Do you write reviews? Do you read them; perhaps use them for some idea of whether a particular book is for you? It’s certainly the case that reviews are an essential element for indie writers to get their books noticed. So, as with all matters commercial, an element of fraud and cheating has entered the world of book reviews (along with reviews for almost everything you can buy, of course).
A number of bad practices are becoming more and more common. There are the ‘sock puppets’; those authors who invent spurious identities and then use these to promote their own work through reviews (always 5 star, of course!). There are those who pay organisations to write good reviews for them; not to be confused with those genuine organisations that charge a fee but still write an honest review. There are those who form author groups in order to promote the works of the group by posting positive reviews. Again, these shouldn’t be confused with those writers who review books written by authors they happen to know and whose work they admire. And, of course, as is always the case with online activity, there are those cowardly morons who hide behind anonymity in order to badmouth authors of whom they are jealous.
All this activity makes it difficult for readers to determine whether a review is honest or not, of course. It also makes it difficult for honest authors to obtain the benefit of genuine reviews as a means to spread the word about their work.
But there is a solution. It’s not perfect, but it goes a long way to making it likely that reviews are actually honest and genuine. The organisation is called True Review Pledge and has been set up to make it more difficult for people to post false or deliberately misleading reviews of books. I’ve joined it today, signed the pledge, as I always review honestly. In the past, as a writer myself, I’ve avoided giving adverse reviews by simply not reviewing bad books. But I see that this could also be considered a form of dishonesty. We owe it to readers to let them know exactly what it is they’re buying. So, from now, I will always review every book I read and, if that means a 1 star job, so be it.
Of course, honest reviews may only reflect the opinion of the reviewer, and the reviewed book may well appeal to readers with different tastes. But a good selection of honest reviews will make it clear where the problem is one of quality rather than of taste.
You’ll find my True Review Pledge badge on the sidebar. It’s a mark of honesty for reviews. If you’re a reviewer, I suggest you join the organisation, take the pledge, and swell the ranks of honest reviewers to counteract the cheats and liars. And, if you’re a reader who relies on reviews, check out those who’ve signed the pledge; you’ll find their reviews are honest.