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Initial post: Jul 22, 2012 5:57:23 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 5:58:46 AM PDT
Robin M. says:
Ok, I don't know if this is in the right place or not, but if not either please move it mods or tell me where it goes.

Up until a few weeks ago I was naive enough to believe that the reviews (or at least most of them) were real. Then I started reading the 1 and 2 stars just to see what they didn't like about a book. Then i read the replies/comments. I found there were a lot of people talking about "shills" and "paid reviews". One had said she even saw job advertisements listed on craigs list and the like.

Ok, this is really bugging me. I have now stuck to reading the bad reviews to get the real story about a book. There's probably nothing Amazon can do about it, but I am still frustrated about this. I have to sift through reviews and read the author of the review's other reviews to get the real story. I mean, most have all 5 star reviews of all the books they ever reviewed. (talk about a twisted sentence...that's a lot of reviews! lol!)

Sorry for the long post. I just had to vent about this. We pay money for these ebooks and it's frustrating enough when there's tons of bad grammar and spelling. Then we have to contend with this and try to get the real story before every buying the book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:02:38 AM PDT
K. Rowley says:
I usually don't pay that much attention to the reviews, and just download the free sample and try that first - if I like the sample enough, then I go buy the whole book...

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 6:04:32 AM PDT
CBRetriever says:
I read a few 3s, scan the 1s and 2s and it's a red flag to me if a book only has a few reviews and they're all 5-star (War and Peace is 5-Star, the average book on amazon is not)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:05:33 AM PDT
G. says:
Some of the self-pubbed authors have taken to writing awful comments to people who write a 1 or 2 star review, and instead of believing that a person may actually/legitimately not like a book, they accuse them of being plants or shills. This issue isn't typically present with the trade published books.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 6:07:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 6:08:44 AM PDT
Unfortunately, the customer reviews of books, particularly the self-published books, are essentially worthless as a guide to finding something good to read. Unethical authors write glowing reviews of their own books under different names ("sock puppets"), or trade glowing reviews with other offers, or pay people to write 5-star reviews, or write 1-star reviews of competitors works. Naive authors don't understand that they shouldn't write themselves a glowing review under their own name, or shouldn't have their mother write one.
You're right that Amazon can't do much about these, although they do delete inappropriate reviews if brought to their attention. It would help if they required all reviewers to be a verified purchaser and to post under their real name And you're also right about what you have to do to try to verify a review. For me, it's too much trouble. Life is too short to waste it trying to separate the wheat from the chaff of self-published books. As a result, I just don't read any of them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:14:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 1:03:07 PM PDT
Dog Lover says:
Robin,

Yes - this is a non-trivial issue. Often discussed on the Top Reviewers forum.

I read an article last year (should have bookmarked it because I can't find it again) that said review factories are such an issue that Amazon had contracted with a university's research lab for tooling to help identify those reviews. (Hopefully, with the intent of removing them.)

This is over and above the 'review cabals" among some less-than-honorable self-published writers. Then there are always those "reputable" authors who, on blogs and so forth, call out their minions to down-vote, meanly-comment, and otherwise attack reviewers who post less than glowing reviews.

The star-ratings and reviews, evidently, are major marketing tools and there is blatant misuse of them.

Sad, huh?

I do use Amazon reviews a LOT. To attempt to ensure that I am getting a "good" perspective, I ignore 5-star reviews altogether and most of the 4-star reviews as well. If a review mentions points that appeal to or dissuade me from a read (even if the reviewer intends the opposite), I will up-vote that review. For writers new-to-me, I rely on knowing the reviewer's member name. The same members tend to review books that I read and I have come to "know" many of them and can judge accordingly. In addition, I rely heavily on forum postings (genre fora - not the "Kindle forum") from members I "know."

For most genre books, though, I have stopped posting reviews. I found that the intent to write and post a review greatly affected the way I read a book and that bothered me. In addition, the "hate" votes became ridiculous so I don't even bother anymore unless a book really really REALLY gets to me - negatively or positively.

DL

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:31:45 AM PDT
Robin M. says:
That could work. If they made people be legitimate purchasers of the book. But how would they do that? I have no idea...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:33:54 AM PDT
Robin M. says:
I agree. If I know I am to write a review for a book, it does color how I read the book. Like if it's a comedy, I am in a serious state of mind when reading it, always looking for errors or just bad writing. So I can't enjoy the comedy LOL..

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:34:19 AM PDT
Dog Lover says:
In theory, I guess. However, I value reviews from persons who use library books so Amazon-verified purchase (already a feature of Amazon reviews) means only a small bit to me.

DL

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 6:34:31 AM PDT
Robin M. says:
It is nice to know there are others who feel the same way. I do realize it is a hard thing to control, however.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 6:43:37 AM PDT
Cassie Anne says:
It would be fairly easy for Amazon to allow or disallow reviewing based on whether or not an account has purchased a book. They already alert you if you try to purchase a book (based on ASIN) you've already purchased.

There are pitfalls though - what if I receive a paperbook as a gift? The purchase isn't tied to my account.

What if I borrow a book from the library, and want to review on Amazon? Again, no purchase tied to the account.

What if a different version of the book - with a different ASIN - is released? It happens - I've inadvertently purchased the same book twice when the book is released under a different ASIN.

What about reviewers who receive ARCs from the authors?

Yes - there are other venues (GoodReads, Shelfari) but Amazon proper is where the reviews will have the most impact, IMO.

I don't review - mostly because it makes me feel like I'm writing a paper for high school English - and I've purchased more than one 5-star dud, based in part on reviews, but limiting reviewers to only people who have purchased the book from Amazon may exclude honest reviewers while allowing shills, sock puppets and other unscrupulous reviewers to continue.

JMO.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 7:00:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 7:01:24 AM PDT
Don't forget that you can also look at what other reviews a reviewer has written. If someone seems to be writing a whole lot of five star reviews and they are all the first review written for a book, they are almost certainly a shill. If they write nothing but one star reviews, they are either an attack puppet, or just a jerk, either way, valueless.

Reading reviews is a bit of an art. But reading the one star reviews and deciding if you would like what the reviewer hates? That can be pretty effective.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 7:02:03 AM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
You can already see if the review is from someone with an "Amazon Verified Purchase". I thought there was a way to filter for just those reviews, but I don't see it right away.

However, would that do anything to increase the reliability? If publishers/authors are willing to pay reviewers, why wouldn't they gift people the book in exchange for a guaranteed good review? Actually, that might show the publisher/author as the buyer...so they might have to give a gift certificate instead.

I also think it's interesting that the thought is that 5-star reviews are more likely to be illegitimate than 1-star reviews. I would think that an author/publisher might also use influenced reviewers to reduce the average rating of competitors' books...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 7:11:35 AM PDT
Dog Lover says:
<I also think it's interesting that the thought is that 5-star reviews are more likely to be illegitimate than 1-star reviews. I would think that an author/publisher might also use influenced reviewers to reduce the average rating of competitors' books... >

Logical but this doesn't appear to happen as frequently (or as noticeably) as high star shill reviews. I suspect that most of these people are more interested in artificially bumping up their own ratings than in bumping down those who are (in theory) competitors.

In either case, however, the way a review is actually written has more relevance to me than its star rating. I've just found that (for genre books, at least) the 5/4 star rated reviews tend to be gushers rather than offering any real "meat" about the book. By that I mean, writing issues, characterization issues, plot structure, etc.

JMO

DL

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 7:25:34 AM PDT
In2books says:
When I started on Amazon years ago, I relied on book's overall rating as a purchase guide. After the flood of SP authors I started relying mainly on the sample of the book. Now that I've been burned by buying books that have clean samples, but the remainder of the book lacks editing, I rely on a handful of carefully selected reviewers and friends that share my reading taste. I value honest reviews. A gushing 5 stars review is as worthless as an unexplained 1 star review. The thing some author that complain about 1 and 2 star reviews miss is the fact these reviews can also sell books. For example there are ten 1 star reviews that say, this book contains gay characters or this book has religious overtones. If this is the worst rating the book has and these issues aren't issues for me, I will still purchase the book. These rating are good for reader that want to avoid these topics, but don't deter the ones that would enjoy the books. Reader need honest reviewers, PERIOD., whether 5 or 1 star.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 10:53:27 AM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
I do think that there is a real opportunity for Amazon in letting us designate circles of "friends", so we can see their ratings and recommendations specifically...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:02:50 AM PDT
Dog Lover says:
Shelfari does that already. 'spect that is Amazon's answer for that kind of request. Must be the reason that Amazon removed its own "friend" feature some time back. Last year? Year before?

DL

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:16:24 AM PDT
Anne Shirley says:
I basically don't review either, except for the occasional favorite mainstream-pubbed author. I rarely buy self-pubbed books, and almost never review them, simply because of all the many types of drama attached to SP authors, their shills, their armies, and the behavior of many of them in general - not to mention the quality of much of the writing. Until both Amazon AND SP authors themselves crack down to eliminate the majority of this carp, I will not be bothering with SP books. IMO SP authors need to police their own in some way, greatly reducing the "I don't want them sicced on me, so I will never name names or censure anyone" prevalent attitude. The decent, ethical authors will continue to suffer lost sales until they take a stand against the dishonesty, and until Amazon gives enforcement some teeth. Might I "miss out" on some great books? I have so many books TBR that I don't "need" to download a book for at least 5 years. I'll live

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:18:33 AM PDT
I loved it when we had the "friends" option and was surprised when it was removed.
Maybe, they will reconsider if several of us contact them and ask them to reinstate that option.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:25:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 11:25:58 AM PDT
Norwenna says:
I have pretty much stopped reading the customer reviews, partly because some are probably false, partly because I don't know the reviewers' tastes coincide with mine, and mostly because a lot of reviewers write synopses of the books and there are only so many times I want to read the synopsis of any given book! And some reviewers put spoilers in too.
But I have been very lucky in that the Publishers' Weekly reviewers have the same opinions I have of most books. If they give a book a starred review, I usually enjoy that book a lot. Also luckily, I've got a good backlog of those very books that cost me $1.99.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:39:58 AM PDT
Cassie Anne says:
I've read very, very few SP books. And most of those are ones I picked up as a newbie Kindler - before I was even aware of the SP avenue. Since then, I've wised up, and looked more critically at the inexpensive deals available. A $0.99 book can be an expensive use of an afternoon if I don't enjoy what I'm reading.

I'm 100% positive there are excellent SP books on Amazon right now. Books and authors I'd love every bit as much as my favorite trad-pub go-to books and authors. Professionals who invest their time and money in their product. But I can't find 'em, and I don't have the inclination to look. And you're right - those *authors* are the ones paying for the situation. They're losing sales. They're losing out on recognition - whether that recognition is in the form of dollars or rankings or catching the eye of an agent or a publisher. I'm not in danger of ever running out of books. Not in my next several lifetimes.

I don't enjoy the search through the slush pile. I don't expect to be handed my books on a silver platter, or to only select from the NYT best-seller list, but I don't want to read unedited, un-spell-checked dreck either. And let's be honest: the dreck absolutely overwhelms the average and above-average material out there.

And the shill/sockpuppet reviews are a *huge* part of the problem.

If nary another book was ever published, I'd never run out of reading material. There's too much out there I want to read, even if I "limit" (ha!) myself to trad pubs and classics.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 11:49:55 AM PDT
Macomb says:
When a review says A REAL PAGE TURNER, i know it stinks

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 11:52:18 AM PDT
Pete Morin says:
Here's what to watch for:

http://youtu.be/ZKG4WKLIgvs

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 11:53:38 AM PDT
Here is a link to a post in the Badly Behaving Authors thread.

http://www.amazon.com/forum/romance/ref=cm_cd_et_md_pl?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxM42D5QN2YZ1D&cdMsgID=Mx26SXZVL5BEG2O&cdMsgNo=2618&cdPage=105&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx2ZPAJ6Y2A1WIL#Mx26SXZVL5BEG2O

In it there is a link to one of the review companies that explains what they do and how they get around amazon. Truly disgusting and shows that you cannot just trust the AVP logo.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 11:54:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2012 12:40:13 PM PDT
I learned a long time ago to look for names I recognize as valid reviewers for certain genres, which helps me. Also, I try to not go by the reviews for the most part. I do glance through them for anything that stands out. As others have said I am also weary of a book with a handful of AMAZING 5-star reviews, it's a big red flag.
My main draw to purchase a book is the synopsis, and most of all: the sample (make use of it, it is your friend). I can see the writers style, use or lack of grammar and punctuation.
I have taken to using Shelfari for both organization and to look at others personal reviews on books (people I "know" from here) - that is helping as well.

Edited for typo
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Discussion in:  Kindle forum
Participants:  36
Total posts:  75
Initial post:  Jul 22, 2012
Latest post:  Mar 15, 2014

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