Now that the whole world knows about the Amazon Review cheating scandal that has wreaked havoc on the fiction industry, and in particular, the indie fiction industry, it seems that a day doesn't go buy when another author and/or institution isn't exposed for writing fraudulent reviews. The newest cheater in a pool of cheaters is a bookstore whose staff wrote and posted 1-Star reviews for authors like myself who were kicking ass in the Kindle charts.
Well, I guess it makes sense. They don't want people to buy online. I don't have a whole lot of 1-Star reviews, but there are a few that I possess in which the "reviewer" went out of his or her way to be a complete jerk, picking apart my pose pronoun for pronoun. Oh, well, as the world turns.
Today my guest blogger, SB Knight, author and book promoter, gives us his unique take on a unique situation that is only now, blowing up in the faces of those who feel it necessary to cheat in order to get by.
The 5 Star Dilemma
I believe by now everyone has read the articles about John Locke, Stephen Leathers, and RJ Ellroy. I also believe many are as confused as I am at the fact that these well known authors would stoop to such practices. It is another example of what some would do in the name of fame and fortune. Was it worth it? I would imagine the three above would answer yes before they were caught…now it would be a resounding no as their writing careers hang by a thread over a cliff.
We have heard the responses of bestselling authors such as Vincent Zandri, Anne Rice, and many others who oppose and reject these underhanded practices. With every published article, post, and letter their anger is clear and concise. However, I am what you would call ‘green’ or an amateur author. My debut novel released in March and my second novel releases in October. What does all this business about fake reviews and attacking competitors have to do with me? I mean, I’m trying to climb the ladder and reach the same level as Zandri, Rice, and King. Did I mention I’m only on the first rung of that ladder? So I ask again, what does this business mean to me? It means everything.
You see, the bestselling authors are angry about this and they should be but the new authors out there like me, we feel something different. Make no mistake, anger is there but so is despair, fear, and concern. While bestselling authors can rely on name recognition, to a certain degree, new authors have to establish their name first. Reviews are a key element in achieving that recognition; plus it helps generate word of mouth promoting. Of course this goes without saying that you need the skill to craft a solid, compelling story. New authors go to great lengths to find people and/or reviewers who will agree to read and review their work. Trust me on this; I don’t see Stephen King having a problem finding people who will review his latest novel. Now you throw in a handful of well known, established, and successful authors who chose to pay for stellar reviews, write their own reviews, and/or write poor reviews for their competition and where does that leave us? What if Amazon states that you can only leave a book review if you purchased the book from Amazon? A lot of reviews would be instantly eliminated. New authors would be hard pressed to convince a reviewer to purchase their book and not all of us have the budget to purchase a copy so a reviewer can review it on Amazon.
There is another aspect to this that impacts all authors, new and established, and that is perception. At this moment my debut novel, Born of Blood, has ten reviews on Amazon – eight, five star reviews and two, four star reviews. I should be thrilled by this but a small voice in the back of my mind is asking – will people think I bought these reviews or had my friends write these reviews? At times I wish I would get a bad review so it would validate the good reviews. Think about that for a moment; I should not want a bad review. The posted reviews should stand on their own but, thanks to a handful of authors, it has come to this. It almost seems like the 5 star rating has been tarnished.
What is the solution to this problem? I have no idea. I do know that I will keep writing and asking for honest reviews, be it good or bad. I also believe that each author will be held accountable for their own actions and decisions.
It’s tough trying to establish your name in the harsh publishing world but we have authors like Zandri, King, and many others to look at as examples. They made it and each has a war story to validate their journey. They didn’t resort to fake reviews or bashing other authors either.
SB Knight is the up and coming author of Born of Blood, Drago’s Revenge (October 12), and Demathia Rising (March 13). He is also the creator of The New Author blog and co-owner of Premium Promotional Services. You can learn more about SB Knight and his novels at http://www.sb-knight.com/. Also be sure to join SB Knight on Twitter and Facebook.