I had a recent conversation with a new author who said a friend posted a phony 5-star review of their book, without even reading it, and the author wasn't sure if they should ask the friend to remove it.
It is true that SOME readers check out reviews to get an idea as to whether or not to buy a certain book. They check the rating, from 1 to 5-stars, considering what others have to say before making a buying decision. Authors need reviews to help them sell books, and we hope that most of the reviews, if not all of them will be favorable (which is rare) - though it is true that you can't please everyone. Realistically, a fair share of the reviews will be less than 5-stars.
What happens when an author has tens or hundreds of reviews that are all 5-stars? Sometimes books are reviewed by paid reviewers, or by author friends and family, or by people who didn't actually read the book but they like the author so they write a positive review as a favor. What that does is set the tone for the book being a very good read, and then when the buyer reads it, they might find that for them it was nothing like all of the rave reviews. The reader might get so frustrated in feeling duped that even if they thought it deserved 3-stars, they could end up giving it 1-star, with a commentary about how they can't figure out what all of the 5-star reviews were about (which isn't right but it does happen - obviously reviews are subjective).
Some write reviews by only paraphrasing the back cover copy, others are generic and complimentary of the author, but give few actual details about the plot, their favorite characters and why they like them, or they don't take time to quote a line from the book, or tell how the book made them feel.
There are some reviewers (solo reviewers, not those who have a group of readers working for them) who read 3+ books a day - these are the speed-readers who review for a living. Some reviewers aren't paid but they request several book copies. Reviews are very important though most authors are noticing that readers aren't posting reviews as often as they did before ebooks, so they are being more creative in finding ways to get reviews, some offering book giveaways with the only stipulation being that the reader posts a review, though most don't.
I don't think fake reviews help anyone, the author or the prospective reader. Having one review or one-hundred, it's better to have honest and real feedback as opposed to false impressions, right? We'd at least know that 2 people out of 10 shared honestly that they didn't particularly enjoy our work, rather than having 10 out of 10 5-star reviews yet knowing two of them were fake.
What's your opinion on fake reviews? Have you noticed more or fewer reviews of your books overall? Have you noticed a title lately where you thought to yourself that the reviews were probably fake?