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url 2016-07-30 22:10
Post on "Bad Advice for Writers"

Funny article that includes such gems of bad advice as:

"There are only two types of reviews: the positive kind, and the kind where the reviewer didn’t understand the book. A bad review of your book is actually a cry for help!

 

Whenever you see a negative review that makes you say to yourself, “I should reach out to this person, perhaps in a borderline illegal fashion,” by all means do so. Find out where they live if you want! Show up on their doorstep and offer to politely explain how they simply failed to understand your novel. Make it clear that this is something they need to resolve within themselves and not a reflection on your work, and also that there’s no need whatsoever to call the police, so please put down the phone and stop crying."

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com/g-doucette/bad-advice-for-writers-na_b_6056388.html?fb_action_ids=901533933198035&fb_action_types=og.comments
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text 2015-04-19 23:28
Anne Rice wants to dox you!

Some of her followers are pretty scary.

Source: 38caliberreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/anne-rice-wants-to-dox-you
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text 2015-04-10 15:29
It boggles the mind: An update on arrogance, hypocrisy, and deceit

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/977093/when-arrogance-hypocrisy-and-deceit-all-come-together-in-one-place

 

Self-publishing author Sandy Nathan, who calls reviewers stupid and tells them how to review, who buys reviews and perhaps Amazon up-votes on fiverr, is a Vine Voice preferred reviewer on Amazon.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Prayers-Heart-Year-Old/product-reviews/1499632401/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_2?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=recent&reviewerType=all_reviews&formatType=all_formats&filterByStar=all_stars&pageNumber=

2

 

 

"Vine Voice" reviewers are selected by Amazon and invited into the program.  The invitation is based at least in part on the reviewer's ranking, especially on how "helpful" their reviews are.  At least that's what Amazon says; the actual process of selection remains . . . mysterious.

 

Amazon Vine invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers.  (http://www.amazon.com/gp/vine/help)

 

Since it's very possible Sandy Nathan was buying "helpful" votes from fiverr sellers, was she essentially buying her way into the Vine program?  (Nathan has, apparently, been a Vine Voice reviewer since 2012, so it's not likely she used fiverr votes to get into the program, but it's possible.)

 

That "Vine Voice" label, along with other marks of Amazon reviewer status such as numerical ranking, implies a certain stamp of approval by Amazon that the review and the reviewer are somehow a little more credible than the average "Kindle Customer" or other screen name chosen by the reviewer.  After all, "Vine Voice" reviewers are chosen by Amazon,  One can't apply to be a Vine Voice reviewer; there are no auditions.

 

Even if the review written isn't of a Vine product, the review still shows the reviewer's tag of "Vine Voice."

 

I found Sandy Nathan's above review quite by accident last night.  After the news of Amazon's lawsuit against a supplier of fake product reviews was announced a few days ago, I went to check on some of the fiverr reviewers I'd tagged months ago.  Many had been removed from Goodreads, but none, not a single one, had ever been removed from Amazon.  I wasn't the only person reporting them, but still, nothing happened.

 

So last night I just went to the Amazon.com page and keyed in the name of an author I knew had been buying fiverr reviews and who was himself a fiverr reviewer, Michael Beas.  You can see my Booklikes report on Mr. Beas's relationship with fiverr here.

 

The first of Mr. Beas's books to come up on Amazon was Reflections: Prayers from the heart of a 14 year old boy.  As I skimmed down through the reviews written for this book last summer and fall, I recognized a lot of the old familiar fiverr account names:  Chloe H, R. Coker, Stan Law (who bought lots and lots and lots of fiverr reviews).  I wasn't shocked to see Sandy Nathan's name, because I already knew she was affiliated with fiverr as a buyer of reviews and other stuff, and because I knew she wrote in a shall we say spiritual vein. 

 

What did surprise me, however, was that "Vine Voice" seal of Amazon approval attached to her name.

 

In the wake of the recent lawsuit filed by Amazon against a company that sold "fake" product reviews, there's been additional attention given to Amazon's own policies on reviewing.

 

Two specific policies appear to apply to the Sandy Nathan "Vine Voice" situation.  I'll address the second one first, since it's more relative to what I've already posted.

 

Paid Reviews – We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts.

The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. Reviews from the Amazon Vine program are already labeled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.

 

Reviews from the Amazon Vine program are designated by a green line (which I can't personally verify because I didn't take the time to go looking for a verified Vine Voice green lined review), but all reviews by a Vine Voicer receive that tag.  How many Amazon review readers are aware of the distinction?

 

Furthermore, however, if Amazon does not permit helpful votes to be purchased, what is their mechanism for verifying that?  How is anyone supposed to know that any given reviewer -- Vine Voice or not -- has achieved their ranking via legitimate votes or via purchased votes?

 

It should be noted, also, that fiverr.com has apparently cracked down somewhat on Gigs(r) openly offering such votes for sale, whether they are "like" votes on Facebook or Twitter or other sites, as they violate the Terms of Service on those sites.  No one has any way of knowing, of course, how many such votes anyone has already purchased.  Again, it is possible that Sandy Nathan purchased the votes that put her into the Vine Program and gave her reviews the added weight of credibility.

 

But there is another part of the Amazon review guidelines that applies to this situation.

  • Promotional Reviews – In order to preserve the integrity of Customer Reviews, we do not permit artists, authors, developers, manufacturers, publishers, sellers or vendors to write Customer Reviews for their own products or services, to post negative reviews on competing products or services, or to vote on the helpfulness of reviews. For the same reason, family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.

As an author, Sandy Nathan is not permitted by Amazon to post a negative review of a competing product.  Although Amazon used to specify that authors could not post negative reviews of other books in their own genre, the parameters were never spelled out.  Could an author of historical romances write negative reviews of contemporary romances?  Could an author of academic non-fiction write negative reviews of popular fiction? 

 

As a Vine Voice reviewer, however, Nathan is supposed to be scrupulously honest.  Well, we should all be at least reasonably honest, but for those bearing the Vine Voice tag, you would think a higher level of honesty on reviews was in order.  Of course it is quite possible that Sandy Nathan reviewed Michael Beas's because it's in the same sortof spiritual category that she writes in, but she's required by the Amazon guideline posted above to give a positive review . . . or none at all.  She can't, if she wants to abide by the review guidelines, be honest.  And yet honesty is required of Vine Voicers.

 

Amazon has filed suit against a supplier of paid, fake reviews.  It looks like maybe Amazon should either stop throwing stones from their own glass house, or sue themselves.

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text 2015-04-09 01:50
Amazon files suit against seller of fake reviews. (No, I'm not making this up.)

(Edited the title to better reflect the facts.)

 

http://www.geekwire.com/2015/amazon-files-first-ever-suit-over-fake-reviews-alleging-calif-man-sold-fraudulent-praise-for-products/

 

 

[snip]

 

Amazon has filed suit against the alleged operator of several sites that offer Amazon sellers the ability to purchase fake 4- and 5-star customer reviews of their products.

 

The suit, the first of its kind from the Seattle company, was filed in King County Superior Court against a California man, Jay Gentile, identified in Amazon’s filings as the operator of sites including buyazonreviews.com, buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com. The site also targets unidentified “John Does” also believed to be involved in the scheme.

 

The case is part of a broader effort by the company to crack down on fake reviews.

 

“While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon’s brand,” the suit says. “Amazon strictly prohibits any attempt to manipulate customer reviews and actively polices its website to remove false, misleading, and inauthentic reviews.

 

[end snip]

 

I don't have a gif for ROFLSHIAWMP.

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text 2014-08-02 21:05
I never ever expected it to be this bad

It began innocently enough, with the "purchase" of a Kindle freebie, Parris Afton Bonds' Dream Time.  I write historical romances, and Ms. Bonds is a contemporary of mine.  I'm not wealthy, and the book was offered free.  Why wouldn't I take it?

 

But the reviews seemed odd, both on Amazon and on Goodreads.  All 5-star, all posted at the same time.  The reviewers seemed to be reviewing the same books, and those books were wildly dissimilar.

 

I notified Goodreads Support of my suspicions, and several of the reviewers' accounts disappeared.  Apparently Goodreads confirmed my suspicions that these were not legitimate consumers' accounts.

 

Amazon did nothing.

 

Another Goodreads member spotted that the profile of one of the Amazon reviewers had a link to a fiverr account.  And that's when the Great Hunt began.

 

More and more and more Goodreads reviewers are being outed (quietly, very quietly) as paid reviewers.  They are nothing less than writers of commercial advertisements in the pay of the authors. 

 

When we turn on the TV or boot up the computer, we know we're going to see advertisements.  Some of us utilize software to block the ads, but we know they're there nonetheless.  Whether it's a banner across the top of BookLikes or a spot ad on any other site, we know that they are paid advertisements.

 

Paid advertisements are different from consumer reviews.  We know an advertisement is going to speak favorably about the product or service being advertised, because the purpose of the ad is to get us to buy the product or service.

 

That's why in the US it is illegal to disguise a commercial advertisement as consumer review.  That's why in the US it is illegal not to disclose that the reviewer has been compensated.  Consumers have the right, in the US, to know whether or not what they're reading is a commercial advertisement or a consumer review.

 

The task of identifying the commercial reviewers on Goodreads is almost never-ending.  Although most are connected with the fiverr "gig" site, some have turned up as independents.  One of those independents -- she runs her own media/PR firm -- was responsible for over 2,500 commercial ratings and reviews.

 

It's depressing and it's discouraging. 

 

One fiverr account just returned a few days ago in its fifth Goodreads incarnation. 

 

At least two fiverr users -- one a seller, one a buyer -- have come to my Booklikes blog to defend their actions.  Both have subsequently removed their posts. 

 

Other readers have joined me in the task. It's daunting. 

 

Today it led me to two places I wish I hadn't gone.

 

The first was the Goodreads profile page of a self-publishing author who has established a publishing company that only publishes her books.  There's nothing wrong with this, and it really isn't even particularly deceptive.  If you go to the publisher's website, you see that they only publish her titles.

 

What was disturbing, however, was that I identified this author through the name of her publisher because that publisher is a customer of fiverr.com.  And yes, I linked specific reviews to specific fiverr accounts.  The author is buying 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

 

But it got worse, much worse.

 

The author's blog, posted on her Goodreads profile page, was a several-pages-long (of the TL;DR variety) harangue on bad reviews.  Although ostensibly a guide to authors on how to recognize the different kinds of bad reviews, it comes across much more as a tirade against reviewers who dare to write any kind of bad review -- unless of course, it's the "good" kind of bad review that benefits the author.

 

This blogpost was published on Goodreads on 23 July 2014.  The author's books have 5-star reviews from confirmed fiverr sellers on Amazon, including Michael Beas, dated July 2014. 

 

And I can't go to her Goodreads page or even her personal blog and call her out for a lying sack of hypocrisy.

 

I was sick after that discovery.  Just plain sick.  And getting sicker.

 

I also learned that she's apparently using another outside -- that is, non-fiverr -- promotions company to write glowing reviews for her books on Goodreads.  The person writing those reviews  is also a Goodreads author, but she hasn't claimed her author account and blithely gives her own book 5-stars as if she is an independent reader.

 

The connections go on, and on, and on.  That author/publicist enlisted her mother -- who is also her business partner -- to write a 5-star review for her book on Amazon.

 

Do you begin to see how incestuous this all is?

 

I reported the author who hadn't claimed her author account, but I haven't reported the first author, the one who is buying reviews from fiverr and from PR firms and the dear goddess only knows who all else; and then after she's done that she has the unmitigated gall to chew out honest reviewers???????????????

 

What I found next was the frosting on the cupcake for the day.

 

I tracked down another fiverr seller to her Goodreads account and discovered that, like Michael Beas, she is also a Goodreads author.  I carefully documented all the evidence, put it in an email to Goodreads Support, and walked away from the computer.  To take a shower.

 

When I came back, the lid had started to blow off the other kind of fake review:  A gigantic circle jerk of mutually masturbating authors on Goodreads.  One of their members (pun most definitely intended) has decided to attack a reviewer.

 

And we can't say anything.

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