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text 2018-03-08 13:42
Another Bad Review "Club"

After seeing an author recommend "Reader's Favorite" to other authors as an inexpensive alternative to Kirkus for editorial reviews it set off warning bells for me when she also mentioned she'd gotten some reviews posted to Amazon from it.

 

So, of course I decided to check it out.  Here's how it works for authors:

 

Authors can request a free review, or pay a fee for an "expedited" review.  The author's book is submitted for member readers to chose to read - I'll get to how it works on the reader's side further on.

 

The free service doesn't guarantee the author will get a review, the paid service does guarantee a review.

 

The review will be provided to the author and they can post the review in the "editorial review" section of Amazon if they want. If the review is at least 4 stars Reader's Favorite will also post the review to their site, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

 

I haven't (yet) verified if they're posting to Barnes & Noble as a consumer, but if not so far this is no problem.

 

However if you keep reading in the author area you see at least one glaring red flag.  They facilitate author review swapping:

 

 

Which we know, and authors should know, violates TOS for sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and I presume Barnes & Noble, and probably everywhere else that allows consumer reviews.

 

I also strongly feel that any author considering doing business with a company like this should not simply look at the author information, but also the reader information, and ensure the service is in complete compliance of various TOS as well as FTC regulations, prior to doing business with them.  The authors I warned about this were distressingly unconcerned about anything other than the fact that they didn't feel they personally were violating any TOS by requesting reviews by this outfit.  Nevermind the rest of how this site functions, and how those reviews are posted that do violate various TOS.

 

Which takes us to the Reader's side.  What do readers get and what are they expected to do?

 

There are some stipulations I find bothersome, but don't violate TOS, so I won't detail those here.

 

Firstly, they are required to provide a review for a book they choose to accept within 3 weeks.  But then it goes on to say if they need more time that's not a problem, and if they decide not to review a book they can just remove the book from their list.  So, that's a bit confusing.  I'll point out that requiring a review in exchange for a free book violates Amazon and GoodReads TOS.

 

However, if these reviews were simply being used as editorial reviews, this still wouldn't be a problem.  So, hang in here with me.  Moving on...

 

RF tells readers, "We will post your review on Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest, as well as on our website. The author can post the review in the Editorial Reviews section of their Amazon page. You can post your review anywhere you like except Amazon, Google Books and Barnes & Noble because your review will already be posted there."

 

This is problematic. They cannot post the review anywhere they like, because their reviews will violate GoodReads TOS, and probably TOS of other retailers. They cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews. They can only post them as professional reviews where professional reviews are allowed, such as their own blog or their Facebook, etc.

 

Additionally I know for a fact that these reviewers do still post their reviews as consumer reviews on Amazon, at least sometimes.  Here's why:

 

"Although this is primarily a volunteer position, we also pay a small amount for each review and a little more for priority reviews. But this money is not enough to be considered payment for your services and should instead be thought of as a gift that can add up to a tidy sum over a couple of months. In addition, every month one lucky reviewer will win $100 in a raffle-style giveaway."

 

Not only are authors paying Reader's Favorite, but the reviewers are being paid per review.  They're also being entered into a cash drawing.  THIS means their reviews cannot be posted as consumer reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, and if/when they are they are violating TOS.

 

 

And, a chance to win free books.  Also means posting these reviews as a consumer review would violate TOS:

 

 

 

 

And, it gets worse.  Reader's Favorite only publishing a review if it's a least 4 stars is one thing, since presumably they're doing it as editorial/professional reviews. On the reader side I saw no stipulation that they could not post a less than 4 star review wherever they choose to post the review.  Although from information provided on the author's side, which you'll see below, it strongly suggests that member readers will be advised not to post a less-than-4-star review publicly, possibly in verbiage not visible until/unless one is a member.

 

However, Reader's Favorite does allow authors to "review the review", and "provide feedback" so the reviewer can "improve".  Which is problematic, when these reviewers are not specifically and firmly advised they cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews.

 

The information about this provided to authors is even more problematic:

 

"If a book receives less than 4 stars no official review is given. Instead, the reviewer will write constructive criticism to let the author know what problems they had with the book and offer any suggestions they may have to improve it. This will be about the size of a regular review and will be sent to the author privately; it will not be posted publicly. We are here to help authors, not hurt them.

Although we as a company do not interfere with what rating a reviewer gives a book, as the rating must be what the reviewer feels is appropriate, we do monitor the average ratings of our reviewers to ensure they are being fair and honest about their ratings to maintain the integrity of our reviews."

 

"Because it is critical that reviewers provide quality reviews, we invite you to Review your Reviewer. When your review is complete, you will be able to login to your Author's Area and rate your reviewer on a 5-star scale and provide a short review, just as they did for you. Your feedback is presented to the reviewer to help them improve their skills, the same way book reviews help authors improve theirs. The information is also passed to the Readers' Favorite staff to help us ensure the quality of our reviewers and reviews."

 

A lot of red flags there, this careful language suggests that reviewers will be monitored and rewarded/penalized if the "quality" of their reviews is not considered "fair", by the company, which I don't think it's unreasonable to consider it likely to mean keeping their overall rating/review average high, to keep authors happy.

 

And even more problems - an author I was talking to about this quoted information from their site that I have been unable to locate, it's possible it's visible only to those that have accounts in a member's area.  This is what she posted and said was from their site:

 

"Goodreads also has restrictions regarding reviews posted by professional review companies, so we ask our reviewers to use their personal Goodreads account to post your review. If you do not see our review on your Goodreads page then the reviewer does not have a Goodreads account. However, you can post the review yourself. You can either post an excerpt of your review in your book's description or you can post our complete review like any other reader's review. Be sure to keep the first line showing the review is from us, then it makes no difference who actually posts it."

 

Those of you familiar with GR will see how this is problematic.  Sure, if an author quotes a professional review in their own review space with the designation "Review From Author", GoodReads might let that fly, although it definitely still is a violation of TOS and should only be posted in areas where promotional information is allowed, not a review.

 

The statement also doesn't specify this definitely would not be acceptable for non-authors.  GoodReads doesn't allow people to post professional reviews as long as they do so from their personal accounts, or as long as they credit where the review is from.  GoodReads doesn't allow commercial/professional reviews to be posted as reader reviews, at all.

 

 

Unfortunately this service is attractive to indie authors who think editorial reviews are important, and the cost of Kirkus is prohibitive, or the review they received from Kirkus was not suitable for promotional purposes. The authors I spoke to who used this service hadn't even bothered to look at the reader side of things, although did admit to being pleased they'd received reviews posted to Amazon as consumer reviews.

 

In my opinion this service is very close to the scam the coupon clubs had been running, convincing the unwary they were in compliance with Amazon TOS when they were very much not.  And I wanted to warn other readers about this particular service, what it's doing, why it's a problem. I also think it's a safe bet there are many others like it out there.

 

 

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text 2018-03-06 02:01
Stupid Beyond Help

So, an author posted this somewhere in the bowels of GoodReads yesterday:

 

"I feel the same. Amazon is extremely controlling about who can post a review. A very good friend of mine bought a paperback copy and has tried posting her review multiple times, but Amazon keeps booting it off. For some reason they think she's not a verified purchaser so they won't allow the review to post. And good luck on trying to contact them. You'd have better luck trying to get a sunburn on Antarctica than to get anyone to understand what you're trying to ask them."

 
So, I took a deep breath and responded:
 
'Amazon doesn't require people to be verified purchasers in order to post reviews. So that is not the reason her review is not being allowed to be posted.

They do not allow friends and family of an author to post reviews, for reasons I think are pretty obvious. That would be why her review is not being allowed to be posted.

I do not consider this prohibition by Amazon "extremely controlling" in the least. I consider it reasonable, understandable, and I'm quite thankful for it.'
 
I also posted this:
 
 
Her response today? You're all gonna love this:
 
"Amazon has no idea she's my friend, and yes, they do only post verified purchases. They don't care if it's your friend, grandmother, aunt or a perfect stranger as long as their system verifies the purchase was made with a credit card bearing the same name."
 
Sigh.

 

And in another conversation a different author stated this:

 

"For perspective, I am aware of many many indy authors who solicit almost all their reviews from relatives and Facebook friends. That's far more misleading than an RF reviewer posting one review. All this appears to be somewhat the nature of self-publishing for better or worse."

 

Believe me, there are still many authors out there thinking like this.  Thankfully they're mostly very small potatoes, but they're all chatting each other up about how this sort of thing is perfectly fine, and there are more out there than you may see.  Of course thankfully they're still a minority, or at least only a minority is dumb enough to say things like this in public.

 

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text 2018-02-11 22:58
Vidal Update: Feb 11, 2018

Update posted to the end of her Trolls & Negative Reviews blog post:

 

Please note: Only one of the people shown in these screenshots is known to be a teacher.  I am not.  Although Ms. M. has been, she also is not.

 

Her utter lack of self-awareness when accusing others of indulging "in behavior worthy of high school bullies" and "acting in such a juvenile manner" is almost deliciously ironic, and flagrantly hypocritical.

 

She's the bully crying "victim" when her targets refuse to be intimidated.  She is the one functioning in a professional capacity gleefully spewing unprofessional garbage on her author's blog, and author's Facebook page.

 

Add this to the list of things Ms. Vidal is apparently unaware of: Readers have more of an interest than simply "merits or demerits of the books."  Authors targeting and harassing readers over negative book reviews is an interest to readers and is a valid consumer issue.  YES, readers are going to take note and share with each other about authors that target readers and attempt to intimidate them into removing reviews.

 

The first two screenshots are of Ms. M.'s reviews and the comments on those reviews (minus those that were deleted for GR TOS violations).

 

First link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/Bq1A2Bb8UqMwbHAO/www.goodreads.com

Second link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/DxNbjaezlqsj7mNB/www.goodreads.com

 

The third link is to a "Discussion" of one of her books. What she fails to mention is that this "Discussion" that is not about the "merits or demerits of the book" was started by one of her supporters, using the name "Soraya". At the time of this screenshot the original post had already been deleted by GoodReads, and the poster had been booted from GoodReads.

 

Therefore the posts that remain are in response to the original post started by one of her supporters. 

 

I don't have a screenshot of that OP, but I do have the text:

 

"It is shameful how Mrs. Vidal has been treated by certain trolls on Goodreads and Amazon. Read about it here: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2017.."

 

Here's the link to her screenshot: https://screenshots.firefox.com/JLDvvI7tR2uVzJpm/www.goodreads.com

 

In the comments of her blog, Ms. Vidal seems to think a lot of hits to this blog post is a good thing.  She's apparently unaware of how many are checking it out to verify she's really posted the awful things that have been reported, and wait with their popcorn handy for the next bat shit crazy thing she comes up with (good idea to use Proxy Servers when visiting folks!).

 

She reports 1638 hits to date, and yet has only a handful willing to post in support on her blog and/or on her Facebook page.  Although she also mirrors over on Twitter, and has over 1,000 followers there, she's getting 0 responses, retweets, or likes.

 

I'm not sure those high numbers are in your favor, Vidal.

 

 

 

She also cross posted this to her Facebook page:

 

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text 2018-02-11 00:41
Another Author Joins in the Fun

Posted in the Comments to Ms. Vidal's blog post:

 

 

Ms. Vidal also reposted this on her Facebook Page. As did Ms.Lewis. So, it's on the FB page twice.

 

 

Ms. Lewis happens to be a GR Author.

 

"Basically, I'm going to show them your profs behavior as an example of how not to behave when you get online when you enter the professional world."

 

It is Ms. Vidal who is acting here in her professional capacity as an author, regarding her books.  Not the reviewers she's targeted.  Rather they are acting as consumers, using screen names.The use of screen names, rather than their professional names, as well as the fact that they are writing Consumer Reviews - which are NOT allowed to be professional reviews - is proof these reviewers are not posting reviews in any official, professional, capacity, nor speaking on behalf of their employers.  Rather they are clearly and obviously posting their personal opinions, as private and personal individuals. Which they have every right to do as consumers, and consumers are under no obligation whatsoever to be "professional" when doing so.

 

The one who is behaving in the "professional world" here is Ms. Vidal.  She is the one speaking under her author pseudonym, on her author's blog, and her authors Facebook Page, regarding her products and her displeasure regarding some of the reviews of those products.  She is acting in a professional capacity here, and her actions are decidedly unprofessional.

 

It's Ms. Vidal who began this campaign of harassment, and it's Ms. Vidal whose professional behavior is frankly abysmal.

 

If Ms. Lewis knew anything whatsoever about "the professional world", she'd know who was acting in a professional capacity here, who was not, and she'd know it is Ms. Vidal who is the example of "how not to behave when you get online when you enter the professional world."  She's trashing her professional reputation, she's already disgraced herself on GoodReads and has been unceremoniously booted from that service.  And she has readers all over shaking their heads at her bone-headed stupidity.

 

What she should be saying, if she brings this issue up at all with her students, is "When you write and publish a book, and you get a book review that makes you upset, remember you're a business, you are your brand, and what you do effects your business.  These are readers, they're consumers.  They have the right to their opinions and to express those opinions.  Do not respond unprofessionally, as Ms. Vidal has done.  She's even gotten herself kicked off GoodReads for harassing readers.  Don't do this sort of thing when you enter the professional world and function online as an author."

 

Apparently Ms. Lewis is yet another author who doesn't understand anything about the "professional" side of being an author.

I'm disgusted by this message of Ms. Lewis' in a variety of ways, but particularly because this "English teacher" apparently doesn't support honest consumer reviews.

Now, I'm all for consumers being free to complain and boycott for whatever reason they please, which is the standing Ms. Lewis is attempting to cloak herself in here, but when doing so in order to attempt to silence another consumer over valid consumer opinion, and repeating lies and innuendo in order to attempt to cause him harm, when he was not acting in a position of representing his employer, it absolutely sickens me.

The hypocrisy and total lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling:

"But when the staff of a Catholic institution is amused when their peer *actively* tries to destroy an author's reputation and minuscule livelihood, regardless of whether she deserves it or not, I must admit this is not a Catholic school I would recommend to my dog."

 

The only person actively destroying Ms.Vidal's reputation is Ms. Vidal herself.  If this effects her "minuscule livelihood" she has only herself to blame.  Just because she apparently doesn't have the common sense God gave a horsefly, doesn't mean it's not hypocritical of both these ladies (using the term loosely) to do the very thing they're accusing another of doing.

 

Ms. Vidal also obviously does not understand the first thing about running a business - including branding, public relations, professional image and reputation, consumer rights, etc.  As much as she, and her pals, complain about  her "livelihood" and her "reputation" she's utterly clueless as to how to function in her capacity as a consumer product producer in order to benefit and protect either one.

 

Allow me to point out the obvious. Hypocritical behavior is a sin. The founder of the faith had quite a lot to say about religious hypocrites, and none of it good.  Bearing false witness is also a sin. Christians are commanded to forgive even their enemies.  I'm aware forgiveness doesn't require forgetting, nor does it require pardon for societal or legal repercussions. However it absolutely does prohibit retribution and revenge.

 

These ladies may be Catholic, but I don't for one second believe they're Christians. I'm well aware Christians are as fallible as anyone else, but Ms. Vidal is clearly not even making an attempt, but rather flaunts the tenets with apparent wanton abandon.

 

Frankly I think parents should be concerned that this anti-consumer attitude is coming from someone teaching their children English in High School. I'd also think they'd be concerned that Ms. Lewis apparently wants to teach them that lying, intimidation, and seeking revenge are acceptable methods of obtaining your goals. Her example of "how to behave when you get online when you enter the professional world." Hopefully those kids are smarter than Ms. Lewis gives them credit for, or this might be a incubator for future BBAs. 

 

I was able to determine who employs Ms. Lewis in about two minutes.  She should be very, very glad I have superior ethics to Ms. Vidal.  Because frankly, I find the fact that this woman is teaching young people, particularly in English where many of them may become writers and authors themselves, to be extremely concerning.

I need to throw up.

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