I’ve become a bit of a reviewer. They’re not super in depth descriptions of what the story is about but more my personal feelings on how I enjoyed the book or what I didn’t like about it. I try to always be polite and I know that criticism goes best between compliments. I do these reviews for two reasons:
1) To let others know how I felt about the book and possibly turn them onto it or warn them to stay away (although to be fair, that’s rarely my call)
2) To give the author some feedback on where I think they shine or could use a little more polish.
I feel like I’m doing both the reader and writer a service. That’s the way it should be. That’s the logic behind reviews in the first place.
Therefore, when I hear things like people paying $5 bucks for a 5 star review or asking friends and relatives and fellow writers to choke the system with phony 5 star reviews it makes me kind of lose my shit.
I get it. You are proud of your work and you want to spread the word so others will come read it and bask in its glory. That’s all fine and dandy, except I don’t know about everyone else, but I am QUITE stingy with my 5 star ratings. A book really has to be well written and emotionally impacting (to me personally) in order for it to get 5 stars. I don’t even rate my own work 5 stars people. That’s not to say I don’t love my stuff and I haven’t worked hard on it, I do and I have, BUT I know there are things out there that just blow my writing away and that’s why I’m honest with myself and my readers with my ratings.
This buying stars and backwards comradery of “I’ll get all my followers to rate your book 5 stars, even if they haven’t read it or didn’t like it if you’ll do the same for mine” is utter bullshit.
You’ve got money to spend on buying stars? Use it on a good editor to make a better product instead. You want to bring traffic to your book and get reviews? Find book bloggers and hold contests to give out ARCs and ask for honest feedback in their responses and ratings.
People who do this kind of thing are giving the indie/self published a bad name. It’s already a struggle for those of us not going the traditional publication route and when a reader comes along and sees a book has fifty 5 star reviews they think “Hey! This should be good!” Then they read it and (often) find that the book was nowhere near 5 star quality. This post, by a a fellow “indie” author goes into detail about how these things going on makes him not want to be associated with the indie crowd. I understand his frustration on how a few are making it bad for the rest of us. (Be sure to take time to read the comments on that post!)
Not only is it bad to dupe your audience, but you’re not helping yourself as a writer and you’re certainly not going to gain any repeat business. There is one specific book out there (which is discussed in one of the blog links above) where much of this occurred. I found a mere smattering of unhappy reviews in an overwhelming sea of 5 stars. Those few 1 and 2 star reviewers were as baffled as I was “did we read the same book as all these other people?” I almost gave the book 1 star. 1 STAR! That’s a rating I normally reserved for a bunch of monkeys who type gobbledegook. I don’t care if that author wins a Newbery award , I’ll never buy another of her books.
There are others out there who are trying to cheat the rating system in other ways. Recently, a friend of mine noticed a particular Goodreads member was going around and rating immense amounts of paranormal novels. 3,500 novels to be exact. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except that she was rating them all with 1 star. Every.Single.One. She only had two friends on Goodreads. One of them was a paranormal author, whom I’m sure got her only good review. Thankfully, several people brought it to the attention of the site staff and the account was killed. Whether or not they can undo all the reviews she gave, I don’t know, but seriously lady? Did you really need to knock down the confidence of 3,500 people by rating them a one? Not cool. Bad karma is coming for you.
As discussed before, it really just comes down to being honest folks. Be honest about what you like and dislike. Be honest about the quality of the work. Be honest with yourself. You’ll be happier in the long run and if you’re a writer, think of how much better you’ll feel when you get those good reviews knowing you actually earned them rather than bought or bartered for them. Maybe those lower starred reviews will help you grow as a writer and you’ll produce something that is 5 star worthy. If I see it, if it moves me, if it’s worthy, I’ll give you that coveted quintuplet rating. You’ll have earned it.