I haven’t posted much on here lately, which I’m hoping I will be able to correct in the not too distant future, but when I read this piece about fake book reviews thanks to a link from Tim Challies, I had to post something here about it.
It is, unfortunately, very easy for fake book reviews to be published online. It is also very easy for an author to set up a “book review blog” and review his or her own work, in addition to others in that genre. And I’m sure that there are some authors who view this as simply an extension of their social media strategy, just like setting up and maintaining a Facebook page or Twitter account. But pretending to be someone you aren’t is a colossally bad marketing strategy, and it saddens me that we would actually have to say that out loud. I would encourage everyone to look at all the reviews something gets online before making a decision to buy it; if there are a bunch of three star reviews, and one five star review, it’s a safe bet that the five star review is fake – it’s at least an outlier that shouldn’t really be factored into a buying decision. Read with discernment and a critical eye.
I’m usually pretty critical of reviews that do not mention anything bad about a book, even though I know I’ve written a few of those. I also like to look at other reviews the writer has written, just to see what they thought of other things (or to see if this is the only review someone has written, which can also be a giveaway). And I’m always critical of book reviews written by folks using obvious pseudonyms, until they’ve proven themselves trustworthy (for the record, Warren Kelly is, in fact, my real name).
Once upon a time, it was tough to be a book reviewer. You had to work for a newspaper or syndicate, you had to have some type of background, and you had to have some sort of credibility. The rise of new media on the Internet has changed that; electronic publishing allows anyone to be an author, and that same technology allows anyone to be a reviewer. It is up to the reader, unfortunately, to read reviews with discernment, being aware that things are not always as they seem to be.