Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Two Cent Tuesday: Pay to Play


Recently there was another pay-for-reviews "scandal" that actually involved one of the authors of one of my publishers, someone who actually did a guest post last year.  You probably didn't hear about it but I had a couple people post about it on Facebook.  Basically this person allegedly bought a bunch of reviews from a website to prop up his/her book on Amazon.

When I read these stories I think, "Geez, where can I go to buy some reviews?"  As an author and a reader I should be against this, right?  Well I suppose as a reader I should be but as a writer not really.  I'd love to buy some reviews because many of my reviews are terrible.  Yet I'm arrogant enough to think it's not because my books are bad; I'm just unlucky in that the people who seem to write reviews are usually jerks.  Let me go through the list here:
  • The lady who demanded I rewrite a whole series of YA novels involving the Fountain of Youth because she thought it should be an epic time travel saga
  • Another lady who couldn't like Emma Earl because her feet were too big
  • That same lady also said I had characters constantly call Becky "Fatty."  The insult was used ONCE--I checked.  And were constantly referring to her as "the fat girl."  In two scenes--again, I checked.
  • Someone who stopped reading the Scarlet Knight series near the end of Book 7 and gave it 2 stars because I said two cops sat between a character.
  • The guy who hated Girl Power because it wasn't "deep" like Watchmen and some self-published superhero novel of someone he's probably friends with.
  • All the people who bitched about the twist ending to my novel Virgin Territory because it was "science fiction" or "fantasy."  Even though I'm sure if Nicholas Sparks did it they'd think it was brilliant.
  • On that novel someone also whined there were "no laughs in this one."  Where did I bill it as a comedy?
  • Someone gave my book The Best Light 1 star because it wasn't what she expected.  That's my fault how?
  • On B&N someone gave the second Scarlet Knight book 1 star because it's too expensive.  It's 99 cents!  Granted at one point I was charging like $299.99 but that was just because it was a rough draft on Smashwords that accidentally got added to B&N.  The idiot should have known that wasn't going to be the final price.  And you think B&N could take it down because it's obviously outdated?  Nah.
So when people blab about paying for reviews upsetting the "integrity of the system" I just sneer and say, "What integrity?"  It's a bunch of goddamned morons, most of whom have the reading comprehension of third graders.

Sometimes I wonder if it's karma biting me in the ass for giving books bad reviews.  But the books I gave bad reviews usually have hundreds or at least dozens of reviews.  My 1 star review is essentially pissing into the wind.  Even the couple self-pubbed books I gave bad reviews usually had a couple dozen reviews, so I wasn't really hurting their score.  Whereas the most any of my books have is 12 reviews.  So if one asshole decides to write a 1-star review because a character's feet are too big or there's a typo it's like chucking a hand grenade into a room.

My point of view then is that if I go buy some reviews it's only to even the playing field.  All those fake reviews are only balancing out the reviews from idiots.  It's vigilante justice of a sort.  Because when a system allows people to be so petty or spiteful or misinformed or just plain out to lunch, why worry about "integrity?"

The other thing for me is I don't normally look at how many stars a book has.  Mostly I'm looking at the price, the topic, how long it is, and whether the Text-to-Speech is enabled.  Probably because I'm so disillusioned by the customer review system I don't put much stock into what the little people have to say about it.  I don't usually read the editorial reviews either because so what?  It's not like they usually include bad editorial reviews in there.

The only way I suppose paying for reviews can hurt is that if a book has more good reviews it might get more promotion on Amazon.  So what?  Let me use the NRA's argument here:  if everyone can buy reviews then it's a lot harder to manipulate the system.  Sure it makes customer reviews pretty pointless, but they already are for the most part.  I mean the only one whose reviews I put any stock into is my Amazon friend Ethan Cooper, but his reviews are actually well-written and well-reasoned.  I'm pretty sure Coop's never given a book 3 stars because a character's feet were too big.

BTW, anyone who reads this who wants to earn a little money could write some reviews for me.  How much would it cost to make it worth your while?  $5?  $10?  Let's make a deal!


  1. Well I get dinged with bad reviews too. But in the same vein, I also get fan mail. I look at it this way. Sure I don't have respect like other authors and I don't sell as much. But at least I'm being read. That makes me feel somewhat legitimate.

  2. I can't imagine buying good reviews is a good option. Sure there's no inherent down-side, but in the long run you're destroying credibility and integrity.

  3. I don't have an issue with people paying for reviews if it's a real review they're paying for. If the person being paid is actually going to read the book and leave a review that reflects what s/he thought about the book, what's the problem? Sure, someone who consistently leaves bad reviews isn't going to be able to get people to pay him/her to do reviews, but that's a separate issue.

  4. I can only imagine how upsetting negative reviews can be. Still, my goal is not to become a famous or rich author. I'll be content just to be criticized in print.

  5. Paying for reviews is a good idea. I really think we should start a business of reviewing. I think we can charge per star on top of it. You know, $10 for a 3 star, $20 for a 4... $100 for a 5 (you know, to preserve integrity).

    Let's see, we can charge extra for personalized stuff, like mentioning plot points and themes and such. It would be like that website the promises to protect your 'reputation' online.

    I could even have packages too, will review your book under x number of pseudonyms for only a little extra.

    As a reader, and a writer, I find that horrific. Mostly because I only want scenarios that favor me, paying for reviews means I'd not be able to trust reviews of a book I want to read (obviously), but as a writer it means that if I don't have resources to pay then I'm never going to have a hope at success.

    1. That sounds like a great business model. I wonder if anyone else has thought of it yet?

  6. You haven't made it until you get a bunch of crazies give you bad reviews. I know one author that got a death threat via an Amazon review, and he got the powers that be remove it. I told him he was CRAZY for doing that. You can't buy that kind of publicity.

  7. If I was going to get paid for writing reviews..I'd have a pay scale...

    Ultra-Economy: $10 = "This book was Awesome! I can't wait for the next!" = 5 Stars.

    Economy: $50 = Where I just throw together a 5 star review and only read the first 5-8 chapters.

    Standard: $100 - Where I read at least %75 of the book and put together a decent 5 star review.

    Deluxe: $200 - Where I read the entire book and give an in depth analysis that is convincing why it is a 5 star book.

    Not that I'm going to do any of this.

    And you do seem to have bad luck with reviews. That one where they say "It wasn't what I expected" is common. I have a 3 star review because the guy could not display the story on his Samsung that has a black background. Instead of going to customer service, he leaves a bad review. And he did this to several books.



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