by Allison Pang
So here's the thing. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that people pay for reviews. Or that they sock-puppet themselves or their family to talk up their books. Or that there's an entire business built around the concept of selling/buying reviews. Anywhere there's an opening to make money, someone's gonna jump on it and cash in.
And good for them, I suppose.
In a lot of ways, it makes sense. After all, I pay to take out an ad in a magazine or throw a graphic up on a blog site somewhere. Is there a difference between that and paying for reviews?
I suppose it depends on your point of view. Both attempt to influence people into buying your book, after all. But...I do think there is a difference between getting your information out there to inform readers that you have a product - and twisting the system to your advantage.
However, if you need to buy reviews for you book, I suppose that's okay. Reviews are a touchy thing anyway - and I see a lot of readers indicate that they don't read reviews, or they don't buy books based on them, so then it becomes a question of working the Amazon algorithms so that your book shows up on top.
In the publishing world competition is pretty fierce, especially if you're self-published or an indie, or even for mid-listers who get lost in the shuffle. Without the support of a publicity campaign behind us, it can become a desperate grab for readership.
Family members are a different animal, I think - many of mine were so excited about me getting published that they raced off to write up reviews (so there may be a few in there on that first book, though I've gently asked them not to do that.)
However - it's one thing to throw your own stuff out there and polish yourself up. It's quite another to attempt to bring someone else down to make yourself look better.
I guess we can chalk it up to human nature in some ways. I've run a forum for many years (for girl gamers), though I'm in the process of shutting it down. And although there were some very nice people there, it became very obvious who the Queen Bees and the Wanna-Be's were - the amount of back-stabbing and manipulation that often went on behind the scenes had me despairing that people had any real common decency at all. After all - if a group of people who all come together because they love a certain subject can't even manage to be "civilized", then where's the hope for the rest of us?
And frankly, I no longer have patience for that sort of thing. If you like a book, great. If you don't, great. If you want to write about it or not, that's up to you. However, speaking as an author - reading an unsolicited review from someone who was truly touched by something I wrote is worth far more to me than some gushing piece of dribble.
(Is it an ego thing that drives authors to buy reviews like these? or simply a business decision? I honestly have no idea.)
But to me, the amount of time needed and the negative energy spent to bring another author down just seems beyond wasteful. There are *so* many other things I'd rather be doing, or that I should be doing. Trying to maintain my own status quo is hard enough, thanks.
I never ask anyone to review my books. I think it's great if people want to (good or bad - as long as it's honest and freely given, I'm cool with all of it.), but I can't imagine hounding people for comments. The most I ever say is "Hey, if you like it, tell a friend."
Maybe I'm naive though. I'm sure plenty of authors have bought and sold reviews. Maybe it works for them. Maybe it doesn't.
Maybe they're laughing all the way to the bank, but it still seems like a hollow victory to me.