- There are readers/reviewers who write 'reviews' of books they have obviously not read. The one-star review with the succinct "This book is trash" comment is typical of this group. These 'reviewers' tend to hide behind nicknames and profiles set to 'private'. Some of them post dozens, in one case, hundreds of reviews like this overnight, targeting specific authors. In the latter case, the reviews were taken down by the host, only to be reposted again and again by the 'reviewer'.
- Some make personal attacks on authors, publicly or via inbox messages and e-mail, referencing their private lives, their jobs and family members. These are the "I know where your children go to school" posse. (I'm not kidding.)
- Some of them are so persistent and well-known they have acquired nicknames among authors.
- Some attack on behalf of authors they like, attempting to reduce the appeal of authors they perceive as competitors.
- Some are out and out psychos, just tearing into certain authors for imagined transgressions. I was sceptical about the existence of this group but judging from some first-hand accounts, the crazies do exist and are not figments of authors' outsized imaginations.
How do authors upset readers/reviewers? We're not referring here to the gang-banging reviewers who decide, for example, that they hate romance novels, think romance novelists deserve to die, and randomly trash books by these authors, but ordinary folk who use the reviews to help them make informed buying choices. These people are just a tad upset by the rampant manipulation of the review tool by authors and the people they induce to help them accomplish this.
I was a reader long before I was a published author, and the manipulation of reviews by authors and their enablers is a pet peeve of mine. I have become adept at spotting reviews that are less than genuine. Many users of review sites are. I know readers who no longer read reviews because they are so disgusted with it all. I'm tempted to join their ranks.
I'm not trying to commit some form of authorial hara-kiri here. I'm writing about this because the practice angers readers and some readers are not content to grumble; they fight back, and boy, do they fight dirty. I know one author who caused a fire-storm on account of his false reviews, dirty spamming tricks and outright lies about his books. The readers, reviewers, bloggers and discussion groups hit back so hard the author had to take down his books from the online stores and delete his websites.
There are many who believe the state of affairs regarding book reviews and cyber-bullying has gone too far and the sites need to be nuked and started over from scratch. Less extreme methods just might help to control the worst of the ugliness:
- Authors can reduce the hostility all around by exercising restraint and ignoring negative feedback, as well as ceasing to manipulate their ratings by underhanded means.