Author Topic: NYT article on paid reviews  (Read 33935 times)  

bardsandsages

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Re: NYT article on paid reviews
« Reply #200 on: August 28, 2012, 05:55:50 am »
I just want to clarify my concern, because I am seeing this all over the web in discussions of the subject. And it is something we see a lot whenever someone in a position of celebrity or power gets caught: creeping validation.

The cycle starts with the revelation that Locke bought reviews in order to game the system.

The initial reaction is disbelief and anger.

Then someone tries to mitigate the anger by saying someone else on the other side (in this case, trad publishing) does the same thing or similar.

Then someone tries to deflect the anger onto the person who revealed the information, making the perpetrator of the bad behavior a "victim" of a conspiracy from the other side.

Over time, people start to rally around the perpetrator who is being "persecuted" by some fill-in-the-blank conspiracy that is trying to hurt everyone like the perpetrator (in this case, indie authors).

I've already seen elsewhere people vigorously defending Locke's actions as trying to "help indies" by "evening the playing field" because "trads do it all the time!!!!!!!" and "the ends justify the means." Meanwhile, customers sit back scratching their heads trying to understand why so many indies are mad at evryone except Locke.

My concern is creeping validation of Locke's behavior.



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    Offline Sean Sweeney

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #201 on: August 28, 2012, 05:57:30 am »
    My concern is creeping validation of Locke's behavior.

    I haven't read this entire thread, but I would hope no one's validating him.
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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #202 on: August 28, 2012, 06:18:42 am »
    This could turn into another Operacion Puerto. A little bit of tracing out from some of the bogus reviews reveals quite a few big name authors. Some of those names are already being bandied about on my Twitter stream. Looks to be a sad, pathetic, but largely profitable ring. Glad I'm on vacation. I want nothing to do with this mess.

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    Offline Hugh Howey

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #203 on: August 28, 2012, 06:28:59 am »
    After reading this thread, I was curious about all these paid reviews. So I started to read some of the 5 star reviews that Locke received then starting noticing some startling things. A lot of these same "reviewers" (using the term lightly) have reviewed other books by authors that I never would've thought would use paid reviewers. Some of these authors I *know* on FB or other author forums and have always wondered how they reached the best seller list so fast and have a steady stream of glowing reviews.  Now that I'm reading the reviews, it is so obvious.

    If you are going to pay reviewers, here are some things you should tell your reviewers NOT to do:
    1. Write multiple five star reviews on all your books on the SAME day.
    2. Copy and paste the SAME review on each of your books.
    3. Write a one or two sentence review with the words "couldn't put it down", "twists and turns", and "page turner" with no other details.

    It's the same problem if you simply ask readers to review your books after they've read them. You often end up getting readers who've never reviewed anything before, and they don't know what to say. So you get a bunch of: "This is the first review I've ever written, and all I can say is that I loved this book."

    The shame about these scams is that they cast doubts on all the real reviews. Now, if someone reads a book and doesn't like it, and they see a ton of glowing reviews, the first assumption is those reviews are fake. Suddenly, our subjective opinions of taste can be objective realities because dissenting opinions aren't real!

    This happened to me with the latest Batman film. I'm a huge fan of the franchise, and I absolutely loathed the film. I would have walked out were it not so damn crowded in there. Meanwhile, the vast majority of reviews hail it as the next best thing. Everyone loves it. And my impulse is to assume something is wrong with these other viewers rather than the more likely explanation: It just wasn't the right film for me. Or I was in the wrong mood when I saw it. Or my expectations were too high because of seeing the review averages before I went.

    The most depressing thing I've gone through as a writer is seeing negative reviews pop up that accuse all my positive reviews of being fake. Getting a review is the hardest thing in the world. Knowing that scumbags are cheating this system while the rest of us agonize over our writing and our relationships with readers in an attempt to win some feedback, any feedback, is demoralizing. And then we're lumped in with the people we wish we could strangle. To top it off, these people have made a lot of money screwing up the system for readers, authors, and distributors. Grrr.

    And what's the answer? The best I can come up with is if everyone rated everything they read. Drown out the fake reviews with legitimate ones. But I'm not sure even that would solve the problem.
     
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    Offline Atunah

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #204 on: August 28, 2012, 06:42:23 am »
    I am not a writer, indy or otherwise. I have no connections to the publishing world or any other connections to books other than I buy them and I read them. So I can't be accused of trying to "attack" the poor dear Locke.

    I think Julie is spot on.

    He was treating selling books like selling a Slap and Chop, with all the crummy marketing ways to go with it. And fraud. Yes, I call it fraud.

    Someone pointed out the work some do on the Amazon forums about other "writers" that do similar things. It has been eye opening to say the least.

    And please no more of the blurb on the jackets the big bad trads have been using for years. Really now. I think we all know what the difference is.

    Unfortunately all of this and the success that Locke had with his fraudulent methods, will make more of the self publishers give it a go. There already are a lot. I said it before, for every one of you here, there are 20 more out there doing whatever.

    It's folks like Locke that have perpetuated that rush to the top at all costs. 

    Offline Betsy the Quilter

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #205 on: August 28, 2012, 06:43:29 am »
    It's the same problem if you simply ask readers to review your books after they've read them. You often end up getting readers who've never reviewed anything before, and they don't know what to say. So you get a bunch of: "This is the first review I've ever written, and all I can say is that I loved this book.

    This^.  I can write long detailed tech reviews...but my book reviews suck.  And I've written more than one, but they still suck.  I have a really hard time putting in words why I like a book, and consequently, based on what I read in the WC, my reviews would be considered suspect.  But I push on....  ;)

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    Offline MegHarris

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #206 on: August 28, 2012, 06:45:24 am »
    I agree with Hugh that one of the most frustrating things is seeing a bad review that starts, "All these other reviews must be friends of the author" or "All these other reviews must be fake..." when you know your reviews are genuine. This situation has only exacerbated that, which is the real problem here.

    Offline Hugh Howey

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #207 on: August 28, 2012, 06:47:03 am »
    This^.  I can write long detailed tech reviews...but my book reviews suck.  And I've written more than one, but they still suck.  I have a really hard time putting in words why I like a book, and consequently, based on what I read in the WC, my reviews would be considered suspect.  But I push on....  ;)

    Betsy

    Here's another problem: Those of us who know how important reviews are aren't allowed to review other works in our genres. I just had my mind blown by READY PLAYER ONE. I'm left recommending it to others, but unable to write a review.

    Again, the legitimate uses of the system are stymied by the handful of bad eggs. It stinks.
     
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    Offline karencantwell

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #208 on: August 28, 2012, 06:57:18 am »
    There is no doubt that Locke has made us all look bad by his behavior.  So many of us have worked so hard for so long, following an ethical credo, that it's infuriating now to feel lumped into this group of short-cut takers. 
     

    Offline Romi

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #209 on: August 28, 2012, 07:00:21 am »
    In other news, the string of 1 star "fraud" reviews that "How I sold a Million ebooks in Five Months" received after this story came out, was quickly followed by 3 super-enthusiastic 5-star reviews in a row written by...first-time reviewers. Hey, maybe they're real reviews, but thanks to what he did, credibility is lost, right?

    But that IS a great way to push the "fraud" reviews down the page until they eventually fall off. Sweet.

     (is there a raised eyebrow emoticon?)

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    Offline sunnycoast

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #210 on: August 28, 2012, 07:02:47 am »
    After reading this thread, I was curious about all these paid reviews. So I started to read some of the 5 star reviews that Locke received then starting noticing some startling things. A lot of these same "reviewers" (using the term lightly) have reviewed other books by authors that I never would've thought would use paid reviewers. Some of these authors I *know* on FB or other author forums and have always wondered how they reached the best seller list so fast and have a steady stream of glowing reviews.  Now that I'm reading the reviews, it is so obvious.



    I was chatting to someone in trad. publishing about this very thing just the other week. It's kinda obvious which titles have benefited from dubious reviews 'guerilla marketing'!

    For me, well I'm in two minds about this whole 'paid reviews as clever marketing' process. On one side, it allows indies to compete with big publishing in the marketplace for little outlay. On the other hand, it destroys any credibility in Amazon's review system (which is actually a valuable part of Amazon's business model).

    It's got to the point now that I expect the majority of book reviews to be either written by: the author; their friends; their family; a paid reviewer; or a disgruntled author/enemy/lover!

    Of course, I' not entirely innocent here... although I haven't paid for reviews, I have certainly written one under a different account for my own work. Plus I have hounded my wife and her friends to post reviews in an effort (a pointless one, sadly!) to gain traction.

    Personally I think enlisting your entire network of friends and family to write glowing reviews is just as ethically unsound as paying for positive reviews.

    Unfortunately none of this is going to stop. And like some other KBer said earlier ... the mainstream press has been selling ad space for reviews for decades.



    Offline Atunah

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #211 on: August 28, 2012, 07:03:49 am »
    My problems with reviewing are many fold. I will never be able to write a review like a book report, just can't do it. Books are emotional and personal to me, so that is what I think about them. I don't know anything about the technical terms you writers know. I can't put my finger on why something was off for me. You guys probably would look at it and go, oh yes they used this and that and didn't follow that rule, etc.

    But to be perfectly honest, what has turned me off reviewing the most is the attitude I have seen again and again towards reviewers. Its usually towards the "lower" stars. Suddenly they have to be so detailed with exactly what plot worked where and what phrasing (no clue what that is), or this and that. Or else they are just haters.
    So of course to me the same rules would have to be applied to a 4 and 5 star. So writing any of them gets so complicated and intimidating to someone like me. Why the heck would I put myself out there like that. Then if its not detailed enough it gets the down votes as the authors want their bestest and brightest looking book report on the top of the page.
    So the reviewers ranking plummets.

    I also see a lot, that reviews from bloggers and those than can write long and very very detailed reports are more appreciated. When I as a reader do the opposite, I discount most unknown bloggers and other writers reviews.

    And don't even get me started on the dismissal of lower stars, how dare they didn't just love love someone's master piece like all the other 500 5 stars. Then those get rude and annoying comments from the author, usually thinly veiled. Most 5 stars don't get comments.

    And I am suppose to go through all that why?  :D.

    So now you have people like me that just stop and more and more questionable reviews popping up. More and more shifting away from regular reader reviews.

    Its a mess.


    Offline MegHarris

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #212 on: August 28, 2012, 07:06:53 am »
    I remember reading about Locke first on Konrath's blog:

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/guest-post-by-john-locke.html

    Konrath had written, "You're getting great reviews, so people are obviously enjoying your work." There are so many other comments there, congratulating Locke and cheering him on, and in retrospect it makes one's teeth grind together. Another annoying thing about this situation is that anyone who's defended someone like this probably feels more than a bit foolish when they find out the truth.

    Offline sunnycoast

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #213 on: August 28, 2012, 07:15:19 am »
    I remember reading about Locke first on Konrath's blog:

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/guest-post-by-john-locke.html

    Konrath had written, "You're getting great reviews, so people are obviously enjoying your work." There are so many other comments there, congratulating Locke and cheering him on, and in retrospect it makes one's teeth grind together. Another annoying thing about this situation is that anyone who's defended someone like this probably feels more than a bit foolish when they find out the truth.

    But, Ellen, many of us have also been goaded into action over at that blog for not entirely honest purposes. We've pushed various titles up the bestseller list in the hope that they will attract reader/buyer attention thus helping our self-pubbed friends. All this stuff just seems so disingenuous. It's almost as if we have zero respect for the average purchaser of books.

    I certainly know I am guilty of this.

    Offline 56139

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #214 on: August 28, 2012, 07:20:25 am »
    Here's another problem: Those of us who know how important reviews are aren't allowed to review other works in our genres. I just had my mind blown by READY PLAYER ONE. I'm left recommending it to others, but unable to write a review.

    Again, the legitimate uses of the system are stymied by the handful of bad eggs. It stinks.

    Now that's just dumb.  I get it, why they have that rule,. But it's dumb.  I wrote a review for RPO but I'm not officially an Amazon author yet, so no matter.

    (But even if I was, I'd still write that review.)

    Offline 56139

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #215 on: August 28, 2012, 07:22:39 am »
    Suddenly they have to be so detailed with exactly what plot worked where and what phrasing (no clue what that is), or this and that. Or else they are just haters.

    I don't write long reviews either Atuna.  Rarely.  I'm all about "yup, liked it."  And that's pretty much it.

    Offline foreverjuly

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #216 on: August 28, 2012, 07:33:33 am »
    Suddenly they have to be so detailed with exactly what plot worked where and what phrasing (no clue what that is), or this and that. Or else they are just haters.

    If someone wants to discount what you have to say, it won't matter how much or little you write. I think a lot of authors mistakenly feel like the only justification for a poor star rating has to be some kind of "flaw" in the construction of the story, when really the only basis a review needs to have is how much the reader enjoyed it or not.

    Offline MSTHRILLER

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #217 on: August 28, 2012, 07:57:58 am »
    Trust me, you can tell the fake reviews from the real ones pretty easily once you start looking at all of them. Like I said, a couple of reviewers just copied and pasted the same review for all his books. Quite a few reviewed all of his books on the same date. Then you take a look at that reviewers account and see what else they've reviewed.  Then it goes from there. You see other authors (traditional, indie, etc) and all the five stars they've received with the same type of questionable reviews. There is also quite a few non-fiction (educational how-to-pass-this-test) books that have the same type of reviews.
    Here's an example of a copy and paste reviewer: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A25FXC7WKS1YVD?ie=UTF8&display=public&page=1&sort_by=MostRecentReview
    I was one of the people who was very complimentary of John and ordered his book about How I Sold A Million eBooks. Now I feel ripped off.

    Offline jackz4000

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #218 on: August 28, 2012, 08:01:50 am »
    Here's another problem: Those of us who know how important reviews are aren't allowed to review other works in our genres. I just had my mind blown by READY PLAYER ONE. I'm left recommending it to others, but unable to write a review.

    Again, the legitimate uses of the system are stymied by the handful of bad eggs. It stinks.

    You can't leave a good review for a book in your genre? Can you review a book in a different genre?

    Offline 41419

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #219 on: August 28, 2012, 08:07:47 am »
    And this is what it leads to, all self-publishers being tarred with the same brush: http://www.salon.com/2012/08/27/can_self_publishing_win_respect/

    Which makes me very sad.

    I went through the same process as MSTHRILLER above. There's no doubt in my mind that Locke is guilty. Clicking through to see what the other reviewers had reviewed, you see the same books over and over. It will surprise no-one that books from companies like Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse are prominent (along with BookSurge and CreateSpace), but I saw some books from traditional publishers too (obviously, there is no way of knowing if the publisher or author (or someone else) was responsible).

    I'm not saying this to lessen any of the charges being laid at Locke's door, but it's clear he wasn't the only one using this service (and that it wasn't exclusively self-publishers either).

    For the record, I find this behavior pretty reprehensible.

    Offline MSTHRILLER

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #220 on: August 28, 2012, 08:08:22 am »
    The more digging you do, the more you find. I quit looking after an hour.

    Offline jackz4000

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #221 on: August 28, 2012, 08:12:44 am »
    The exact same 2 sentence review for all of Locke's books is amazing in that "reviewers collection." On the same day? Lazy.

    So all the time Locke was doing those hokey humble interviews he already had "the fix" working for him?
    « Last Edit: August 28, 2012, 08:15:15 am by jackz4000 »

    Offline karencantwell

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #222 on: August 28, 2012, 08:14:26 am »

    That's my biggest fear in this job - that someday, somewhere, one reader will start a firestorm that burns me and my career up and turns it into ashes, because someone left a review such as what Betsy described, and it's construed as being corrupt. And it only takes one. I can think of several authors who've had issues throughout the years, whether deserved or not, and their careers never recovered. The ones who were truly guilty of what they were accused of, screw 'em. They made their own beds. But the ones who were just innocent bystanders? That's tragedy right there.

    I know what you mean. I'm not generally a big worrier or the-sky-is-falling kind of person, so I will keep my nose to the grindstone and move forward as I have been without much tension, but this really is a concern.
     

    Offline 56139

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #223 on: August 28, 2012, 08:28:13 am »
    The more digging you do, the more you find. I quit looking after an hour.

    This is me too - after I did all that research a few weeks ago I started looking at all kinds of very "popular" books and it doesn't take a rocket scientists to read the little "Not a paid review" disclaimer at the bottom of dozens (sometimes hundreds) of reviews over at Amazon.

    Totally wiped away all my faith in people...

    Offline Savannah_Page

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    Re: NYT article on paid reviews
    « Reply #224 on: August 28, 2012, 08:30:53 am »
    It definitely made for an interesting convo piece with the husband during dinner. Goodness! Locke: so that's the missing piece to the shady "How To" puzzle, eh?
    What can I say? Looks like I'll just keep on writing, as planned, and hope that readers will come, enjoy, and positively (and honestly) review.  :)

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