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The De-valuing of Reviews by Indie Writers Using the 'Friends and Family Plan'

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Initial post: Mar 29, 2012 2:36:25 PM PDT
Kelli says:
So you gals and guys have probably talked about this before, and I missed it. Have you noticed the phenomenal usage of friend and family reviewers? Do you feel it de-values the review system?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 4:26:15 PM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
Of course it does devalue the system. We call those people sock puppets and their reviews- shills. Another reader site I'm on calls them vandals.

It's a very old discussion, but one that warrants continued attention as there are still those who feel that 'playing the system' is the proper way to make sales.

But, be aware that not all indies and self-pubs are guilty of this. There are many ethical authors out there, and to lump them all together is not really fair, either.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 4:33:17 PM PDT
Even worse is they game the numbers together. They price the book at 99 cents and they all buy it at the same time, thereby banging the number way up.

As far as reviews, I've begun to read the one star reviews first. Usually, if it's sock puppets, someone will come along and say the book is terrible, and list the reasons why, and you can see it for what it is

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 4:44:03 PM PDT
John Borg says:
I always read the lowest ratings, they show up weaknesses. some weaknesses I dont mind, like typos or poor english, but words like 'boring and slow' always put me off.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 4:44:07 PM PDT
G. says:
It is a horrendous abuse of the rating system. The truth is, you don't tend to see this with trade-pub groups. The breakdown of reviews, even with an award winning, classic book, don't even come close to the almost all 5 star reviews of the books you are talking about. I think READERS are becoming a bit more cautious with these reviews, and not placing a whole lot of faith in them. In the end, these shill/sock-puppet reviews, end up hurting the author who perpetuates them. Once a couple of true readers read said book and find that it wasn't even remotely what the "reviewers" presented, and review the book honestly, then the disparities become obvious. Sadly, those legit reviews tend to not only be down-voted, but challenged by either the author or his/her minons. People wonder why the self-pubbed field is being looked at very closely; it's because of the poor integrity involved in a lot of the reviews. If I were a self-pubbed author, I would not be asking other authors to give a "I will scratch your back if you will scratch mine" review. Readers are becoming pretty savvy about this.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 4:56:43 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 29, 2012 6:44:06 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 5:10:34 PM PDT
G. says:
@Mitford: I feel bad for some of my friends that I have encouraged to get the kindle. A few weeks after suggesting this to one of my friends, she stated "something is wrong with kindle books. The couple that I read (for free) that had all five star reviews, were beyond horrible". I don't think that people who are new to e-books understand this yet, and it is a shame.

I agree with you about the learning curve. Too bad that many have to feel "burned" before they "get it". Unfortunately, I was one of those N00Bs, and it left a bad taste in my mouth for the self-pubbed field. When spamming was allowed, I bought into a couple of books that had "glowing" reviews. Each and every one of them was horrid; I read through to the end of these books because, how can so many reviewer's be wrong? I have gained some experience with these books since then, but wonder about all the people who are new to ebooks, and meet up with the same situation? Fake reviews hurt not only the reader who wasted their time, but also the author who now looks to be a complete fake.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:39:40 PM PDT
Kelli says:
I have read very good books that operated under the friends and family plan, and I have read some horrible books that operated under the sock puppet forum. While I could understand one positive reviewto get their ball rolling, I am talking about the people with 5 or more.

And what is the deal with goodreads? Many of these people show up from a goodreads site.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 5:48:33 PM PDT
G. says:
A lot of us are also on the Goodreads forums. They are a place where you (if you are a moderator), can make the rules for the site you build. It is actually one of the nicest places I have found for great reader conversation. Most of us started here, but migrated to the GR site because of all of the drama that has previously happened on these fora.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:48:53 PM PDT
Kelli says:
In a moment of activism, I have started pointing out when I run into a book with one too many shills. (Even if I like the book).

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:51:21 PM PDT
Kelli says:
Do you think reviewers should disclose if they got an ARC from goodreads?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 5:52:53 PM PDT
G. says:
I think this helps your fellow reader. It may not make you popular, but will up your integrity factor.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 6:06:26 PM PDT
Kelli says:
Well, I kind of got my very own eye opener. And I learned right away that pointing out these things can be very bad as in lots of feedback.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 9:35:30 PM PDT
reader says:
I don't know what some of the acronyms mean here (ARC?) But I know not every indie author has "shill reviews" I know one indie author that I've been following has about 900 friends on FB that have been salivating for her newest release. I'm sure she shot way up in the total "paid" kindle books in the first several days that the book was released because her fans were buying like crazy, and giving it good reviews. (she topped out at about # 78 in paid kindle books) I don't know how you tell a "shill' review from a normal fan review - and I don't think most people would. So it's unfair to jump at the first positive review as being "planted" or friend and family. They may just be loyal, real fans of the author. Look at how thorough a review it is and what it has to say before judging. I would hate to think the few reviews I do are being ignored because someone doesn't like that they are early review or good reviews. Just like an author I want my reviews to be judged by how thoughtful and fully rounded-out they are. Not because someone assumes that a good review or early review is a planted review.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:05:19 PM PDT
Yes, reviewers need to disclose ANY free ARCs. That's one of the rules (not just Ammy, I'm pretty sure it's an FCC rule that you're supposed to disclose it).

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:15:31 PM PDT
reader says:
So what is an ARC, please?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:17:59 PM PDT
Advanced Reader's Copy (usually sent out before the book is released)

Also, if you were given a copy of the finished copy to review, you need to disclose that too.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:51:52 PM PDT
reader says:
Thanks for the info. Neither applies to me (I didn't think it would), i just like the author's books, and gave a fair review, (good and bad), but since I've been a fan on Facebook and bought it as soon as it was released I wanted to make sure it was in within the rules. (Never saw it until it was release;))

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 12:10:24 AM PDT
It's a shame. This account isn't linked to my books, so I feel safe in saying that I have a book out that's doing okay and it currently has six reviews on Amazon, all of them five-star. Every time I get a new one I jump about the house screaming. They are all genuine - I haven't given out free copies and none of them are from friends or family.

But now I worry that potential readers will think I am a fake and that the reviews are not genuine. Hopefully when someone buys the book they see it's good, but it might put people off from buying it at all.

Maybe I should get some friends and family to give me some lesser reviews - just to balance it up!!

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 4:49:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 30, 2012 4:57:17 AM PDT
Kelli says:
Listen, statistically there is a likelihood to be new reviewers. But if your only reviews are of one author over a year or you only review books when the author has a new book, I think you can pretty easily be pinpointed. Also if your previous reviews were more than a year old of homegoods and products then suddenly you have a book review. Red flag. Also if you have other reviews on other sites such as the barnes and noble, red flag.

Not every indie uses shills, but many do in order to advance their books.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 4:54:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 30, 2012 5:15:06 AM PDT
Kelli says:
@ Marsh If you are asking would you appear as a statistical anomaly, the answer would be yes. But that is not the red flag. If the author only has 10 reviews and 8 of the are like yours, then yes you would be viewed by me as a likely shill. I easily figured to check your second book, because shills normally make the second book "the book". Almost all her reviewers have only reviewed her books. Have only her books with product or have one or two books from other authors thrown between 5 or so of her books. She is not on the top 100 of kindle, but rather...the top 100 of a branch off a specific genre.

Oh, also very telling...this is being sold only as an ebook. You reviewed an amazon verified purchase prior to the second book, but the questionable book with the questionable reviews was not an amazon verified purchase...high probability arc copy.

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 5:10:24 AM PDT
I think the original premise is wrong. If you publish a new book, your friends and family ARE going to be interested and will give you a good review (except my family!). I do not see why this is different for an indie publishers to traditional publishing. You are implying that if traditionally published, your friends would not be interested in supporting you!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 5:17:36 AM PDT
Kelli says:
And that is still inappropriate if they are not disclosing their relationship to you. But I see it more in Indie books. It still makes it difficult to rely on the review. But you see...the indies with the advent of ebooks have blown out the curve.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 5:20:35 AM PDT
G. says:
Just for the sake of discussion: I have seen some trade pub reviews from their fellow authors, and they tend to disclose this. Also, I just can't imagine Stephen King's family writing a bunch of reviews for his book. Personally, I find the family/friends reviews to be a big turn off. JMHO.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 30, 2012 5:23:49 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 30, 2012 5:25:04 AM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
Disclosure on biased reviews is ethical, non-disclosure of biased reviews is unethical, plain and simple.

No one's friends and/or family give negative reviews. EVER.
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Discussion in:  Kindle Book forum
Participants:  137
Total posts:  1346
Initial post:  Mar 29, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 12, 2013

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