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The Reviews Rebellion
Most authors trying to sell their books online have succumbed to the frenzy of reviews. Above all, they dream and salivate at the prospect of that wonderful and passionate ‘five star’ review. Well, okay, you say. Isn’t that the system? And she sells books. isn’t it Hey, listen, guys, haven’t you ever heard the phrase ‘think outside the box’? Well, the box is the review system and it’s a box with chains around it and jaws. And spikes inside. and razor wire. That needs to change.
The current review system creates two problems. One for readers and one for writers. Let’s consider the authors first. If you’re new to publishing – because maybe you’ve written a novel and self-published it – you’ll know that ‘get some reviews’ is all advice. That’s how you get noticed, they say. This will help you sell books. Sounds great, but where are you going to get those ‘necessary’ reviews as a new author? Hey, I’ll ask people, you think. No, chum. Online bookstores like Amazon are way ahead of you. They don’t let that happen.
They have algorithms that will check. See a review and it’s by someone with the same name? Why, yes, you say. It was written by my sister. Not allowed! Amazon (and other bookstores available) will delete it. It’s biased, they’ll say. Of course your family will think well of you. It’s not ‘authentic’, they say. Well, then you ask your next door neighbor. It is also banned. How will they know? Because they know everything about everyone (of course) and the robot knows that you, the author, and that person, the reviewer, have the same postcode. Right, there’s a ban, (because the lady next door wouldn’t insult you by printing it, would she? They wouldn’t want you to drop it at their door. They’d be biased, (Robos say – only so bots can). So you ask someone in your writing group. . They know about books, you think. They’ll give you a fair hearing. They won’t be biased. Anyway, who’s going to find out? Sangkame! Check it out, and find out, that you’re the author and that other person, the reviewer, is friends on Facebook. Good. No, say Algorithm. Bias, again. Not allowed. Review posted? Review retracted, as only online book-stores can.
Shocking. I mean, you are asked to bring some reviews but there seems to be some sort of ‘rules’ at work here, which are hardly ever discussed and certainly not disclosed by the website. Ever tried asking Amazon how they decide what is a ‘good’ review and what isn’t? Good luck with that! Most likely, they will not answer. Most likely, they don’t know. After all, robots have their own rules, don’t they? Also, big publishers. Yes, the real killer is that all this discrimination only applies to small publishers and single authors. This does not apply to traditional publishers. After all, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, so you have to respect their way of doing things, even if it results in bias. His preferred method is to create a mailing list of interested readers, who will agree to review new titles as they come out. Imagine, a trade publisher sends out ‘review’ copies to fifty of their ‘friends’ and gets fifty five-star reviews. Not biased at all. No, and online bookshops are very happy about it. Favorable reviews have been bought with offers of free copies and the glow of joining a big name in the industry. You try, as a short-term writer, giving away a book for free and expecting a review in return. Do you recognize? Amazon et al (and everyone else) have declared such a practice illegal, unethical and harmful to small mammals (but only for small publishers etc. not for older children).
However, there is no end to your suffering. You also have to deal with the behavior of readers, i.e. real people, who actually buy (and pay for) books. They are incredible! Try this. Go to an interested reader and tell them, ‘Actually, I’m lucky and yes, I got a five-star review this week’. What do they say? ‘Oh, I never look at reviews’, they say. Or, ‘Reviews are just one of the factors I rely on before deciding to buy a book’. really? The facts are different. As an internet writer, I can check my sales regularly. Every day if I want. So, I see one of my books sold that much on that day. Then, the next day, so much. Then – oops, sales are up. What caused it? I look at the online bookshop and see that there were some favorable reviews that day. Five star reviews? Sales will increase, (as told by Guru). The problem is, you can never find out who did. ask Ask, ask and ask again and the readers you meet will say, ‘No, not me’. Maybe those people don’t want to admit that they are so easily swayed. Maybe they don’t want to appear shallow. But the fact is that I have faced the crowd and dared them to admit that they bought a book because it had good reviews and guess what? No one raises their hands. Those easily persuaded, sheeplike buyers, clearly do not exist. They are only imaginary. Real buyers are all really discriminating and make their decisions based on personal preferences and their own tastes. they do Or, at least, they say they do.
I call it the ‘tyranny of the stars’. Every writer, every reader feels that their future lies in the stars. Sales come from the stars. Five stars, the best. Well, that’s how it’s working now, and don’t expect things to get better. Recent experience shows that the ‘rules’ are getting tighter every year – at least for small publishers and single authors. No, the box will not be more friendly or more open. Until some wise person picks up an ax and slaughters the entire abomination.
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