Friday, September 14, 2012

Cannibalizing the Market

Buying reviews. It does seem a little like cheating, even if buying advertising is the way of the marketing world. Does it say something about an author's relationship with money and with publicity that most of us believe it's not okay to pay for reviews? Or does buying reviews say that we don't trust our stories, or our readers, or ourselves as writers?
I vote for that last bit.
If an author is buying reviews, it's because he or she doesn't trust the work or the readers.
One of the problems seems to be scarcity mindset - the perception that if another gator gets the bird you intended to have for a snack, there's less for you. If there's less for you, chances are, you'll starve. So you go on the offensive, attacking that other gator to chase him or her out of your territory. You're going to save ALL those tasty birds for your snacking pleasure.
Substitute authors for gators and readers for birds, though thankfully, authors generally don't consume their readers - though when well written, their books might - and you have a fair description of what some authors have been doing: Attacking their peers via reviews posted from shadow accounts. I'd like to think that anyone who'd do that sort of thing is victim to panic and horrifying anxiety rather than hubris and ego -- but who knows *why* someone decides faked one star reviews are a good idea?

To me, the biggest issue is that this whole thing is a win/win for the authors caught gaming the system. You know the saying 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'? Sure, we Word-Whores aren't naming names or anything. But all week long, the people who've either gotten caught, or who have confessed, have had big, long, detailed articles (with their pictures!) published in newsfeeds, blogs and magazines throughout the western world. This wasn't plagarism. These authors aren't likely to be banned from publishing. Sure, maybe they behaved badly and the rest of us can shake our heads, but at the end of the day, these authors just got their names and the names of their books in front of more people than any number of reviews could have. In a negative light? Maybe. But if you look up some of the articles I've mentioned, pay attention to the comments. Half of them say, "eh, don't care, if his books are good, I'll read 'em regardless. Going to have a look at one, now."

Am I advocating, then for authors behaving badly all in the name of selling a few books? Despite appearances, no. I'm not. At least, not for me. Because 1. I'd have to win the lottery before I could afford to buy reviews (and I can think of much better uses for that money, frankly) and 2) I'd rather my stories sink or swim on their own merit.

The counterpoint to scarcity mindset is trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in your work. Trust in your readers. If you can manage two of the three, you're doing fine. If you don't trust your work, it means something's wrong. Fix it. If you can't trust yourself, I understand there are mental health professionals who can help you out with that. But if you can't trust your readers, it's possible you're in the wrong line of work. Ultimately? I don't believe writers sell books. I think readers do. Our job is to give readers something they can't stop talking about. Easy? No. But an author can easily fill a lifetime pursuing that goal.


  1. "If you can't trust yourself, I understand there are mental health professionals who can help you out with that."

    heh - too funny!

    And yeah, I just hate how much attention these douchebags get. *sigh*

  2. I may have consumed a few readers. nosh nosh.

  3. Wait. What?! I heard about the fake reviews authors were giving themselves to make their work seem more loved than it is, but fake bad reviews left on other author's books? Holy crap, that's... that's... I can't believe people would do that.

    Pardon me while I crawl away to look at some puppies for a while.

    1. I know, right? Pretty mind boggling. But that was one of the big articles of the week - some guy in the UK going out and panning his peers' books from a bunch of different shadow accounts. Fortunately, he got caught and is now being sued - but how on earth did that EVER sound like a good idea?? He'd have been much better off looking at puppy videos.

    2. I love the idea of puppy (and kitten!) videos as cures for all unsavory behavior.