Yes, there ARE fake reviews on Amazon!

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Are there really naive people out there that believe every one of those 1 star reviews on Amazon are real? I guess so, since there was quite the debate on twitter the other day. Apparently, an author went ballistic about a few of her negative reviews and posted responses. She was obviously upset and they sparked numerous comments on her state of mind. The twits on twitter made fun of her comments and stated that another author can’t handle criticism. Of course all these women are readers, so not one of them understands what an author goes through when they see a scathing review that is obviously fake.

How can we tell that it’s fake? Well, it’s not always cut and dry. Some of them might be real and written by someone barely literate, which makes one wonder how they even made it through the whole book. But then maybe that’s the problem, they couldn’t make it through and decided to punish the author due to their own ignorance? Who knows the reason why people decide to post bogus negative reviews? Maybe they don’t like the author and want to trash their reputation or their ranking. Or they are jealous of their competition. There are some authors who post 5 star reviews on their own books under fake names and then post fake 1 star reviews on books they consider competition. BestFantasyBooks.com has a pretty good article on the subject.

jude

Though it’s not always easy to spot a fake review, there are tips to help narrow them down. First and foremost, don’t pay attention to the two or three sentence review that mostly criticizes the author and merely states the book stinks. If the reviewer can’t be specific about what they didn’t like, chances are they didn’t read the book. Or if the negative remarks are too general or stereotypical, like a romance book that is slammed for being nothing more than a bodice ripper with a Fabio look alike on the cover. Another example is someone making a scathing remark about the author and nothing about the book. The biggest tipoff is when the person doing the review has other reviews and none of them are on the genre he has slammed. Or if the same sort of review is posted the same day on different books by the same author. I will use actual fake reviews on my own books that will help demonstrate these examples:

If you like sappy, bodice ripping, poorly written romance novels then buy this book. But if your taste in reading is higher than books that feature Fabio look-alikes on the cover, then don’t waste your time. It’s also sexist. I don’t appreciate authors who propagate the vision that the world is completely hostile to women, and that everything is a man’s fault, which is apparently what the author thinks. I kept reading it hoping it would get better, but it didn’t, then I decided to finish it just so I could write an effective review. It was so bad I returned it, and I never do that…

The above review is obviously fake. If you check his other reviews, of which there are only 2, neither of them is on a romance novel. Makes you wonder why he would even have bought it, especially since it’s offered for free on my site. This book is also not a bodice ripper nor was there a Fabio look alike on the cover or in the book. If he had actually read it, he would know that. More like what he had read about it or was told about it by someone else inspired this review.

Here is another one on the same book. This one is obviously someone who has spent quite a bit of time on my site and/or forum. Possibly someone I upset on the forum, maybe even banned.

This book was so badly written, it was almost fun to read. But after a while it became so painful it wasn’t fun or funny anymore. The author writes fan fiction, re-writing herself into novels such as “The Lord of the Rings” as a romantic interest, turning G-rated fiction into badly written soft-core porn. Yecccch. By A Customer on April 28, 2004.

Now, what does my fan fiction have to do with the romance novel? If she didn’t want to read clearly rated adult fan fiction, she didn’t have to, did she? But to put that in a totally unrelated review? I can only shake my head at such spite and pettiness. The above reviews were written before Amazon changed its policy so that only customers who had made a purchase could post reviews. Of course, they weren’t required to buy my book, so it still doesn’t guarantee that any reviews are valid.

There is another review posted by “A Customer” on April 28, 2004, which is obviously the same one that posted the above review. Further proving it was just a disgruntled member of my forum or someone really mad at me.

This is the worst book I’ve ever read, and quite possibly the worst book ever written. The painful grammar adds insult to the injury inflicted by a complete lack of originality. It’s as if a teenage wallflower never grew up and out of her pathetic fantasies, but instead started writing them down.

Nothing is stated that is specifically targeted to the reviewed book, other than the painful grammar and lack of originality. But that isn’t specific and could describe any book. The final sentence is an outright attack of the author, which is always suspect.

To be fair, I will provide an example of a valid negative review.

Throughout the story, I found myself grow tired of the many conflicting details. An example is: Mickaila, our heroine, while waiting to complete her mission, ”…read the dictionary and then had started on the encyclopedias.” Then, only thirteen pages later, as she is standing in a fast food restaurant, she could not order a meal because ”…she could tell it was English but not knowing what the words meant, she shrugged.” As I progressed through the book and the discrepancies began adding up, I became tired of the conflicting details in the story.

Overall, it seemed to me that the story was more about Mickaila’s daily experiences and the time she spent with her newly found friend Brett, than with her mission. Her mission seemed to take a back-seat to trips to the beach, Disney, the movies and restaurants. Mickaila approached everything with a childlike innocence and Liebermann’s writing flourished here. I enjoyed her description of Mickaila’s awakening while in ”our time” and believe this is a strong point in her writing. In the future, I think Liebermann should write descriptive stories built around a solid character and focus less on crafting stories around an overdone save-the-world plot.

The biggest giveaway that it is a real review is that it lists both positive and negative aspects of the book. All glowing or all scathing are both clues to fake reviews, since rarely is something so awful or great that there isn’t something about it worth noting to redeem or condemn it. Then again, there are exceptions to every rule, which again makes the fakes not easily distinguishable.

Even if everyone who reads reviews to determine whether or not they’ll buy a book won’t believe the obvious fakes, those 1 star reviews drag down the average rating. It could hurt potential sales, which is obviously the intention of the person posting the fabrications. We authors need thick skins. Readers can’t possibly understand how it feels to have someone attack something we’ve created. Our books are like our children. We love them, and it hurts to have them attacked. If there really is something to attack, it should be done in a constructive way. That kind of criticism actually helps authors improve their craft. Posting that their book is a “candy coated turd” does not!

As a final note, I’d like to add that all the above mentioned fake reviews were posted between January and April of 2004. I have not received any negative reviews since then.

Jude Liebermann is a romance novelist, blogger and book reviewer. Contact Jude by visiting her site at www.judesplace.com