Thursday, August 30, 2012

Buying reviews?

Many of you in the writing and publishing world may have already seen this article by Andrew Schaffer in today’s Huffington Post. That’s right. Some writers pay people, not only to say nice things about their books, but indeed to buy them. Naïve little me (that’s right, I may write about making a guy lick up his own come but I reserve the right to still call myself naïve about some things… cause I am!), my eyes went round with surprise. There are people out there who write reviews because people pay them to?

But really, come on, who are we kidding? Every industry has corruption and certainly the publishing industry is no different. And as the article pointed out, with the rise of ebooks we’re only seeing the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in regard to stacking your own dick. Sorry, I mean deck. Smut writer’s occupational hazard.

Authors on the straight and narrow are rallying to shout, I’d never buy reviews! Shameless! Despicable! Self-congratulatory! And while I agree with them for myself that I’d never buy reviews I can’t deny that there’s a part of me who kinda doesn’t blame a writer for buying.

I mean, in an ideal world the cream would always rise to the top. If you write something that’s amazing people will find out about it based solely on its merit, right? Wrong. This is not an ideal world. We all know of crap that’s risen to the top because of timing, marketing, or a myriad of other possible fluky synergies that just sometimes make something work. And we all know of hidden gems. We’ve stumbled across something that’s so good, we wonder why nobody else knows about it. Not to mention the artists who struggle in obscurity their whole lives, only to rise to fame posthumously.

With self-publishing on the rise there’s more crap than ever out there for a reader to wade through.  I’m sure all authors think of their pieces as the gem that certain reader is looking for, the diamond in the rough. But when you’re languishing at #201,408 in the Amazon ranking system, how do you let your readers know? How do you distinguish yourself? What do you do when you know that most people will never scroll down much past #101 in the ranks, if that?

So this guy self published and paid to push his rankings higher. Is it cheating? Well, let me add this: I published with a publisher and, as they often do, they offered my book for free for a limited time for the same reason. People will download the book largely because it’s free and once the promotion is over, the book will move into the ranks with those downloads counted as purchases. This was put to me as a “great way to gain new readers” which seems reasonable. And of course there is a big difference between offering something to customers for free and paying people in a business transaction to buy. But having read Schaffer's article it seems just similar enough to make me uneasy. Either way, while it is wrong to trick people into taking a look at your book, part of me laments that perhaps it is just what you have to do to get your book noticed nowadays, and that maybe one day people will look at it like buying advertising. And if your book is shite, the fake review game ain’t gonna last too long. Eventually if it starts to gain any traction there will be enough real reviews out there to squelch it. And if it doesn’t get squelched, well, it’s debatable whether it deserves to be there or not. And I’m not so sure which side of the fence I’d be on.

From a personal perspective, I have the benefit of not being the primary breadwinner in my family. It’s all well and good for me to say I would never pay to falsely push my book to the top of the list where it could get noticed and possibly start to make some serious money when I know that my kids will still be fed while I slog it out in the trenches. But if that weren’t the case I can’t say what I’d resort to.

But no, as it is I would never buy reviews. I’m one of those people who is honest to a fault. If someone says to me, oo, I love your shoes, I must immediately reply, really? Payless. Twenty bucks. If I bake a cake and someone says it’s good I fall over myself to confess, I used Duncan Hines! It’s not from scratch! So if I paid a hundred people to say they liked my book and someone came to ask me about my growing fame I just can’t imagine what I’d say then. Thanks, I used Pay per Review?

Recently, after the publishing of my first book, my mother, of all people, said to me, oo, maybe now you’ll be famous! And I thought, not bloody likely and also, thank goodness not! I wish, like some of my favourite erotica writers, that I had the cajones to be comfortable with having everyone at my kids’ school, the grocery store, the neighbours down the street, my parents' friends know that I regularly hole up in my cave to make up shit about cocks and pussies. But for now, I do not.

So while I happily loll about here playing around with my silly, smutty fantasies in somewhat blissful obscurity you can rest assured that if you do ever happen to read a review of my books, it is 100% made from scratch. No additives, preservatives or under the table payments went into the making of any of the handful that are out there.


  1. Personally rankings don't have much to do with my buying on Amazon. I usually search for keywords and then read reviews. Even then, if there are a heap of glowing reviews and one saying the book has spelling/editing errors, I don't buy it. I just assume the good reviews are from friends and family!

    1. Good to hear! Smart girl, Kathryn. Yes, spelling and editing errors make me crazy in ebooks. Thanks for posting!


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