Fake Reviews on Amazon: my top five ways of spotting (and not spotting) them
“I really loved this book! It had me turning the pages all the way until the end! I’m certainly going to recommend it to my friends! I can’t wait till the next one. Five stars!”
We’ve all seen this kind of thing. Quite a lot of self-published books come garnished with a million variants of it. I used to think I could tell which they were, those phonies, but now I’m not so sure. Here are my (former) top five ways, and then why I’ve now changed my mind.
- Is the review overly general? You loved what? If you can’t even be bothered to tell us what you enjoyed about said book, perhaps you haven’t actually read it.
- Is it brief but overly gushing? In my experience, people who gush with excitement tend to go on for a long time. Perhaps someone who gushes for the obligatory 20 words Amazon allows for a review, and no more, isn’t really gushing at all. Maybe she’s just pretending!
- Are there ten or twelve 5*s, all written at one time, and then a long, eerie gap? It looks a little like the author might have corralled his or her friends, and then exhausted his stock of them!
- Are the one and two star reviews longer and more analytic than the four and five? If so, maybe they felt conned by the latter!
- When you click on those five star reviewers, have they ever reviewed another book? Are they habitual reviewers? Or is this the only book they’ve ever reviewed? Hmmm!
Now, I know this sounds harsh. What a dim view of human nature! And that’s partly why I’ve abandoned it. Let’s have a look at what’s wrong with it, point by point.
- Not all readers are natural critics. Just because they can’t write at length about a book they loved, it doesn’t mean they’re not sincere. Not all books invite an extensive response. A lot of people actually read the same sort of book over and over again. They loved it means: it was a super romance/ fantasy/ thriller.
- Sometimes gushing makes you self-conscious. Especially when you’re immortalising your words in a written review.
- Maybe the author wrote to ten or twelve Amazon critics, asking them to honestly review his book – something which happens all the time. Then he stopped.
- Just because the one and two star reviews are longer and more analytic, it doesn’t mean they’re right. Different readers like different things, and even the most intelligent reader can miss something crucial, something that makes the whole novel make sense, instead of being an incoherent mess.
- The mere fact that these people actually logged on to Amazon and wrote anything at all may be proof that they really did ‘love it’. Maybe it really is the greatest thing since toffee-glazed barbecue popcorn.
Nowadays, I read the reviews for entertainment. I look at a selection of each: five, four, three, two, one. I take into account everything they say, and I still apply the five tests, although alongside the five qualifiers I’ve outlined. Then I do what everyone should. I click on ‘look inside’. There are usually a lot more answers there than any review can possibly provide.
When someone starts assassinating paparazzi in three countries, MI7 sits up. Apparently, the killer is none other than Dmitri Vassyli Kramski, retired SVR field-operative and former Kremlin protégé. True, the Cold War is long finished, but everyone knows Vladimir Putin is as unhappy for Russia to play second fiddle on the international stage as even the most strident of his Communist predecessors. In 2010 therefore, East-West relations remain as tortuous as ever.
Kramski’s trail leads deep into London’s émigré community, forcing his pursuers into conflict with an unknown organisation bent on protecting him. Bit by bit, he begins to look less like a professional assassin and more like someone plotting to scupper the foundations of Western democracy itself. To compound matters, the Russians are as baffled by him as anyone.
Genre – Espionage Thriller
Rating – PG
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