Saturday, 11 February 2012

Fake book reviews ... what do you think?

I've been doing a little bit of reviewing this week, and I've been checking out other reviews.  There are a lot of quality reviews out there, but I have to say, there are thousands of dubious ones too.  I've been looking mostly on Amazon, but they are on other sites too, iTunes and smashwords are not immune.

Image care of How to spot a fake review on Amazon

So, what do I mean by fake reviews?  They are the reviews posted by people to boost the popularity, or sadly, to try to disparage a book.  I think there are more fake positive reviews than fake negative ones (I'm glad to say) but regardless they're all bad.  Amazon is aware of the issue, obviously, and a number of these fake reviews are removed on a daily basis.  According to this report Amazon is using technology to try to 'catch' fake reviews and remove them.  Hopefully they can improve the process to eliminate the majority of them.  But, given that some reviewers are making a tidy little profit from providing such reviews, it may well be impossible to eliminate all together.

I think it is pretty easy to detect a fake review though.  Here's how I do it:

  • Fake reviews have extremely general information about the book.  They might mention that it was "a great read", that the "characters were like old friends". that they "can't wait for more", lots of them say that they "laughed out loud". They are often full of superlatives, "best book ever", and they might mention something very general about the genre, usually with the word "genre" in it. The reason why they are so general of course is because they haven't read the book and know very little about it!
Here's some real examples -
"Excellent writer, not a wasted word and not a word out of place. Story grabs you from the first and never lets go. I can't wait for the next one....there IS a next one right???"
"I have been reading a bunch of books in this genre, and often the story is good, but the writing is pretty average. This is a really well-written book with great characterizations and ambiance. The characters are real, rather than idealized personas; the story is brisk but imparts a fully-realized sense of place. Can't wait for the next book!"
"This book is the best book I have read in a L-O-N-G time, possibly ever. Most books I read I usually find good and finish them with a nice feeling of satisfaction. But this one I never wanted to end!! I was dreading the end because I knew it was the end to one of the greatest books I have ever come across!!! STUNNING! AMAZING!! EXTRAORDINARY!!! PERFECT!!!!!! I cannot wait for the second installment!!!" 
  •  The above goes for negative reviews too.  General statements, nothing specific, stating why it was a bad book.  They often state something like "I can't believe this got published".  Most of these negative reviews are targeted at established authors who are with the 'big' publishers, which is intriguing.  There is an interesting article about it here.
  • When you think you have found a fake reviewer, click on their 'see all my reviews' link.  Most often you will find that they have only ever done that one review.  Or all of their reviews will seem 'fake'.
  • Most fake reviewers have not actually bought the book.
What can we do about it?  Well, there is that handy little button on Amazon where you get to vote if the review was helpful or not, I recommend clicking 'no'.  There is the option to 'report abuse' but I'm not sure that a fake review is necessarily abusive.  If you feel quite passionate about it, you could always post a thread on the Amazon review discussion forum - this has been successful in drawing attention to fake reviews before.

If you've seen them or have any ideas about what to do with them please share, I'm interested!


  1. Hi Aderyn, I followed your link from Scrib and found this post really interesting. I don't have anything on Amazon... yet... but if I did, I wouldn't pay for a fake review and I wouldn't appreciate one if I got one.

  2. Thanks Denise, me too. I much prefer real and honest reviews, that way I can improve my learning and any positive feedback will be genuine.

  3. This is really interesting! I've read lots of those reviews, not actually realising they were fake, just thinking they were very vague. Does this mean they are getting paid to write these? Do reviews by 'non-professionals' count? I've often wondered if its worth my time to write reviews if I'm just me and not from a fancy paper etc. (If that makes any sense).

  4. Great topic for a post. I have reviewed a few books, and I tend to be very short and to the point. I have quick reviews on my blog as well, that are just meant to give a quick yay or nay to a book. I will admit, my reviews are mostly positive but this is due to the fact that I see no point in berating another author's work. I have contacted a few author's directly and gave them a more thorough review that way, in a more private setting. Some times it is welcomed, and sometimes it's not.

    I have seen, and been bamboozled, some of the fake reviews. For me, some of the more in depth ones seem to be fake. There seems to be information that I either missed, or was not in the book I read.

    If I like an author's work, I will contact them and see if they would be willing to do an interview. I'm surprised at how willing they are to give an interview to a newbie, no-name author like myself. I'm still waiting for a response from Stephen King ;-)

    Anyway, good topic and that's just my two cents.

    1. Thanks Craig. I know what you mean about not wanting to give an author a negative review publicly, it just seems mean somehow. That's why I've decided that I will only publish 3-5 star reviews on my blog.

      Good luck with Stephen King. If you ever do get an interview with him I'll want to check it out ;)

  5. Terrible situation. I followed your link and... I had no idea that publishers do this as a strategy. I'm an indie, and we get slagged, rightly, for dodgy reviews, but after this, I don't think we can be worse than trad publishers - who have organisation on their side, and that sort of money to spend. Bought opinion... I guess it's always been that way but it's sad.
    Makes me turn even more to samples; sampling is a godsend, yes? Can't be perverted.
    Of course - if people look - the reviews with knowledge of the book stand out and others can be ignored. Perhaps we worry too much about silly things like our average stars.