Paid vs Fake Reviews

Today, a blog post from an anonymous author went out condemning some 30+ authors of gathering ‘fake’ reviews for their books. Some of these names are rather prominent, and it includes a number of authors I admire. I am yet to look up the publishing route of every author on the list, but from a cursory glance, I would say that a high percentage of the list are Indie Authors. This is not the first such list by a long shot. Hundreds of authors are accused all the time.

According to the blog post, the blogger worked for the company providing these ‘fake’ reviews, and took a list of clients.

Now, not only are there severe legal questions to be brought up about such a blatant disregard for Data Protection laws, in which you cannot take customer information and broadcast it, but there are also questions to be asked about what constitutes a ‘fake’ review.

According to the blog post, the fact that these reviews have been paid for means that they are fake. Now, I’m not going to squabble over the rest of the suggestions made by this post (for example, like where an indie author would get the money to pay for thousands of these reviews, as I am guessing they are not cheap) but I wanted to look at the idea that ‘paid for’ = ‘fake’.

Personally, I don’t buy it. Just because someone paid for a review, it doesn’t automatically mean it is fake. No doubt the reviewer read the book, and I don’t believe that just because you pay for it, it has to be glowing. However, even if this is the case… Surely every marketing executive in the business should be fired. They tell us that Ariel is ten times better than Persil after being hired by Ariel. Yes, it’s marketing, it’s advertising, but it is also a review of the product.

Then, let’s look at the journalists who write the book reviews for mainstream newspapers. They are paid for their work, and so when they review a book, they are paid for it. Is it therefore fake? What about people who review Television shows, Films, Games? Suddenly, Paid=Fake means that, for this ethically related logic, all these people should be out of a job.

Now, I can guess what people are thinking – Yes, but there is a difference between them being paid by their employer for a job, and them being paid by the author.

The problem is, in this ever expanding internet world, this manner of thinking only hinders those who are independently published. Indie Authors don’t often have access to the reviewers in newspapers. We don’t have the industry connections, especially when starting out. Yes, we give out Advance Review Copies (ARCs) and we hope that we’ll gather reviews, but is there really such a big moral dilemma about approaching a company who you know provide reviews?

I approached and paid an editor to get my editing done. Is it really that different to pay someone to read the book and give an honest review of it?

Also, let’s not forget that payment does not automatically mean cold hard cash, even outside the publishing world. Sometimes payments are made in the form of favours, or in ‘goods’. You provide me with a lift to the airport, I bring you back cigarettes from duty free. – So therefore, ARC books are actually payment. They provide a review, you give them a free book.

By claiming that paid reviews automatically equals fake reviews, we’re on a very slippery slope… One I personally think that it would be stupid to slide down.


Edit an hour later:

I would like to add to this that by digging around in the validity (or lack of it) that paid equals fake, I do not mean to insinuate that any of the authors on this list actually took part in the actions they are accused of. Whether they chose to pay for reviews or not, I really don’t care.

However, on that note, I would like to point others to this incredibly heartwarming and honest blog post by Hugh Howey. Very Small Rocks?

Hugh Howey is an author I really admire. Not only does he write some wonderful books, but he’s also an incredibly smart businessman when it comes to his position as an author. He’s very quickly rising in the ranks of exactly how much of a gibbering idiot I become if I were to ever meet them.

Currently he’s at “Multiple uses of ‘thank you’ for no reason.”


About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
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