Comments: 11
Another excellent piece of sleuthing. After your recent experience wih Rivka on Goodreads I hesite to even ask, but are Amazon, GR and B&N (for starters) aware of this incarnation of a review ring? I wouldn't blame you in the least if you'd decided you're essentially done doing their legwork for them, but OTOH I'm disgusted enough with these arrangements to at least very much *wish* the target sites had this rammed under their noses in letters too big and glaring to ignore ...!
Right now I think GR is probably annoyed with me. I sent a not very happy email about Rivka, although I did tone down my degree of miffyness in it. And I sent a "fyi you missed one" report following up about an author rating/reviewing a book twice from two different accounts.

As far as reporting this, I probably will get around to advising Amazon. They *might* be interested enough to do their own investigation, as this is really, really close to all those scammy coupon clubs that caused them so much trouble they were forced to take action.

Typically though for either site to take action you have to provide actual proof of actual abuse, meaning I'd have to find a reviewer who I could prove was a member of this group, and prove they were posting a review of a book they'd gotten through this group. That'd be tough, even if I wanted to put in the time. And without that I don't think GR would do anything whatsoever. Amazon *might* though.

Amazon is hit and miss in any case. The review site I proved was selling reviews and posting those reviews on Amazon they've done NOTHING about, the only change is that that person has now changed their display name to an individual person's name from the name of their website/operation. So, it's no longer quite as obvious it's them, although it's still provable as the reviews match word for word those posted to that site. Amazon left that reviewer's account, he's still posting reviews, and none of the reviews were deleted. This is a proven, no question about it, paid for review outfit. And they've done nothing. I'm thinking about filing a complaint with the FTC, Debbie says that's not hard.

I'm also disgusted, and I hope anyone running into anything like this, or any reviews that clearly violate TOS, report them. The more reports they get the more likely they are to do something. And the more potential something has to get into the public eye, the more they're likely to care. I also encourage others to share this sort of thing with other readers (like I'm doing here), so we can all be aware, advised, and report as we see fit.
I'm not in the U.S., so I doubt the FTC would be happy to hear from me, but if neither AMZ nor GR has taken any action by this weekend I'll see what I can do to help (will be bogged down with RL / work-related things until then, unfortunately).

That being said, the FTC *should* be made to look into this sort of thing, too.
Thanks! I'm not sure the FTC would care that you're not in the US, the FTC regulations apply to Amazon because Amazon is in the US. I don't know if it'd matter where the reporting person was from. But, I've never reported something to the FTC, well, other than violations for the Do Not Call list. If I go that route I'll let you know what info they take for the reporter.

I appreciate the willingness to help. We need lots of people to put eyes on this sort of thing, report it, and make sure both Amazon and GR know we're watching and information about this sort of abuse does get out in the public sphere. Paying attention and spreading the word is good too. The more consumers aware of this sort of thing the better.

In this particular case, considering time vs likely return, I'd suggest just reporting this site to Amazon with the info I've gathered about what they're doing and a link to the site. As they do tell their readers to not post on Amazon I'm not sure they'd do anything unless we found an instance where we could prove they were doing so. But, worth giving them a heads up I think. I wouldn't spend more time with it than that though. GoodReads likely won't do anything unless, again, we can prove reviews/reviewers there that were tied to this site. In this case without more specific proof I wouldn't even bother with GR.
Debbie's Spurts 9 months ago
Goodreads knows about Reader's Favorites. Just flag a review saying it was a paid review from RF and no additional proof or explanation is needed. Or say it's duplicating a review in the Amazon editorial descriptions so clearly a paid review if fails to identify itself as RF review.

You showed goodreads review guidelines -- but also right up top of their TOS it flat out says "no commercial use." (click "terms" at bottom of goodreads pages or under their help menu to see).

Amazon unevenly applies their rules about free books -- always requiring they be disclosed, but odd in how they do or don't handle it with the exception of RF reviews. Those Amazon deletes.

Goodreads doesn't care one way or the other about a free book or even a free book requiring a review just so long as disclosing that plus any other conditions and connections. Some conditions would then make the review not allowed (like minimum star rating as a condition, service of getting reviews on your own book, etc.).

There was one weird blow up on goodreads when an author complained over a 6-year old relative's review getting unwanted comments -- rthen that author and tons of other authors and members weighed in aghast that goodreads deleted the account of an underage reviewer.
Great, thank you!
Oh, I've also provide a lot of detailed information, including screenshots of Amazon TOS, GR TOS and this site's info, in the thread where authors were talking about this site on GR. So, hopefully at least some authors will see it and even if they're scummy enough to not really care, perhaps they'll be warned off by my warnings about what can happen to their accounts on GR and Amazon if they get hooked up with this kind of thing.
Char's Horror Corner 9 months ago
Thanks for posting this and doing the legwork.
Very welcome Char! I mostly did it to educate a couple clueless authors, but since I found the info I wanted to make sure other readers knew about them.
Debbie's Spurts 9 months ago
I've posted about them repeatedly for years. I have a real issue with how many innocent newbie authors get sucked in because everything isn't clear -- early site marketing efforts really made it sound like just freely offering to get review copies into the hands of volunteer reviewers with lots of example reviews to show. I suspect threats of legal action by Amazon got them, for a time, to note that just on Amazon reviews had to go in editorial descriptions (now looks like naming more U.S. retailers).

RED FLAG TO AUTHORS using sites and groups to get reviews -- if amazon requires it be quoted in editorial descriptions, so will all U.S. retailers and book sites that have a separate editorial / paid / professional section separate from consumer reviews. And if no separate section, highly unlikely to allow the reviews at all (goodreads specifcally prohibits, if there's a reason Amazon puts it only in editorials that's sufficientreason for goodreads to prohibit as a commercial review). If a site says other sites allow per TOS or review guidelines, look for yourself and even consider contacting site staff to specifically ask if the group/sites interpretation is accurate.
"I've posted about them repeatedly for years. I have a real issue with how many innocent newbie authors get sucked in because everything isn't clear -"

Yup. I can see how authors who aren't very knowledgeable and don't do their homework could get sucked in, same for readers using them. One author I was talking to was doing the same thing I've seen coupon clubbers do, read the info on the site then blindly believe what they say about what they can and cannot do on Amazon, GR, etc. When their info was not correct.

" I suspect threats of legal action by Amazon got them, for a time, to note that just on Amazon reviews had to go in editorial descriptions (now looks like naming more U.S. retailers)."

Yup, I figured as much.

I advised these authors to always look at both the author's side information AND the reader's side information and familiarize themselves with TOS for sites like Amazon, GR, etc, and always independently ensure a company is in complete compliance before doing business with them.