Recently I read an article published in the New York Times called "The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy," by David Streitfeld, about authors who are paying for reviews in order to help promote their books and increase their sales. Instead of real reviews from real people, these paid-for, all-favorable reviews, are written by people who are just churning out reviews, and sometimes don't even read the book they are reviewing.
Then another story broke about British crime writer RJ Ellory who wrote fake reviews of his own books. These stories made me wonder why authors would pay for reviews or plant fake ones.
In my opinion, fake reviews and paying for compliments is just not the route anyone should take. Yes, the book publishing market is competitive and positive reviews can drive sales, but taking the fast, easy and fake route is not going to build a long-term brand. Cheating always leaves a negative mark.
I too was taken in by what I now believe were fake reviews. I usually buy books not based on the reviews on Amazon but by the recommendations of my colleagues, friends or social media community. But one night, I was looking for a book on a new topic and decided to look on Amazon. I downloaded a book with many great reviews, and began to read it right away. Within a few pages, I realized the book was just not that good. I stopped reading because life is too short to read bad books, and felt totally cheated. Because of my experience, I have not trusted the reviews on Amazon since that day. But more importantly, I was so disappointed in the author that I stopped following him on Twitter and will never buy another book by him or even read his blogs.
Cheating people and lying to them is just not the way to build a career. Google has a long memory and links to negative stories may never go away. Living and breathing public relations every day, (we promote books and authors online), gives me a vantage point to say to authors, "just don't do it."
Sometimes my own clients have asked me and my staff to write reviews for them because they know that we already believe in their book. It may seem like a no-brainer to them, but it's a complete conflict of interest for me to write a review for a book I have been hired to promote. I never do it, because it would damage their credibility as well as ours. At FSB Associates, we help build our client's reputations for the long run. I am always aware that we literarily hold our clients' reputations in our hands, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
The pathway to success in book publishing is not found in the snake oil of fake reviews. Just because something can be done online, does not mean it should be. My advice to authors is to focus on your expertise and engage with readers authentically -- it may seem like a slow build, and it is, but it is well worth the effort.
When you try to short cut your way to success with fabricated glowing reviews, it's a breach of ethics with your readers and your brand. Your readers may find out and never will your personal brand be associated with authenticity or truth again. Don't buy fake rave reviews, or Twitter followers; in the long run they do you a disservice by making you lose faith with fans, readers and potential readers.
The only thing fake reviews will do for your personal brand is to erode it.
© 2012 Fauzia Burke. All Rights Reserved.
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. For digital publicity and social media news, follow Fauzia on Twitter: @FauziaBurke.