One of the first things most people will tell a budding self-publisher is that they need to make sure they make their book stands out from the pack in some way. In the past that sometimes meant convincing friends, family members, and third party reviewers to read the book and leave a thoughtful review on Amazon or Goodreads. However, recently it seems as though online reviews are starting to be taken less and less seriously by the community at large.
First, as Digital Book World notes, Goodreads announced their decision to heavily regulate reader reviews on their website in order to weed out the “trolls” — users who write extremely negative or nonsensical reviews for personal reasons, or just to get a kick out of the reaction. Then there was the piece the New York Times ran on restaurants and other companies who pay people to write fake good reviews for their products, and a similar piece by On The Media for WNYC (it’s worth a listen!) And then there was the International Business Times story about a self-published author who woke up to a sudden stream of negative one-star reviews after she’d written a poorly thought out public ex-shaming on her blog. With all that hitting the fan in such a relatively short time, it’s no wonder that people are having second thoughts about trusting the reviews you find on Amazon and other sites!
So how do you look for reviews in such a difficult climate? The trick is not to seek out the best reviews, but instead to go for the most honest ones. If you ask your friends to read and review your book for you then they’ll most likely want to give it five stars as a way to support you, but a large number of five star reviews are more likely to trigger a stranger’s suspicions. Instead, ask them to be as brutally honest as they can be — if it helps, they might want to submit their reviews anonymously, using a username that you won’t recognize. That way they won’t have to feel guilty if they didn’t like the book.
Another option is to ask a third party site or organization to look at your work, such as Kirkus Reviews or Blue Ink Review. They’re not like the companies that fake hundreds of positive reviews — instead they want to give you a professional, well-constructed critique of your book that’ll be miles more impressive and noteworthy than anything you can find on the standard Amazon page. And, of course, BookWorks will also be starting its own professional Book Review Service soon, so check back to learn more about that!
Just remember that above all else, you shouldn’t lie in order to get your book attention. Not unless you don’t care what kind of attention you get, of course — but given that companies who fake reviews online are now getting hit with massive fines in New York, you still might want to steer clear of paying anyone to write a bogus, needlessly positive review for you!