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In the past week, there’s been a sudden tremendous uproar about authors getting fake reviews of their books posted to Amazon and other review sites. Some writers have been caught using pseudonyms to post glowing reviews of their own work, and even worse, using them to post negative reviews of books by their rivals. Other writers haven’t wanted to put in all the time and effort required to defraud people themselves, and have just paid people to write reviews.

(If your first reaction to that news is to smack your forehead and proclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that?” — then please just quietly close your browser window and walk away, because we’re not friends anymore, okay? Okay.)

I hear even John Locke, millionaire poster-boy for the self-publishing movement, has bought a ton of reviews, which, you know, kinda destroys any credibility he ever had, really.

Putting aside for a second how lousy and fraudulent this kind of behavior is, all I want to know is — why would you even do that when getting actual, legitimate reviews for your book is not exactly rocket science?

Speaking as someone who’s starting to get a decent number of really fantastic reviews for my books, let me lay out for you how it’s done:

Write a damn good book. Okay, yeah, that’s the hard part. But here’s the truth — if you’re not already confident that your book can stand on its own and garner good reviews without making them up or paying someone to say nice things, then you have no business publishing the damn book. You’re asking readers to spend their money and time on it, then it better be worth some good reviews on its own merits. If you don’t think it’s ready to be sent around the block without training wheels, then rewrite it until it is. Or throw it away and write a new one.

Send it out to book bloggers. Believe me, there are a ton of them out there, and yes, there are some that specialize in your genre, and yes, a large percentage of them will accept self-published work. If you don’t know how to find them, here, let me point you in the right direction. Once you find them, you ask them very nicely if they would please review your book. See, what you do is, you look for their posted submission guidelines, and then you follow them. Again, not really that challenging a concept.

Get ready to give away a ton of books. If you can afford to give away a few print editions, then you can do a giveaway on Goodreads. (And there’s no reason not to contact the entrants who didn’t win and offer them a free e-book instead.) Do an e-book giveaway on LibraryThing. Post a giveaway on your blog, and spread the word by joining a multi-author “blog hop” like the annual Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour. Let people know that you have a standing offer to send anyone a free e-book to review, any time, and all they have to do is ask. (Hint, hint.) Just get the word out there, get your book out there, and the reviews will start coming in.

That’s it. It’s easy. Yeah, this is all going to take time and effort, but this is a long game. There are no shortcuts — hell, if you’re a self-publisher, you’re already taking the biggest shortcut this industry’s ever seen. Slow down a little there, Tex.

Remember that aside from trying to move a few books off the shelves, you’re also trying to build a reputation, one that will follow you the rest of your career. Take some time and care with it; take the slower path, the one that doesn’t involve breaking Amazon’s terms of service, FTC Endorsement Guide rules, or, you know, your reader’s trust.

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5 Responses to “Why Are Writers Buying Fake Reviews When Getting Real Ones Is Just Not That Hard?”

  1. Author Marketing Experts, Inc. on October 15th, 2012 4:56 am

    AME Blog Carnival: Tips and Tricks for Writers and Authors October 15, 2012…

    Welcome to the October 15, 2012 edition of tips and tricks for writers and authors, featuring insights on book marketing, self-publishing, and writing. Thank you to all those who provided blog posts for this issue! Book Marketing International Money Pi…

  2. Sarah Martin Byrd on October 15th, 2012 6:11 am

    I totally agree. I was at a book signing a while back and the man who was signing beside me admitted to posting false reviews about his books.
    Thanks for the post. I’m about ready to launch my next novel, “The Color of My Heart” and I’d love to have you review it. Or, any other bloggers out there who are willing.

  3. Kathy on October 15th, 2012 6:12 am

    Great post, Michael. And I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the nifty good search thingy you did!

  4. James J Parsons on October 29th, 2012 7:34 am

    Nice post. It still boggles my mind that authors out there are willing to debase themselves by doing fake reviews–sure, maybe it helps sell a bit, but then writing books becomes about making money. Isn’t writing supposed to be about art?

    Anyway, thanks for the resources. I have a couple things out now, but no reviews, and was looking for a way to get my name out there. Now I’ve got a good place to start!

  5. Serban V.C. Enache on July 12th, 2013 4:24 am

    It’s a mystery to me, how people can pay for reviews. They must really envision big profits if they do so – or they really don’t have better things to do with their money.
    On the issue of getting honest reviews, it’s not easy. Many reviewers have their email full of ebooks. And when you apply for one, most likely you’ll get the back of the list. And it also depends through which store you go. Amazon is not that friendly to foreign authors, especially those who want to price their books free.

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An unreliable narrator, MICHAEL MONTOURE ( montoure@bloodletters.com ) is an indie writer of horror and dark urban fantasy. His obsessions include hidden truths, secret dealings, and the changing and fragile nature of our own pasts. He is known as much for his spoken-word performances of his fiction at Seattle coffeehouses and conventions as for the stories themselves. Currently working as a writer and producer of the webseries Causality, he lives alone with a gray cat by the edge of Echo Lake, Washington. ( Twitter / Facebook / Google+ )
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