The Price of Fake Popularity

by | May 5, 2021 | Miscellaneous

If you’re an unknown author, the first thing you do is to try and get some heat on your book.

Sure, you have your own social media—Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Etc.—but what about the world outside your circle of friends? For that you have Amazon, and Amazon has an algorithm. If your book starts getting good reviews, Amazon notices. And Amazon helps. The better reviewed your book is, the more they’ll push it in their search engines. 

Which makes sense; Amazon wants to make money, so they’re going to push well-liked product.

So, if you have a book, you need reviews. Which means that thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit, there are now hundreds of websites that offer to review your book for cash.

Just like a bad car salesman hustling you to buy extra rust proofing, these shysters offer a variety of  schemes. You can buy anything from basic to deluxe packages. Get a bad review? They’ll bury it. Need reviews fast? They’ll flood your book with praise. Want one review? Here’s the price. Want a thousand reviews? Here comes the sticker shock.

The sites offer tricks aplenty to make people think your book is the greatest thing since canned bread, or sliced beer.

(I’m not good with comparative metaphors.)

One interesting item of note regarding paid reviews: they won’t have the important “Verified Purchase” next to them, will they? Seems like that would be a red flag to anyone giving them the once over. But I digress…

The sites are aggressive. Immediately after taking a look at one—and having to give my (burner) email address in order to poke around—I started receiving spam: “Hey, you haven’t signed up yet! For just $100, you get a review for your book!”

Great! For $100, I can negate the sales of almost 100 books. And hey! Maybe that one review will cause one person to buy the book! Seems reasonable.

(Borat voice: not.)

A good number of these sites crow about their newsletter: “Buy a featured ad on the front page of our newsletter and get seen by 3,000 people!”

The problem is that the first thing these sites do is tell authors to sign up for the newsletter. This means the newsletter is basically going out to a bunch of other authors trying to get their book in front of people.

Which means you’re paying to participate in a circle jerk.

Paying for reviews isn’t limited to semi-professional scam websites, though. Individuals are in on the grift, doing all they can to lure needy writers into their web.

A user on Goodreads, a social media site for readers—think Facebook, only instead of seeing posts by your old high school classmate who is more interested in fringe conspiracy theories than reason, science, or logic, you see posts about books, and who’s reading what—created a “New Book Announcement” chat board for indie authors.

You post your book, and people searching out new things to read peruse it. Nifty, right?

Unfortunately, immediately after offering my book to the masses, instead of hearing from active readers interested in the tale, I started getting hounded by “professional reviewers.” These were independent contractors who said they’d read my book for anywhere from $30 to $100, and then write a blurb about it.

Many promise the review will be positive, which doesn’t seem all that genuine. Yes, I like good reviews, but I’d prefer they be because people actually liked the book. Not because I paid them to say nice things about me.

Pay for play simply rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe I shouldn’t be offended, though. Maybe I should be doing everything I can to get seen, including paying for reviews.

I mean, I’m obviously not above begging… this blog is a shining example of that.

I don’t know… as much as I want to get my book into people’s hands, fake reviews doesn’t seem the honorable way to do so. The work should speak for itself, right?

Then again, “fake it until you make it” didn’t come from nowhere…

It’s a quandary.

So far, the feedback about my book has been overwhelmingly positive. Which means that hopefully more people will finish and review it kindly. Maybe even enough for Amazon’s algorithm to take note and bump my publication a little higher on their search engines.

If not? 

At least I went down with my head held high.

Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen. Fake it until you make it isn’t the only saying I’ve learned during my years on this planet.

Pride goeth before a fall is an important life lesson as well.

Check out the book causing this headache, We Are 100, on Amazon.



Image by PatternPictures, from Pixabay.

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