Thursday, October 4, 2012

Requiem for a Review by Katie French

Today, I have a special guest post by the awesome Katie French. Lately there's been a lot of talk about reviews and sock puppets. If you've been following the drama then you know what sock puppet means, if not, read on...

            Reviews have caused quite a stink in the writing community lately. In the span of a few weeks there were two scandals. The first involved Todd Rutherford of the former and his paid reviews system. The article in the New York Times  went on to claim that one third of all reviews on Amazon were fake, bought and paid for, leaving everyone to wonder if any customer review should be trusted ever again.
            The backlash to this caused many customers to believe only the lowest reviews, surmising that because it is a bad review it has to be correct. However, the next scandal put that theory to test when E.J. Elroy was exposed for using “sock puppets” or pseudonyms on Amazon and other reviews sites to bash his opponents and praise his own work. Elroy, a bestselling British author, admitted the act and apologized, but the backlash to this dishonesty has just dumped more doubt on Amazon reviews across the board. How many authors used this tactic and just haven’t been caught? How can we believe any review we read ever again?
Katie French
Amazon is reacting, clamping down on its policies-- advertising when someone uses their real name, letting us know that they have a confirmed purchase of a book. However, those will not stop someone determined to trick the system. So, what can a book buying fanatic like myself do? How can we deal with the rampant lies slathered across our Amazon review pages? How will we ever know if a book is good enough to purchase?  My personal opinion is we do absolutely nothing.
            I’ve spend a lot of time perusing Amazon books in the genre in which I write. Almost all of them carry a rating of around 4 to 4.5 star rating. All of them. So the star ratings don’t sway me. The number of reviews may peek my interest, letting me know that many have purchased this book instead of few, but usually that means little as well. I may read a few of the top reviews (even though I have no idea if they were written by the author’s mother or an honest reviewer) or I may not. What I mainly consider is if I like the cover and the blurb, if the story calls to me in some deep down, gut wrenching way, if the characters seem to pop off the page and if the setting is spellbinding. If those things are there, then I’ll buy it, reviews be damned.
            There will always be rule breakers. There will always be those who try to cheat the system. I don’t think Amazon can create a filter that will stop the pin heads of the world. But in the end, giving yourself good reviews can’t make you write. That takes grit, determination and thousands of hours at the keyboard. No sock puppet will get you there.

Katie French is the author of the debut book The Breeders, a YA dystopian adventure available now on Amazon. She is also the co-creator and contributor with Underground Book Reviews, a site that seeks to promote quality unpaid book reviews to self-published and independent writers. Her passions are her family and her work with at-risk teens. You can find her at or on facebook.

GIVEAWAY ALERT! We're also giving away an ebook of Katie's YA debut, THE BREEDERS. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment and include your email address. For 5 extra entries tweet this ready-made tweet:

Read Katie French's thoughts on the recent book review drama and enter to #win her #ya debut, THE BREEDERS.


  1. Even knowing that sock puppets exist, I still read reviews. When i find a consistent thread running through them, I believe that to be the truth. For some reason, it doesn't bother me that authors do this. Just like how most of the public doesn't know that publishers pay for endcaps and face out and books getting their own stand in the front of stores. :)

  2. Great to meet you, Katie. The Breeders sounds good. =)

  3. I find that people's reviews and ratings on amazon and goodreads dont realy affect wether or not i read a book. I make my book choices by the blurb, recommendations from people i know, reviews by bloggers i trust, and by the cover (I know i probably shouldn't judge books by their covers but in my experience the best books have the best covers). Despite sock-puppets not affecting what books i will read they still realy annoy me, i just hate dishonesty.

    The Breeders sounds realy great by the way, the cover looks so intriguing :)

  4. Even before all the drama about reviews I never paid much attention to them. I knew that I may feel differently about a book so there was little reason to let someone else's opinion on the book influence my decision much.

  5. Every profession has its dirty secrets. Honestly, the sock puppet thing seems to be a vanity. I don't think I could stop blushing guiltily long enough to post a review for myself.

    As for reviews, I read them when I'm on the fence about buying a book (often when it's for my Kindle). I read the back cover, feel I could go either way, and check out three who loved it and three who hated it (if there are that many for each). I weigh their reasoning (because sometimes a negative review is so silly, as Karen would know...they get hung up on the dumbest little thing and miss an awesome book) and then I purchase, or move on.

    I wasn't on the fence for 'Tangled Tides'. That one was an automatic buy. Didn't see reviews until I went back to add my own, and then I laughed at the negative ones. Silly people.

    *Steps off soapbox, not realizing how long she'd been on there*


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