This post, by Penny C. Sansevieri, originally appeared on The Huffington Post Books blog.
We’ve always had a problem with “fake.” Whether it was a fake Kate Spade handbag or a knock-off clothing line, fake has always been a part of our culture. Most of this is made popular by the “don’t you want to have it, too?” mindset that often surrounds celebrities: “Get the dress Jennifer Aniston wore for only $200!” Most of us, however, can spot fake. Or, to help avoid litigation, many reputable companies offer knock-offs of celebrity Oscar gowns and what-not. Fake, however, is not limited to fashion anymore.
Now, fake and counterfeit has begun permeating the publishing industry. We’ve seen things like 35 Shades of Grey and other knock-off titles that seem to circumvent any legal challenges, but there’s a new challenge on the frontier, that of fake reviews. Do you believe reviews? A majority of us don’t, but more often than not we believed the consumer reviews. Not so much anymore, especially now when reviews can be bought, or in some cases, simply faked. The message seems to be: if you want to get noticed, you’d better be prepared to “fake it till you make it.” That’s a nice saying, in theory, but when you’re talking about polluting an Amazon page with a bunch of dummy reviews, that’s another story.
So, what’s an author to do? I’m sure as time wears on it will be tempting to buy into this but what happens when we do? We end up with a cluttered market packed with “I loved this!” and we’re left to wonder, did the person really love it and, even worse, did they even read it? We all want to be liked, or, rather, we want our work to be liked, but to what end?
Several years ago we were on a team retreat. At that time a savvy team member came to me and said, “We can’t put our stock in reviews, these folks are inundated with books to look over, we need to find other channels.” And so we did. Where we used to do review-centric programs (meaning that the success or failure of a marketing campaign depended on the number of reviews we got), we now offer campaigns that are balanced, and yes, we like to get reviews for our customers, but that’s not always the best way to grow your market. Here is perhaps a different set of ideas (and maybe a few you’ve heard before) about getting exposure and (if you’re lucky) getting reviews:
- Stay engaged: I see a lot of folks who aren’t engaged in the process or their reader. I’m not talking about running through your to-do list of marketing activities. I’m talking about staying engaged with your reader. Talking to them via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, whatever. Your reader is your end user, you want reviews to get to them, but in the absence of reviews, guess what? Your outreach to your reader will have a far greater impact on your market and your sales.