Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Amazon reviews

Anyone who follows the bookish press will have read about concerns that reviews on Amazon are easily fixed. You get your best friend to write a five star review, and your next best friend, and then your auntie... by the time you have twisted a few arms a book that appears to have sold no copies whatsoever has a set of glowing five star reviews. Or the reverse, why not give a one star review to someone you don't like? It's not as if you need to prove you have read the book, and your reviews can be under pseudonyms. There was a fuss a couple of years ago about a history writer giving poor reviews to books by his colleagues, those he clearly saw as competitors. He was found out and it was all very embarrassing.
You can usually smell a rat and there is one Five Leaves book out there where I am pretty sure that a five star review was written by the author himself - I recognise his style - but I am too embarrassed to ask, though I am not sure if that is because I might be right or wrong.
But what can you do? David Belbin's Five Leaves book Love Lessons currently has 21 reviews. These range from three to five stars. Fair enough, some people did not like the book as much as others. But there is review with one star, and here it is (spelling as in original) - "IWhoever wrote this just copied the name of Jacqueline Wilson's book and as I have heard from the other reviews the whole story to !" Good point, JW, a fairly well-known author did publish a book called Love Lessons which - like David Belbin's is about a teacher/student relationship. But Belbin's book was first published in 1998 (republished by Five Leaves with a new afterword in 2009) whereas Wilson's book was first published in 2005, seven years after Belbin's book first appeared. Had the Amazon reviewer bothered to check she or he would have found this out immediately - the book's afterword makes the timing clear if nothing else does.
Well, I posted a comment - under my real name - in the hope that anyone digging deep might find the right story. And with a total of 21 reviews, mostly at the upper end, people might find the lone one star review strange. Except if that had been the first, or only review, what would people have thought?
I rather hope that the reviewer will take down her/his comment.
Mind you, a one star review can be useful. In another case, by another Five Leaves writer, where a reviewer clearly had read the book, her one star review stood out among the good reviews. In this case, however, though the book was clearly not to her taste, some of the comments she made were very useful in editing the storyline of a subsequent book by that writer. I think she'd have disliked the book anyway but her comments definitely led to some changes for the better in the second book. We owe her.

No comments: