Reviewers Behaving Badly

This post, by AJ, originally appeared on Apology To John Keats on 3/24/13.

I’ve become just as suspect as anyone about the legitimacy of reviews. With authors paying for reviews, begging for five stars and dressing up as consumers to write inflated reviews of their own books it’s hard to trust all five of those shiny stars. But what happens when those seeming “authors behaving badly” are actually reviewers doing it themselves? Can a gushy, happy, joy-joy 5-star review actually be more detrimental to an author than a 2-star one?

From some personal experience, some fellow author’s experiences and a little observation, here are some pitfalls authors may encounter even in honestly obtained reviews.


1. The Facebook Comment As Review

“Omg, my cousin totally wrote this book and it’s amazing! I don’t read at all, but I think everyone should buy this book because my cousin spent a lot of time and money on this and it’s so cool that I’m related an author! 5 stars for Brooke and her awesome accomplishment!”

Ok, fine, if you want to put something like this on your Facebook page, knock yourself out but for the love of literary kittens do not post it on a distributor like Amazon or B&N or a review site like goodreads. It makes the author look like they have been soliciting reviews. I have no doubt the author (poor made up Brooke in this case) did NOT ask for an overzealous cousin to post this, but sadly some excited friends and family members do. Unless you have read the book and have more of an opinion as to why it’s good besides knowing the author personally, keep things like this on Facebook, not on review sites.


2. The Skimmer Writes a Review

“This is a great time-travel piece. The characters find a magical creek and drink the water and are transported to the Civil War where they free slaves from an auction. I loved the narrator and her brother was so funny. 5 stars.”

Well, that’s great, but in the book, they go to the creek AFTER they get tossed back in time because it is the only natural landmark they have to go by. Then they find out they are in 1855 (the Pre-Civil War era) and a vigilante group of abolitionists plots to steal slaves from an auction. And the narrator doesn’t have a brother, that guy is just her friend, though the narrator does lie that he’s her brother so it doesn’t seem so improper they are traveling together for the time period.

See the difference? I’ve had authors mention people recounting events in their books that never happened or are so skewed they make the story seem, well, stupid. Especially in fantasy, horror, or sci-fi when oversimplification can make even great books sound lame, it is pretty darn important for reviewers to know what they read. I’ve seen many readers at the library claim to “love” books they’ve only skimmed. It happens. But don’t write an incomplete review. It makes the author look like they don’t know how to tell a story and consumers will think the 5-star rating is unjustified.


3. The Stalker


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