UK author Christian Saunders has just released his new horror novella Devil’s Island. Here he offers some sound advice on being careful when writing reviews of books online – even if they’re honest reviews!
Beware the Trolls!
A cautionary tale…
I like reading. A lot. I also like writing. Often, I combine the two and write reviews of the books I read and either post the reviews on Amazon or send them to magazines or websites I am affiliated with. I try not to ever give out-and-out bad reviews, because I understand how much time, effort and sheer hard graft goes into producing a book, even if it is not a great book. Besides, when reviewing I am very conscious of the fact that its a matter of personal taste. What I don’t like, other people might love, and my opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s. Generally, rather than publicize the perceived negatives I won’t say anything.
Recently I posted a review of a book on Amazon.co.uk. It wasn’t a bad review, but neither was it a good one. The thing I took issue with was the hype surrounding the book, mainly generated by the editor / author (who I am pretty sure is the same person). Forgive me if I don’t drop names here, for fear of gaining that darn project any more publicity! The hype, though, extended to TV commercials and a viral marketing campaign, all of which I imagine was very expensive. The hype was mostly along the lines of, ‘This is the scariest book you will ever read!’
Oh, really? I mean, how do they, or anyone else, know that? Personally speaking, the scariest thing I have read in recent months has been my dentist’s bill.
The mistake I made was name-dropping my own book in the review, which I did out of instinct. My new book was recently published so I have been in ‘marketing mode’ for a few weeks now, posting my links etc. everywhere possible. Its not something I enjoy, but its necessary.
Somebody added a comment to my review, calling me a ‘self publicizing bell end.’ Who knows, maybe they were right, so I let the matter drop.
At least, I thought I did.
The next day I was notified that the books I currently have on release had attracted a whole wave of new reviews. I excitedly logged on to Amazon, only to find that every review was written by the same person, and every review was an awful 1-star shocker.
Now, the obvious questions would be that if this person thought my writing sucked so badly, why purchase everything I have ever written? Besides that, it would take some doing to read all four of my books in less than 24-hours. I also wondered how they managed to write a review of my first book, when it has been out of print since around 2006!
A little investigative work commenced, and I soon discovered via Amazon’s handy ‘See all reviews by this reviewer’ function, that the person currently engaged in a smear campaign against me had only ever published reviews by of ONE other author’s work… yep, the author of the book I originally reviewed. I compared writing styles, not just between the clutch fake reviews on my work, but across the board, and guess what? It appears to my eye that the author of the questionable reviews and the author of the original book, are one and the same!
Surely its immoral, and misleading, to post fake reviews of your own work under fictitious names? And even more so to then launch a malicious slander campaign against anyone who gives an honest opinion on it?
Now a word about that darn book…
It’s an anthology, containing over 100 (yes, 100) short stories, though calling them ‘stories’ is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. Some are little more than mini-rants with no tangible plot. I have been around the horror scene for a lot of years, in many different capacities, and I can honestly say that I have never heard of any of the contributors. Nor, despite a Google search, have I heard of a magazine mentioned in the media campaign (and credited as being the source for all these stories) that claims to be ‘the biggest horror magazine in the UK.’
What’s more, a handful of the stories contained in the anthology are credited to the same guy, who also happens to be the ‘editor.’ All the stories are written in the same style and with the same tone, a style and tone which fits the negative reviews posted in the smear campaign quite nicely. I could be wrong, but this all leads me to strongly suspect that the same person is responsible for the whole she-bang.
I dug some more… This dude, allegedly, went missing in 2010 after moving into a haunted house in a UFO hot spot (how unlucky is that?), which begs the question, why did we never hear anything about him before this anthology? Which, incidentally, was first published in 2011, long after he supposedly went missing.
It is my opinion that the only thing this guy disappeared from is reality. Suffering the weight of an expensive, and ultimately unsuccessful marketing campaign, he now occupies his time writing fake reviews of his own work.
But what can you do?
I informed Amazon customer service, who asked for additional information and told me they would look into the matter. I trust they will do the right thing and take the offending reviews down. But that doesn’t change the fact that anyone who happens to look at any of my books between now and then will be met with some very harsh words written about me!
The moral of this story is…
Beware the trolls.
To find out more about Christian’s writing visit http://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/
Christian, it will be a miracle if Amazon do anything. I'd love to hear in this forum whether they do, or not.
Amazon's “reader review” process is fatally poisoned by this sort of behaviour (and of course there are worse examples). There are tens of thousands of “five star reviews” that are obviously fake and the fact that rarely published authors revel in getting a “five star review” (often from a friend) does not help.
My view is that sophisticated readers rarely take note of these Amazon reviews any more and are moving to reliable and trusted review sites for their feedback (and of course the “editorial reviews” on Amazon).
I suspect at some point Amazon will move to eliminating this aspect of the site.
Thanks for your comment, Roocky. Actually, I have some good news! Amazon kindly removed the offending reviews for 'breaching user guidelines.' They also removed my original review, though. Troll neautralized, justice restored!
Rocky, sorry. Not 'Roocky.' I'm having an 'off day' at the keys today!
Good to hear it all turned out all right in the end Christian.