Author Reviews: Totally Taboo

If you are an author and you are in the habit of reviewing other authors on Amazon, beware. It is against official policy and it can cause you all kinds of grief.

I was not aware of this rule until I inadvertently broke it and was reported. I am not an author, I am an editor, but I am considered to be benefiting from book sales, although my own paycheque/paycheck does not increase one iota. I told the truth, I reviewed the work honestly, and I refused to review dozens more books than I penned a review for, none of which matters to Amazon. I always used my own name and never attempted to deceive. Doesn’t matter.

Even big names selling of millions of books, John Locke being one of them, has been caught using   pseudonyms  [  A pseudonym is a name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from his or her original or true name (orthonym)] to write themselves glowing reviews while trashing the competition. (There is some doubt that this works, and may work in the favour/favor of the maligned author.  See quote below.)

We are not talking about fraud and deceit here, we are discussing people writing honest reviews of other books.

Even if you are not an author or editor if you are asked to write a review be careful not to allow yourself to be influenced to increase the star rating at the request of the author. That clearly is fraud.

We are at the point where all reviews are suspect in many ways, which is a sad state of affairs and only increases the degree of the angle on the slope Indie authors are struggling to ascend.

Interesting and revealing on this subject:,0,7028228.story

I would be for winnowing out the five-star reviews by sock puppets and writer friends (though arguably the latter is basically what most book blurbs are these days) IF Amazon was also removing one-star reviews from jealous and spiteful competitors. That would even things out. As it is, things are in favor of underhanded competitors now who don’t understand that sales of competitive books often boosts the sales of similar books as readers get hooked on a subject and look for other titles on the same subject or in the same genre. Sadly many in publishing operate on the notion that there is a limited readership, when in fact Amazon is giving us a worldwide reach into markets most of us never even dreamed of reaching before. . ~ Author Duncan Long


10 thoughts on “Author Reviews: Totally Taboo

  1. My first novel had only one review on Amazon for a very long time (close on three years) but it still sold well and still does. Large numbers of reviews are not a real selling point. When authors realize this and stop soliciting large numbers of colleagues, friends, and fans for reviews, things will simmer down.

    When purchasing books, readers rarely read more than a handful, anyway, and rarely all the way through unless they are really negative!

    When a book gathers reviews in an organic, relevant way, and they are spaced (timewise) in a natural flow, Amazon does not find them suspect. When they come in on one big wave, most of them 5* ones, which usually follows an author’s bout of requests, the automatons pick them up. It usually takes a trad-published book years to pick up the numbers of reviews SP authors are garnering these days.

  2. Thanks Rosanne. We live in a world where instant gratification is expected as a right and people either can’t or won’t wait it out. I do understand the concept of starving artists but becoming an overnight success is a myth.

    In gambling you hear “Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose”. That applies to being an author. If you are counting on this for retirement income you may be in for a cruel reality check.

  3. Whether I am an author or not shouldn’t matter if I have a point of view I want to express about a book. Since Amazon provide a forum for this why should I be denied the use of it? I’m not doing it to benefit myself, but to share an opinion I think others might find useful or interesting.

    If Amazon don’t want other authors to comment they should say so, but it is relatively easy to see who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t. Other authors and book professional like editors tend to make intelligent comments about the quality of the writing, the story telling, the way the narrative flows, the way characters are introduced and developed and so on, whereas the sycophants and groupies wanting to add their stars just write asinine tripe.

    Perhaps the best thing would be for Amazon to abandon the stars. The value of reviews would then depend on the words written and it would be up to the reader of the review to decide whether it is relevant or of merit. They could also ask for some verification of credentials from the reviewer and have a moderation system; not that that would necessarily be incorruptible. They’ll probably reject this idea because it would require people and that would cost money and reduce their mega profits.

    So who’s cynical about Amazon book reviews? As authors, we all know what a pinch of salt looks like.

  4. Great piece and great food for thought Ian. I also like the idea of just a thumbs up or thumbs down rating with no comments. And a disclaimer saying a thumbs down only means the reviewer doesn’t recommend the novel. Like the movie reviewers do. Reviews are subjective anyway and people can use bad reviews like literary terrorists. Sabotaging new writers to do away with competition. I get rankled when reviewers give bad ratings based on snarky comments like “too many big words”, or “there were a couple of grammatical errors”. These points might be true, but the story might still be good and the errors be fixed and the novel republished. But now those bad reviews are going to haunt sales forever. I think Authors can be too harsh in their reviews anyway so will not miss them.

  5. I got one ‘bad’ review on for my first Africa book, The Man of Passage. It was concocted, I can’t call it anything else, by a man who sent me an manuscript , thinking I could help him get it published. it was so badly written and littered wit foul language that served no purpose and included large tracts cut and pasted from Wikipedia. The overall effect was of a badly written Boy’s Own adventure thrown together by a twelve year old romantic.
    I told him as tactfully as I could that no serious editor would look at it, offering a number of ways in which he could improve it and suggesting he consulted and English teacher or writing group for help.
    Not surprisingly he took offence, believing he had written a Booker Prize wining book. He bought a copy of The Man of Passage an paid someone to write a long winded demolition of it which she posted on amazon. Then, stupid fellow, he sent me a hard copy of the review and even signed it with his own name!
    That review has sold me over fifty copies of the book. It’s still there if you want to look at it and judge for yourself, and I still have copies trickling out the door, a few every month.

  6. Thank you, Wendy. That is most generous of you. Most of all i’m pleased you enjoyed sharing what i had to offer. That’s what I set out to do, share my experiences and memories.

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