Thursday, August 30, 2012

Marketing or Cheating

So the new big kerfuffle in publishing is authors paying people to review their books. See the NYT article below. (I think I did this link correctly.)

While the article targets self-published authors I’m sure there could be any number of traditionally published authors that might take this route as well. Although again the difference between the two is that it’s much harder for people to find self-published work than traditionally published work – so the need to have more reviews is greater for them.
What’s so painful about it, is that it works. Books with more reviews fall into some kind of Amazon mathematic formula that gets them listed and shown in certain places which leads to more copies being sold. Same with Goodreads. If you get enough reviews you’re going to fall into an algorithm that gets you recommended to more readers. The more people who see your book the more potential you have to make money.

As I’ve noted in previous blogs my self-publishing effort has been abysmal for that very reason. Very few people know that book is out there. Now I did get some nice reviews from Net Galley and of course my very good friends here gave their best effort, but to little avail.

So the question is if you are a writer, and the most effective means you have of selling your books is by gaining more than say 100 reviews, is it worth it to pay someone to positively review your book?

And is it unethical or just the next new marketing strategy?

For me I’m embarrassed to ask my friends to write reviews for me. Molly, Sinead and Maureen – can verify I did not ask them to review my book on Amazon – they simply did it because they know and like me. But sure asking friends or family to read your books and write reviews is totally fine.

However, the thought of paying someone to say they loved my work is so crazy to me, that I can’t get my mind around it. Especially when so many of the reviewers cashing in from this new craze in many cases never read the book.

But at the same time I don’t know that I can cry foul. I don't have a lot of reviews and my book didn’t sell to more than 200 people. Maybe if I were less proud and more business savvy I could make more money, find more readers.

I think the problem with this kind of thing is that it again leads to the new battle brewing between the traditionally published and self-published. Many traditionally published authors will point their fingers and say you never got picked. An agent didn’t want to represent the work, a publisher didn’t want to publish it – so you bypassed the whole system and did it yourself. Now add to that – you’re paying people to tell other people it’s good so you can sell more copies.

As a self-published author I can assure readers I would never corrupt something as important as reviews because it’s just not how I roll. And I guess I would urge people not to pursue this practice because I do think ultimately it diminishes the industry as a whole. Just like the lack of editing does. Readers are smart. If they read that 100 people gave a book 5 stars and the book is really garbage they’ll understand what took place and a certain amount of trust will be lost.

But boy… there sure are people out there a lot smarter than I am because what they did sounds like it’s working.

NYT Article.


Simone St. James said...

My amateur opinion is that if this becomes widespread enough, Amazon will just change their search algorithm and everyone will be back to square one.

Google does that all the time.

At least, that's what I would do if I ran Amazon :)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Simone on this one.... and it's a one hit wonder kind of mentality. As hard as it is to get visibility in the murky waters of self-publishing, I read a terrible book by an author, only once...

Maureen McGowan said...

I say cheating. And slimy. And underhanded. And a lot of other adjectives.

Maureen McGowan said...

Just this morning, I was approached by one of my FB "friends" asking if I'd like to buy a review from them. Um, no.

I do hope that Amazon figures out a way to filter out reviews from places like that, but it does seem like a difficult thing to do if the perpetrators keep creating new IDs.

Eileen said...

Are you serious? I've missed this entirely. I think it's nasty.

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