Tag Archives: novelists

Fake Amazon Book Reviews: Is It Really A Big Deal?

image by Roger and Renate Rossing, 1954

Last year I came across an interesting book as I was browsing through Amazon looking for an e-book to load on my Kindle. An intriguing title in historical fiction, which is one of my favorite genres, sounded like might be worth a read, and the fact it was free at the time was an added attraction.

As is my habit, I will read through the reviews, although I wouldn’t necessarily say they have much to do with whether I will choose a book or not. I find other people’s opinions interesting, sometimes insightful and generally entertaining.

This particular book had five reviews, all 5 stars. As I read through them, I realized there was a striking similarity in the reviews. In fact three of them used the exact same phrasing in several of the sentences. I probed further and checked out the reviewers’ profiles: not too much creativity there, either. All five had only reviewed the self-published author’s two books, the reviewers listed a similar first name and all came from the same part of the U.S.  It was obvious: the author had written her own reviews. I chalked it up to a desperate author who wanted to sell her books and moved on.

Unfortunately, we found out that authors can go beyond writing their own book reviews under aliases. Novelist RJ Ellory was outed recently as not only writing reviews under pseudonyms but attacking competing authors under those same pseudonyms.

Novelist RJ Ellory Caught Praising His Own Books On Amazon

Why not take a bigger step into murky waters and hire out fake reviews? John Locke left this out of the strategy he shared with readers in How I Sold One Million E-Books, but admitted he bought fake book reviews to make his books more popular.

Buying Book Reviews – Still Admire John Locke? by Porter Anderson

The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy – New York Times

And in a scandal that recalls James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, there’s Jonah Lehrer, a writer hired at The New Yorker, who fabricated material in his popular book published this year Imagine: How Creativity Works.

NPR’s ‘The Lies Are Over’: A Journalist Unravels 

Maybe it’s my recovering pessimist raising her suspicious eyebrow, but I’m not that surprised.

You can buy fake Twitter followers to make you and your brand look more popular than you really are. Fake strength (steroids), fake boobs, fake butt, fake tan.  Cheating politicians, cheating students and cheating spouses. Scripted ‘reality’ shows.

‘Everybody’s doing it’. Are they?

Some people suggest that it’s that evil corporate behemoth Amazon’s fault, and they should be doing more to stop fake reviews. Just want we need – book review police. How about people taking responsibility for their own integrity? Novel idea, I know.

I think what’s happening in publishing is just a symptom of what’s happening in our culture. When the borders of integrity have been penciled in, it’s easy to blur the line or erase it altogether when the possibility of fame or money comes into play. Integrity boundaries need to be written in ink when it doesn’t matter so they stay intact when it does matter.

Reminds me of an ancient saying:

What does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?

What do you think? Is writing your own reviews, buying reviews or asking for reviews from people that haven’t read the book a big deal or business as usual in today’s competitive world?

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Start Your Week Off Write: Book Review – My Reading Life By Pat Conroy

image courtesy Tom Murphy, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

As a writer I want to share here on the blog books that have impacted my creative life. Some are instructional, some are inspirational, some are new friends and some have had a home in my heart for many years.

The book My Reading Life by Pat Conroy qualifies for the first three, and though I recently finished reading it, has already rooted itself in my soul. Sounds kind of dramatic, but it’s true.

Pat Conroy has established himself as an author extraordinaire with novels like The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline and The Great Santini.

He continues to dazzle with My Reading Life, which is a memoir that uses the life changing books Pat has read as a backdrop to key personal events such as his relationship with his mother and his season of writing in Paris, but focuses mostly on how books shape us as people.

This book is filled with insights and a passion for books expressed with beautiful prose. In speaking of his mother, who instilled her love for books in her son, he wrote:

“My mother hungered for art, for illumination, for some path to lead her to a shining way to call her own. She lit signal fires in the hills for her son to feel and follow. I tremble with gratitude as I honor her name.”

In reference to Gone With the Wind, one of his life-influencing books, Conroy says, “This book demonstrates again and again that there is no passion more rewarding than reading itself, that it remains the best way to dream and to feel the sheer carnal joy of being fully and openly alive.” 

I love how Pat helps the reader understand that the choice of reading a book is intimate and even sacred.

“Great words, arranged with cunning and artistry, could change the perceived world for some readers.”

“From the beginning I’ve searched out those writers unafraid to stir up the emotions, who entrust me with their darkest passions, their most indestructible yearnings, and their most soul-killing doubts. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through a complicated life of books that try to teach me how to die.”

That’s why, especially if you are a writer, you need to make time to read. You need to be careful what you choose to read. It marks you. Read beautiful words, even if the story is ugly, sad or violent, the beautiful words are what pierce your heart. Don’t make your heart dull with dull words. Choose books that sing. Then write books that sing.

“I take it as an article of faith that the novels I’ve loved will live inside me forever.” 

-Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

My Reading Life has contributed to solidifying the decision I made last year to work towards a Lifetime Reading Plan. It’s kind of like a bucket list of books for me. I feel like I am in catch up mode because though I have always been a big reader, I was not discriminating.

I’ve missed a lot of great books, both classic literature and contemporary works. I hope as I read more wonderful books my writing will continue to improve as well. You can see how many books I have on my Lifetime Reading Plan (so far) on My GoodReads Page. Are you on GoodReads? It’s a great place to talk about books!

Want to get motivated to read? Check out these links:

Related post: Book Review – You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) By Jeff Goins 

What book has made a lifetime impact on you and why?

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