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Indie Book Reviews – worthless?

May 17, 2013

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Maybe he was right. 

Sorry, stay with me for a sec, I do have a case – honest!

Like all self-published authors, I rely to some extent on reviews for my books. Unlike most though (albeit not all!) I am completely unknown to friends and family as a writer, because I write under a pseudonym and have chosen to keep my writing to myself (nothing deep, I just feel I write better under the knowledge that no one I know personally will be reading or judging my words – don’t worry I’ll tell them when I make a million sales…hmm)

So the issue here is that none of my reviews are solicited – I don’t ask friends or family to post about my books. As a result I have a) comparatively few reviews (I’m quite new to this game) and b) they are all 100% genuine (luckily none bad, some good, some average).

Yes, I am coming to a point in a sec!

So I often feel a bit hard-done by when I read a wealth of reviews that are clearly penned by the author themselves, and then distributed from the keyboards of various buddies.

Um, that’s actually not my point though, sorry. The fact is, I have nothing whatsoever against people asking friends and family to review their books. If I wasn’t so paranoid about them delving into my psyche, I’d gladly ask mine to do the same, believe me.

The problem I have (and I accept that doesn’t mean it IS a problem) is the very proliferation of these reviews. I recently chanced upon a review whereby the author had been compared to Robert Ludlum. And I mean favourably. It was the best book this reviewer had read in years. So I headed over to take a look inside, and wasn’t really blown away. Then I scrolled through the reviews, of which there were about 20.

Half of them were superlative, singing the praises of this amazing writer, making all sorts of comparisons to some of the greatest authors of the past half century, and generally extolling the book to the most vertiginous heights.

The other half were 1 and 2 star. The absolute pits. A couple that actually labelled the work as complete rubbish.

So, to my mind, that really wiped out the validity of the reviews – both good and bad. I think the detractors had probably read the great reviews before buying the book, then become angered that they had been led into parting with their money on such specious claims, and hence written some fairly vituperous comments. I suspect they may otherwise have gone with the 3 stars and put together a relatively average review, but for their irritation at being duped.

So my point is (I think I’m there now) would this author not have been better off just allowing the impartial reviews to come in under their own steam? Can we really rely on reviews at all?

Oh and a quick disclaimer – no I don’t have any proof whatsoever that any reviews are in fact written by the authors themselves and then pedalled out among their nearest and dearest. But come on…


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One Comment
  1. Sockpuppeting is ridiculous to me. First off, it must be exhausting to create multiple accounts just to sing constant praises about your own work. Second, if anyone realizes that the reviews are fake and are from the author himself, then that author seems pathetic and desperate. And lastly, if you want great reviews for your book – work hard at doing so! Rewrite, get plenty of beta readers, get a good editor. If you’re not willing to do those things, well, don’t cry when you get negative reviews. Yes, it stings when someone doesn’t like your work and sometimes posts a ranting review, but what can you do?

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