Honest Reviews


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.

8 thoughts on “Honest Reviews

  1. Yes, if it is clearly a memoire type of book, the writer does leave themselves open to potential action for libel, defamation of character, etc, if they are not very careful. And as for those reviews again, I know myself well enough to know that I would hate to post a bad review for anyone, I would rather not review the book. That’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is embarrassing. I don’t know why I don’t proofread these posts, esp. knowing that I am not a typist & often hit the wrong key!
    Sorry for the typos! Anyway, you probably guessed that I meant to say “FOE,” not “for.” And I hit the wrong key again and had to correct it.
    From today on, I promise to proofread EVERYTHING! Hopefully I will stop having these issues. I like the old PCs that just put a red squiggly line under the misspelling so I could check it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sherrie. A lot in there to digest!

      I like your idea re. Goodreads and Amazon. In my case, I could copy the review out of Goodreads and paste it onto the Amazon site. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before. The reason I only review on Goodreads (and that only very occasionally at the moment) is simply one of time. I have put up a couple of reviews on Amazon, but they were honest reviews for writing friends.

      As for your ex-friend writing a novel about experiences which are true, I don’t suppose that is too far from what we all do – we take characters and situations and other things from real life and put them into our stories; I suppose the problem here is two-fold – firstly, we tend to mix and match, rather than write the whole situation from beginning to end, and the second is that if we borrow from people we know, we do our damndest to make sure that no one recognises them (unless, of course, it’s a deliberate hatchet job).

      When I publish my book, I don’t intend to offer to exchange-review books, because I feel, as you have, that if I don’t think much of the one that I have to review, I will feel uncomfortable saying so.

      Best wishes,


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I usually post my reviews first on my blog, Mick. I then use the same review on Goodreads, which is such a good site for informing readers, and then to Amazon.co.uk and .com. It involves so little time, once the review is written. I also ensure that the reviews are shared to sites like FB, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and LinkedIn, so the writer gets the maximum publicity.
        Re Sherrie’s friend’s ‘novel’ that is actually a memoire: It’s true that much fiction is based in fact. But most writers have the common sense and decency to disguise their characters so that they are not easily identified, unless, of course they either have their friends’ permission, or they wish to make public praise of an individual. Fictionalising a piece that is actually no more than a record of real events is dangerous if anything can be seen as detrimental to the real characters portrayed as it leaves the writer open to a libel action, which can be very costly.
        For writers, the process of reviewing is more open to problems than it is for readers. We can become subject to other writers who pose as trolls to cause us embarrassment or trouble in the form of vitriolic and untrue reviews of our work if we write an honest and accurate review of a bad book. It’s a difficult balancing act, but I believe we owe honesty to our readers.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I went and looked at their site, Stuart, although I only review books on Goodreads, at present (and that rather sporadically). It is an honour system and I wonder what will happen if it turns out that a few reviewers are abusing it and not being forced to take down the badge; they state that ‘We won’t take action against someone unless there is significant reason to believe we should’, which suggests that there could be significant grey area in practice. I’m not trying to pour cold water on the project, I hasten to add. I really like the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I view it as a ‘step in the right direction’ Mick. The more of us there are involved, the more likely it is that the cheats and fraudsters will be ‘outed’. It’s in its early stages at present but the more support it receives, the more good it will be able to do. I hope!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Mick,
      If you are only reviewing on Goodreads, could I make a suggestion? I actually post the review first, on Amazon, then copy and paste it on Goodreads, then, lately, I have started posting it on my blog.
      I am doing this, in part, in the hopes that it will spur people on, to write a review for my debut novel. I have had about fifty people tell me how much they loved my novel, yet very few of them have written a review.
      Of course, I also still give an honest review too. Which brings me to another dilemma. Someone from the town I live in, wrote a “novel” about his adventures with “a friend.” Well, the friend is someone I know and he certainly is a character! But, this really is more of a memoir about his adventures with his friend that he no longer speaks to.
      To make a long story short, it’s look more and more like there is no story arc and I’m pretty sure there will be no character arc as this friend (who has since become the author’s for) seems to be exactly the same now as he was when this book was written.
      So, the problem is an unusual one, for sure. At least, I imagine it is. How many people claim to be writing fiction when they are actually writing the true story of their life with a wild & crazy best friend?! Not may, I hope.
      I tend to be of the school of thought: “If you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say anything.”
      The moral of the story is: Even if you truly are exchanging an honest review, things could get very sticky. I did all this because this was ONE of those who said they loved my novel! I knew the guy was a good writer, but I have no idea he would tell a story verbatim to the truth. I can actually hear my friend’s voice with his very unusual speech and saying and words that no one else uses.
      I have learned a great lesson and will be very careful about offering to read someone else’s book even if they have read mine and verbally said they truly thought it was great writing.
      Let’s face it: There aren’t too many Stuart Akens in the world. Stuart’s review is so great and honest that I am using parts of it to help sell the book.
      Thanks to all of you who write honest reviews! It’s not always easy to do!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for the comment, Sherrie.
        Regarding your friend’s ‘novel’, which seems to be a form of revenge, it might be worth pointing out to the writer that the character is so easily recognised that a lawsuit could be possible for libel. That way, you’re helping the writer whilst avoiding the embarrassment of reviewing something you find difficult to publicly condone.
        I made the mistake, some time ago, of offering a review for a fellow writer. The book turned out to be very poor. Bad writing, no real story, many grammatical errors. In fact, it was so bad that it deserved a 1 star review at best! I sent a private email to the writer and didn’t write the review. These days, I write reviews only for those books I choose to read, and frequently turn down requests from authors to review their books. I don’t do ‘exchange’ reviews because of the dangers your experience highlights. I do accept requests from publishers, since these are books that have undergone some sort of professional editing and are therefore likely to be at least well presented.


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