Adventures in Writing…paid reviews? NO THANKS!

One of the biggest struggles about being a writer isn’t so much the writing. That’s the cool part. Imagination, the spinning together of all the various threads: character, scenarios, plots, etc, etc…wow, wouldn’t it be so great to simply sit and write…whimsical thoughts, probably. Because, as we all know, we now have to sell ourselves. And that is such a pain.

Well, okay, so you’ve told the world. The world being Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, websites, newspapers, magazines, friends, family, the neighbour’s dog. You may even have placed an ad in Goodreads, like me. Wow, Goodreads. 40,000 people viewed my ad. 30 have clicked on it. Mm…30 clicks. And sales…hold your breath…nil.

So, friends. We persuade our publisher to reduce the price, get some interest moving. They moan and groan. ‘I’ll make no money’. Oh, so you’ll make more by NOT selling it for $13 dollars? Sure, if someone bought it, but they don’t! When we try and give away our books, what happens? Nobody picks them up. They’re free. Nobody is interested.

And then, one fine day, somebody does take hold of your book and they love it. They write a review. It is fantastic. You rub your hands with glee, because now you have not one, but FIVE stunning reviews.

This truly is the turning point.

It isn’t.

So, by this time you’re really up against it. What to do. Your book is reduced in price, it is on promotion, you are telling the whole world, reviews are great and we all know that reviews help sell so… you need more reviews.

I went on Amazon and I looked up some reviews for books similar to mine. I got in touch with those people who had given these reviewed books only one star. They seemed honest. Honest enough to reply to my question, ‘Why haven’t you read my book, as it is much better than this one?’ Well, okay, I didn’t say it quite like that, but you know what I mean. One of them told me something very interesting. He told me to be wary of 5-star reviews, that many of them are paid reviewers. He gave me some names and I began to look them up. Sure enough, they churn out these things by the lorry load. 5-stars reviews like they are falling around us like snow in the Alps. And there are HUNDREDS of these guys. Furthermore, authors are PAYING them!

Is that honest? Is that cheating?

I think so. They must have money to burn too, as these reviews don’t come cheap. Imagine, paying out 10 dollars for each review, receiving 50 5-star reviews. Five hundred dollars. Not much I hear you say, and the sales – whoa, the sales! They are fantastic. Pretty soon you are climbing up the ladder. You are 10,000, 5,000, TWO HUNDRED in the pop chart of sales!!!

But then you come to write your second book. If you can write a second book that is. If you’re interested, if you have the will, the desire, let alone the talent. You write it, and despite all the reviews in all the world, you don’t sell any.

Why not? Because it’s crud, that’s why. Just like the first one. The only difference is, now everyone knows it. The bluff can’t work twice.

You might even be tempted to go and buy some advertising on one of those book promotion sites which are all the rage. Sure, brilliant. The free ones…well, your book will get lost amongst all the others, so BUY an ad. It’ll only cost you around 1200 dollars. WHAT? Am I mad? Somebody must be, to actually buy this stuff.

I’m so tired of it all. I am. The whole bandwagon. Buy this, do that. Bootcamps and snowflakes. Three part novels and five part novels. Pulses and beats.

Why in the name of sanity can’t people write because they can? Because they NEED to?

I’m a lonely voice, lost in the corporate, self gratifying bilge of world that is called publishing.

But do I care? Well, I’m just completing an 80,000 word thriller, and about to edit my sequel to Varangian. So, I don’t care. Two-fingers, is what I say. I’ll write and if I sell, cool.

Stick with it.

My books Varangian, Roadkill and Burnt Offerings are all on promotion until the end of the month. Be quick and buy your Kindle version soon. You won’t regret it, I promise. Just read the reviews…and none of them paid for!




Filed under fiction writing

5 responses to “Adventures in Writing…paid reviews? NO THANKS!

  1. Cee

    I’m sad to say I’ve written some of those reviews. They usually request that the book is given either 4 or 5 stars. I got the jobs on my job site. They usually cover the cost of the book and between $2-$18 for the review. They don’t want “literary” reviews but “customer reviews”. I’ve only done fewer than 10 but when I started I thought they actually wanted a legit book review, like I’d done previously. Professionally done, maybe just a page and a half, 2 pages. I was okay doing them for a while since I actually read the books (well some chapters read, some chapters skimmed) and just left out the negatives, but the positives were accurate. What made me stop? I took a contract without it being specified what it was for. It was for a vitamin, one I’d have to review without ever having used it. That’s dangerous..who knows what the side effects/results actually were. I haven’t done one since then.

    • Hi, and thanks for dropping by and being so candid!
      I think it’s a problem, and in time it could be the undoing of this huge wave of self-publishing we’re all in danger of being overwhelmed by. We need honesty and not be willing to pay to get a good review when what we have written would not even pass a basic literacy test.
      But thanks and I wish you well.

  2. Wow, what a sad world we live in… paid someone to write a review. Do these people read these book before writing the reviews or do they just write. Somehow to me something is lost along the way. Just because a book has a five star review I won’t read it. Five stars mean nothing to me because I believe these are written by family and close friends. I read the 1 star first to see what sort of negative points someone has made. If it just says some like ‘Rubbish’ I don’t see this as helpful and it might just be someone with a touch of jealousy and may not have read the book at all. 🙂 If it’s a more in-depth review then that is helpful as it means the reviewer has read the book and knows what they are talking about. As a Reader, if I’m going to give a five star to the book has to be outstanding and tick every box so I give them out rarely. To me, I check out the four star reviews hoping that other readers like me feel the same, holding onto 5 star for books that mean something special to them. Handing out 5 star reviews to every book is like reading on the covers of best-selling author’s books ‘ By number one best-seller’ I just feel the top spot is very overcrowd and a lot of money has changed hands. I enjoy writing unexpected best selling books and they are few and far between.
    Good luck with your writing.

    • Hi Paula. I think you’ve hit on something very important. Could it be that 5-star reviews are actually unproductive? I’m like you. I check out the 1-star reviews first. I am now quite suspicious after what happened. Someone made a point that all professional reviews are paid – reviewers in the Times, the Guardian, the NY times,Washington Post, Publishers’ Weekly, etc, etc, are paid. Well, yes they are, but that is their job! I’m talking about authors PAYING for 5-star reviews. What we all want are HONEST reviews. If your work is good, it will eventually get noticed and reviews will be good also. But if it isn’t, then perhaps those authors should step back and ask themselves some serious questions. I’m old-fashioned enough to say morality should come into it. Honesty. We strive so hard to get our book written and then we come up against all these obstacles. It can be quite depressing at times. But I live to write. Making money is not my raison d’etre. But it does get me down when I see books with over 100 5-star reviews and I have only a handful.
      Good luck to you too Paula and thanks again for dropping by.

      • * typo I enjoy reading unexpected bestselling books as they are few and far between. These are the ones real readers have brought through word of mouth and take the publishers by surprise. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my comment

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