be. The problem is that there are still authors today (you'd think they'd learn by these bad apples above) who continue to beg, bribe, and even pay for a quick and positive review to boost their rankings. It's true. I've seen it. I'm absolutely shocked because I would've thought we'd moved past this. Apparently, we haven't.
My question for these authors is WHY? Why would you deliberately do this to yourself?
My guess is the following: Your book sucks rocks and you know it. You know it's not written well or the plot line is weak. Maybe you've had early feedback on the negative side and so in an effort to hide that from the public, you seek out in a desperate move to improve your ratings and camouflage the truth. Like placing daisies on top of a pile of poop.
Yes, it is hard and can take a lot of work to get the reviews that are needed to help give legitimacy and value to your book. I've been there--sending out email after email to book bloggers, hoping that maybe they'd be willing to give my book a try. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm building a reputation here. That matters more than anything to me. I'd rather have a handful of honest reviews, whatever stars they may be, than a hundred made up ones.
Eventually the honest reviews will reveal the work's true worth in the end and your reputation will be destroyed for trying to take a shortcut. These fake reviews will only result to more negative reviews as readers will ultimately feel as though they've been mislead (which they have).
Here's the thing too: These sockpuppet reviews LOOK and READ fake. It really doesn't take a genius to figure out which ones are false and which ones are not (I'm not a genius--though I play one online--and I figured it out):
1) The reviews tend to be quite short. Maybe one or two sentences in length.
2) They usually say something like this: "I loved this book. It was a real good read. I would recommend it to everyone."
3) Usually, there are MANY of these one and two sentence type reviews back to back. Looks a little fishy.
4) What are the odds that THAT many people read your book and posted a review within a short period of days?
5) The reviewer has no profile picture. They have only reviewed one or two books and almost all of their reviews sound the same. True, there are people who set up an account to review a book and have no profile pic or very few reviews under their belt, so that's not always a tell-tell sign, but when there are MANY of these kind of profiles back to back reviewing the same book, I suggest you be a little suspicious.
6) Be skeptical of only positive reviews. Once again, don't get me wrong. There are wonderful books out there with 3 star and above ratings that deserve them. BUT, look at the comments themselves. Do they discuss the characters, the plot, the tension, ANYTHING about the book itself to prove they've even read it? Saying, "I loved this book. It was a good read. I would recommend it to everyone" says NOTHING.
7) On the flip side, be wary of only negative reviews. Once again, there's that whole carpet bombing thing that goes around. So sad.
8) Also, watch out for reviews that tend to sound like plot summaries or rephrasing of the book's description.
The best thing you can do, as a reader, is download a sample of the book before purchasing it. Read it and decide from there. It's terrible that the world is so deceptive and that some authors have chosen to stoop so low.
Authors who pay for fake reviews, in my opinion, are wanting to sell more books than they are wanting to write them. If selling is the big priority, then by all means creep down the dark alleyways of the internet and find the companies offering what you're looking for. They're out there. Just remember, what goes around comes around. Secrets have a way of finding the light. I heard a quote (though not sure by who, because I can't find it now) that fake reviews to an author is like handing plastic fruit to a chef. They're basically useless.
Authors, a word of advice for you: DON'T DO IT. Just don't. The small amount of success you may receive from being deceptive isn't worth it. It's not. Let your work speak for itself, because when you don't it only ends up damaging readers' trust and that, in the end, hurts us all.