26 August 2012 by Published in: Uncategorized 54 comments

The New York Times just ran an article about a review service where you could buy a slew of five star reviews for $100 and up.

Apparently the nice man who ran the business had a number of high profile customers, one of whom was John Locke, who engaged the service right as he was rocketing to startling celebrity in Nov of 2010.

Read the article. I commented on it. Locke defends his purchasing of the reviews. I won’t comment on that.


NEWS: Silver Justice was just spotlit as the by Abu Dhabi Woman.


My main takeaways are twofold. First, the article reads like a clever hatchet job on indie authors. The imbedded assumption is that if a book has a lot of five star reviews, they must be bogus. Because there’s no way the book could actually be good. The not-so-subtle agenda being pushed is that readers would be best disregarding the five star reviews as rigged or fake. You see, because some or a few indie authors are rigging the system, then all should be assumed to be crooks (a variation of the all women are whores, all men misogynists, all dogs bite, etc. etc. sweeping generalizations that are used to denigrate a group). Obviously this hurts indie authors, because the logical conclusion is that readers should assume all indie work is garbage with faked reviews. Which then leaves Trad Pub books, which aren’t discussed in the article at all.

Maybe I’m being overly defensive, but it seems like every few weeks another mainstream media outlet comes out with an article that denigrates indie authors. Now, far be it for me to generalize like the article does, but wouldn’t an industry that is losing business to upstart indies put the pressure on their friends at the Times and other mainstream media outlets to write something that paints all indie authors as suspect crooks? I mean, I’m certainly a crook, as are all my friends, but let’s not confuse the issue.

I smell rat all over this. Not because some shifty wanker started a pay for review business, nor because some name authors used it. But because it is a “when did you stop beating your wife” article. It has all the signs of a hatchet job. Selective filtering that focuses on only one segment. Advancing a fear, uncertainty and doubt agenda where an entire group is portrayed as larcenous. I don’t know, but it struck me as odd that there were no balancing examples where publishers trade favors with each other for positive blurbs, or any exploration of whether this is a solely indie phenomenon.

In my experience with the media, there is always an agenda. Always. This has been true for centuries. Mark Twain commented on it, as have countless other wags. So when I read an article that discusses how some prominent indie authors buy reviews to get visibility, I ask, “Who benefits by this being published, this way, now?”

My sense is that the takeaway, which is that indies will do anything to get ahead, and secondarily, that the review process can’t be trusted and thus should be ignored, serves only one group. Those that wish everyone buying $4 highly rated ebooks instead of $15 trad published ebooks would stop doing so and view all indie work as sub-standard garbage whose reviews are manufactured.

Am I being a trifle knee jerk here?

Needless to say it’s probably an ugly sign of the times when authors are buying hundreds of positive reviews. Mainly because I never got the contact info of the company that did it while they were in business, and got into the game too late to avail myself of them. Although I see some of the authors I check on will routinely have 10 five star reviews a day posted for their books, all of which tout their work, declare it to be brilliant, and say they can’t wait to buy the next installment. Perhaps there is an innocent explanation – although these are also some of the top selling names. All I can say is I’m missing out. Can someone send me the link of who I need to talk to about this? Jeez. Hurry up. Pappy needs some new shoes.

A load of positive reviews could mean they are all fakes. Alternatively, they could also mean that the book is really good. To throw all babies out with the bathwater is silly. Those subtly encouraging readers to do this are motivated not so much by altruism but by an agenda.

In the end, the work will carry the day. If a book sucks, the market will likely vote with its wallet. Then again, a lot of sucky products sell well, so maybe not. But I have to believe that you can’t base a career on bogus reviews. Nor should anyone dismiss all five star reviews as bogus. Some probably are. But many aren’t. To discard the review system, which is supposedly a meritocracy, in favor of only trusting reviews from “legit” sources (read big publishing house-related), is as stupid as assuming that all one star reviews are legit. You can go online and find folks advertising who will post a one star slam of your competitor. Why is that ignored? It clearly exists. I’ve certainly had some that smacked of that. Again, in my experience when a reporter is “Shocked, shocked I say” that there’s gambling going on, it’s because it’s in his best interests to ignore what is plainly obvious. “That would never happen” is not a substitute for critical thinking.

I think a better way of dealing with the ability to fake reviews or rig them is to read the excerpt on Amazon – the Look Inside. If the book sucks, move on. If it is well-written and compelling, buy the damned thing and have a nice life. Trying to paint any segment as being undesirable based on the actions of a few is a poor proposition and is the sign of an industry in trouble. The truth is that readers have proved they couldn’t care less who publishes a book. They care whether it sucks or not.

So don’t write books that suck, as some other indie author once counseled.

What do you think?

UPDATE: I will be offering a new service where I’ll read whatever drivel you churned out and declare it to be genius for $20. When I say read, I mean I’ll buy it (wink) and claim to have read it. Mostly I’ll skim the product description and using my patented review generator, create a compelling, believable review that declares you to be a rare talent. Example: “When I read XXX I knew I was witnessing the birth of an incredible story. What wasn’t as obvious until I got into the meat of it was that YYY is an author with a firm command of craft and an all-too-rare gift for writing. YYY will be on my automatic must-buy list from now on. I can’t wait for the sequel. A brilliant example of noteworthy authorship.” For only $20 you can have your name there.

I’ve been told that it’s fine, ethically. As long as I “read” it. Which I will. Wink wink. Fortunately I can read a whole novel in as long as it takes to type your name into the program and verify the paypal payment. And I won’t take work I don’t find irresistible. Of course I have an unusually broad palate and am not particularly discriminating. Cat memoirs, coming-of-age stories, fiction, sci-fi, vampires, dystopian wastelands, tech manuals, poetry, erotica, whatever. Doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a book, I’ve got the time to “read” it. And you’re not “paying” for a “review.” You’re making a donation to my tequila sampling fund. I would never accept payment for reviews. That would be against some rules, somewhere, I’m sure, not that I care that much…and it might “skirt” “ethical” lines – ha ha ha ha ha…whoooooohhh. Don’t worry about it. I’ll have some shyster gin up an agreement where it’s anything but paying for reviews. We’re golden.

If you want to be compared to Stephen King or John Grisham, or Jodi Picoult, whoever that is, that’s five bucks more. Just send me the author name and you’re his/her twin.

This is “a small part” of being successful, but a big part of my tequila budget, so please, don’t hold back. Your book deserves it. Hell, I deserve it. And I’m thirsty.

First 10 orders will get a free bonus 500 word blog expressing heartfelt empathy with a celebrity suffering from a hideous affliction (slight additional charge for Mickey Rourke, Snookie or Cher) guaranteed not to be a known pedophile as of the order date.

This is all legitimate marketing, folks. So dig deep. You owe it to yourself. And to me. Mostly me. It will be our little secret. Wink.



  1. Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Dear Russell,

    I had the same reaction. First of all, who is to say that all the people who have “paid” for reviews are indie authors, since many a mid-list author is left out there to fend for themselves by publishers, and no doubt some of them have decided that a number of good reviews on amazon will help them as well.

    Second, I do agree about the hidden, or not so hidden agenda, to disparage indies. I would be less suspicious if every time a celebrity got published the press would trot out the details of how much publishers give out to these non-writers in comparison to the paltry advances most newbies or even mid-listers get, or decried the “I will give you a blurb if you give me a blurb” habit that everyone accepts is part of traditional publishing, or had informative pieces on what percentage of reviews of books by women are done in comparison to men, etc.

    But I must admit that the more these pieces come out, the more obvious it is how frightened the industry and traditional writers are of the changes. If only they would move past the fear into acceptance! But then they might actually do a better job of selling their authors books and give us indies more competition.

    M. Louisa Locke

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Yeah, my BS alarm went off the more I read. The message was echoed in some of the comments, a la “Indie books are crap, I skip them entirely” and “No wonder they have to pay for reviews, they suck” and so on.

      My thought is that very few who are buying indie books care about or read the NY Times, which is typically understood to be a mouthpiece for whatever spin the NY industries are trying to put on any given topic. Given that the big publishing houses are located in NY and rub shoulders with the media, is it so surprising that there may be a bias in anything it publishes?

      I seem to recall that Locke had a flattering article in that same sterling paper about a year ago touting his success. My how the times they are a changing. It’s also interesting to me that he left the “Buy hundreds of reviews” out of his how to book on how to succeed in self-publishing. Seems like that might have played a larger part in his meteoric rise than his twitter strategy or heartfelt blog, but what do I know?

      Why does it seem like whenever we see a big success, there’s usually something ugly lurking below the surface? Makes one think the world’s not a fair place at times…

  2. yoon
    Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I think it’s a crying shame that this post is again not about puppies and kittens as promised. That’s what I think.

    As for the review thing, I mean, I could have charged you for them reviews??? Damn you.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Well, some of the reviewers might well have been puppies or kittens, and certainly some of the books could have been about them, so in a virtual sense it’s entirely possible that this entire blog is an oblique one about our beloved little furry friends. A shame there’s nothing new I have to contribute on the cute kitty or lovable puppy front. If I had news or something topical, I would so be all over that.

      The problem is really not so much that I would have paid as it is that I have no money due to my drinking it, paying for companions, boats and fast cars, and wasting the rest.

      • yoon  –  Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 7:51 pm

        Yes, you do have something to contribute to lovable puppy front. You have 3 dogs. You just take pictures of them and post it with “Awww” and then I comment with “Awww” and we live happily ever after. Nothing to it.

        Did you know your comment on that article is one of NYT comment picks?

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 8:36 pm

          It is? What does that mean? Am I going to be targeted for execution or something? There’s a line for that…

          I see what you mean about the posting of cute puppy picks. It’s tempting. And I’ll pander if I think it will do anything to further my, ahem, career…

  3. Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I loved your commentary much more than the original post and share your suspicions of an agenda. The Dump on Indie campaign will continue like many other campaigns protecting the status quo: until it’s taken for granted. (Warning: Do not hold breath.) As for Locke’s meteoric rise, he does say he’d be glad of any review, even if paid for, and didn’t insist they all be five stars.

    I’m sympathetic to Locke’s defence because, with typical results, even people who enjoy my books don’t necessarily leap to review them. Getting reviews is crazy difficult, even from the enthused. I read an example of this recently where someone observed that it only *appears* that JK Rowling gets a metric sh*t-ton of reviews. Not so, if we consider the staggering number of people who read (and love) Harry Potter compared to number of people who read *and* bothered to write a review. Many readers have no interest in becoming writers, even of a short, happy review. (I don’t understand them, but I acknowledge their alien existence.)

    I also think that good books will climb no matter what. I’ve bought a few of Locke’s books and find them to be fast and twisty reads. Yeah, I kind of wish he had mentioned this pump priming strategy in his how-to book in the interest of full disclosure. However, the larger point is that he now has a huge fan base who really love his stories and characters. That fan base is no less real. Maybe this shunned service sped up his trajectory, but the paid review service didn’t write the books for him. Locke had a lot of other things going for him, like striking at the right time with 99 cent books. In discussing Locke’s triumph, I never heard anyone say, “I bought him for all those awesome reviews!” All I heard was “Ninety-nine cents for a book? Sweet!” (Good old days, weren’t they?)

    I get that I’m supposed to be more upset about this paid review service, but what Locke did doesn’t look different to me than Kirkus Reviews (and, as you point out, other favor trades from trad pubbing that are entrenched and go unremarked.) Ultimately, I don’t need smelling salts over this practice because, though I don’t distrust all those lovely five-star reviews — I love and welcome every one of them — I never gave reviews that much weight *personally*. When it comes to book-buying decisions, what other people thought of a book makes little difference to me. I look at the cover, the synopsis, the sample and sometimes name recognition of the author. (Is it Russell Brand? Run away! Is it Russell Blake? Buy!)

    • yoon  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:03 am

      I’m one of those who lead the alien existence. Nice to meet ya, Mr. Chute.

      This Russell Brand thing reminds me… When I used to search for Russell Blake on Amazon kindle store months back, after “Russell” was typed, the suggestions that came up used to be Russell Banks followed by Russell Brand followed by Russell Blake. Now Russell Blake is at the top of the suggestions. Doesn’t that make you ticklish? It’s the little things.

      • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:42 am

        That’s actually a sad commentary on Mr. Brand’s career more than it is a tribute to mine, at the moment.

        • yoon  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 11:06 am

          I don’t even know what Mr. Brand does for living, to be honest. I heard he’s in showbiz.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 11:45 am

            Aren’t we all. I think he’s a celebrity of some sort. Actor. Or just a personality. Who the F knows anymore? The kids will buy anything. Except my books, apparently. Sigh.

  4. Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Yes, traditional houses pay for reviews (by buying large blocks of advertising at the publication then sending out ten of their top books for the reviewer to look at and pick from to review), and send out arc copies in advance with the release date, expecting bloggers to post flattering reviews. They also hire marketing and PR firms to get the word out.
    I went to an author’s twitter account (during the week of his new release) and his followers had jumped by the thousands. Guess what they all were tweeting? The exact same three or four phrases about his book to the “new” followers they had all p/u recently. Obviously the job of the PR firm.
    Yes, the article is a hatchett job. If we self-publishers banded together we could all give the same proper response in the comments section: “Nanny nanny boo boo you’re jealous!” It’s the only response those articles deserve.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 26th Aug 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Dear Diary. Today I had to explain to everyone how buying reviews from folks unlikely to actually read my books wasn’t a bad thing. I’m sure I will soon have reviews from people wondering how many of the hundreds of five star reviews are legitimate. Note to self – hire more reviewers to insist they are legit. See if volume discounts are available.

      Look. It’s never what you do when everyone is watching. It’s what you do when they aren’t.

      This too shall pass. In the long run whether an author paid for reviewers or not, it won’t change the quality of the book, and it won’t change the trajectory of their career. Good is good regardless, and not so good ain’t. But it certainly explains a lot, doesn’t it?

    • Lisa Grace  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:35 am

      The “nanny nanny boo boo” in my above post is a comment as to the snarkiness toward self-publishers. I in no way agree with fake reviews. I do believe “flip open the book” is the way most readers decide on whether a book is worth purchasing.

  5. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:08 am

    Dear Russell,

    I enjoyed your commentary and FWIW, I don’t think you’re overly defensive. It was a pretty snarky article.

    I understand the frustration some authors feel about lack of reviews, but if your story stands up, the reviews will come over time. You shouldn’t have to buy them. I’ve managed to amass almost 200 Amazon reviews and 160 B&N reviews on my first book over a bit more than a year, a few at a time, nary a one from family or friends.

    I think a lot of authors miss a very good opportunity in that regard. I have a ‘thank you’ at the back of my book ASKING for reviews and also encouraging people to contact me via my web site. When they do, I always respond with a personal email and also ask again if they would consider a review and include links to Amazon & B&N.

    I’ve actually ended up making some very good friends that way, so I guess in a way some of the reviews do come from ‘friends,’ but they were readers before they became friends.

    My second book is coming out in a few days, and guess who got the ARCs? It’s nice to know I can hit the ground running with reviews from regular readers.

    I think the ‘note at the back of the book’ solicitation is quite upfront and I know it works well for me. Seems like it would work for anyone, but I seldom see it in the ebooks I read.

    Thanks for a great blog. I read it regularly but this is the first time I’ve commented.



    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:44 am

      Welcome Bob. Thanks for commenting.

      Best of luck selling a million of em. In the end the writing is what will make or break you. The rest is largely noise.

  6. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 2:40 am

    There are so many attacks on indie authors that you might think that people would be wising up about them but unfortunately the opposite is probably true, as in where’s there’s smoke there’s fire.

    None of these attacks to my knowledge mention that most indie authors don’t have the wherewithal to pay for reviews, much as they would probably like to if it really does make a difference.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 9:33 am

      Like I said, I am only bitter that nobody pointed me at the company that I could have thrown thousands at to get hundreds of, er, “reviews.” That and my failing health, advanced age, poor eyesight, lackluster prospects and creeping dread of imminent death.

      I think it probably does make a difference if you are in a fast moving new market, like say 18 to 24 months ago. Now, as I said, I have seen a number of the top indie sellers whose books seem to get 10 positive reviews per day that are all eerily similar: “I love XX, a real page turner, this is one of my favorite authors now and an automatic buy for me, can’t wait for the next one.” You know, reviews that could be about everything from “Puppy Love” to “Nora’s Dark Secret.” All of which are about 20 words. Makes one go, Hmmmm.

      Look, let’s just accept this is an imperfect world and that some will do everything or anything to get an edge. In the end it doesn’t change their writing, and that is what will create a decades-long career. Not a fad curve spike. I really believe that. Quality will out over time.

  7. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 8:57 am

    Excellent post, Russell, though I did note you didn’t mention puppies… Or quilting… I do hope your next post is about puppies playing on quilts. BTW, I’ve yet to receive your monthly “review” payment. What gives?

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 9:27 am

      Sorry Claude. I’ve been wrapped up in my latest quilting project – a group of puppies playing with kittens and butterflies. I’ll get the check into the mail soon. Really.

      • yoon  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 11:08 am

        I saw that.

  8. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 10:00 am

    Russell, if there is a perfect objective system for obtaining reviews, I’d like to know where it is. It doesn’t exist in Indie publishing,, and it doesn’t exist in Trad Pub.
    If a fan reads my book and likes it enough to post a 5 star, I am humbled and the system has worked. There is no quid pro quo, no inducement except the fact that someone liked the book. Likewise, if someone downloads a copy of one of my books on a free day and uses that gift to trash my book with a 1 star, that’s just the way it goes.
    Trad Pub is rife with quid pro quo reviews, pockets lined behind the scenes, paid for blurbs by big name authors who neither write the blurbs nor read the books.
    I agree totally with you. In the digital world, a person can sample a book for free and get a good sense of it from the first pages with no skin in the game. If the writing is something he likes, he has very little risk in the transaction when he hits the buy button.
    And if that perfect world of objective reviews existed, I would say , “Bring it on.” I am willing to take my chances in such a system, and I believe most indies feel the same way. Such a system would benefit the indies and hurt the Trads, because readers would see that there is a lot of fine writing in the indie ranks that compares favorably to the work coming from Trad.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 10:52 am

      Yes, it would be nice to live in a perfect world. But it doesn’t exist. In truth, I don’t think Locke’s long term success will be predicated on reviews he purchased a year and a half ago. It will be predicated on how well he writes, and how consistently – although it does call into question how many of the reviews for his work reflect actual reader reaction. Can gaming the system create a spike in visibility? Sure. Would you do it if all facts remained hidden? Maybe. Maybe not. I have yet to meet the last honest man. But I can say that five years from now, whether you prime the pump with some cash or not, it will be honest reaction to your work that determines whether you are successful, not some short term shenanigans.

      This is all a tempest in a tea cup. Just assume that many reviews are friends, family or otherwise biased reviews, and read the frigging Look Inside excerpt. You’ll know within 5 minutes whether you want to read more. I think that you need to get past the cover and the product description before you get to the reviews – at least that’s how I shop. I tend to discount the 5 star reviews as biased high and the one stars as biased low, and look at the two to four star reviews for balance, but in the end, it’s the writing that sells me, not the reviews.

      Does that excuse gaming the system? No. Are all systems gamed? Yes, if there’s money involved. We all have to do what we are going to do, and let God and the reader sort ’em out.

  9. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Russell Brand’s main claim to fame is that he used to be married to Katy Perry. I think that position is now open.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Is there a limited period test drive period for that? Never mind.

  10. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 2:50 pm

    What did you expect from the man who jumpstarted his entire writing franchise with a misty-eyed blog post about the “great” Joe Paterno? In hindsight, he would have been better off with a blog post trying to highlight Hitler’s sensitive side or exploring the better vintages of Michael Jackson’s “Jesus Juice” cellar. I guess he’s the one laughing all the way to the bank, and let’s be honest, I doubt that NYT article will ever filter down to his “target” audience. He’ll rake in the cash for years to come, which brings me to my request. I could use about a dozen new reviews for my latest novel, BTW. I’ll shoot the tires off the tequila truck again when it rolls by your neighborhood. Trade in kind.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Don’t judge, Steve. Perhaps we are all being too sensitive about this. Perhaps the article isn’t sending the not-too-subtle message that indie authors suck, thus their reviews must be fake, or at least suspect, thus the only way to save yourself the grief is to buy trad pub books, which have paid reviews from the shills who do it for a living…er…never mind. That came out wrong.

      • Steve Konkoly  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:13 pm

        Did I sound judgmental? Never. No matter how many reviews an author “games,” statistically, the reviews will even out. It may take longer, or in the case of John Locke, you can just declare the negative reviews as a weeding to tool to find your target audience. Apparently, his target audience is someone who gets paid to write a nice review. I like that group too! As indies, we all start out with decent reviews. Sort of. People we know buy the books, and the momentum builds. The first one or two star review is a good sign. Your book is reaching a wider audience.

        Locke managed to brainwash many of his prospective readers and some of us (authors) with his “not my target audience” BS. When each of your books garners nearly a 40-50% 1 or 2 star rating rate, I think we can all agree that we’re smelling rotten fish in the dumpster…not just an entree that hasn’t found a target audience.

        That being said, I’ll never buy an indie book again…I’d much rather buy the next cookie cutter Patterson novel for $15.99. At least we know that he managed to get the idea for the book onto some kind of dictation machine before his legion of co-authors went to work on the manuscript. The traditional publishing world is full of shenanigans…would be nice to see an article highlighting just ONE of them.

        • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:20 pm

          It’s pointless to battle guys that buy ink by the barrel. Entrenched interests using the media to advance their agenda is a time honored tradition. What’s the point of being rich and powerful if you can’t have your cronies at the local fishwrap write a hit piece on whoever is threatening your monopoly/stranglehold? I’m just surprised that more didn’t see this for what it is. Then again, there’s no telling how many of the comments are from sock puppets further advancing the agenda. When you hire a PR company to push your spin, that’s not unusual. Didn’t take long before I saw some of the “I’ll never buy an indie novel, they’re garbage” affirmations landing on the page. That’s what got me annoyed. I was like, how stupid do you really think your readership is? Then I thought, well, they would know better than I exactly how stupid.

          I note it got picked up by Yahoo now for broader dissemination without all those pesky comments tagging along. All new ones on Yahoo. I’m just too busy writing my next set of paid for reviews to be bothered to respond…

          • Steve Konkoly  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:30 pm

            Keep your friends to the front of the line. Being from Maine, a nice comment about how I’m the next Stephen King would be nice.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 5:19 pm

            “I thought that Stephen King could never be topped, but was I wrong. By the tenth page of Shaved Asian Backdoor Kill Squad, I was hooked, and by the time I finally finished the book in one sitting, I knew that I had found a talent that rightfully belonged next to Mr. King on the podium of literary merit. Exciting, surprising, tense and racing, this roller-coaster twists like a boa on meth and will have even the most demanding reader ululating the name Konkoly in a frothing fervor of delight!”

            You can paypal my e-mail. That title is mine, BTW. So hands off.

  11. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I didn’t see it as an attack on indies, just a good article that highlights a problem.

    I sometimes “sensed” this problem, but had no idea you could literally pay for reviews. I do know I’ve busted some big-time indie authors writing stuff that absolutely stunk. And yet they’d have twenty of thirty 5-star reviews.

    It always catches up with them eventually.

    But back to the point, I don’t think this article hurts indie authors too bad. Certainly not as bad as our greatest threat right now: The haste with which some are pumping out work.

    You want to kill your career for good? (At least under your real name?) Publish one bad book. You will lose every single reader for life. Period.

    We must all be careful, be diligent, and write well, and ultimately, if we do these things, then there’s nothing the Big 6 can do about indie authors.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 3:37 pm

      My issue is that it does in fact brand it as an indie problem, not a book business problem. It focuses on and targets indie authors.

      “She’s fifteen, she’s from X neighborhood, and she’s a prostitute! So’s her friend! What should you think next time you see a girl from X neighborhood? How clear does it have to be?”

      I just didn’t find it subtle. Faking or paying for reviews has been going on for years in every industry. Restaurants. Movies. Hotels. So why is this noteworthy? Because it’s an indie author problem!

      We shall have to disagree on this. My hunch is this was written at the suggestion of a Trad Pub house. No question in my mind. It found one obscure review mill, devoted 4 pages to an expose of an issue nobody cares about, and slagged A) Amazon, and B) indie authors. Gee. I wonder who would benefit from that? Hmmm. HHmmmmmmm.

      Then again, I do write conspiracy thrillers…

      • Stan R. Mitchell  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 3:54 pm

        Well, I will say your comment did help persuade me further. Maybe there was increased disbelief and anger in it. : )

        But, I still think it doesn’t matter. Remember this:

        “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” — Gandhi

        And this:

        “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” — Oscar Wilde

        It was a good day for indie’s. They’re going down.

        • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:21 pm

          Why do the dead guys always get the best lines?

          That sucks.

  12. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Crap! Just read your update, Russell. I was going to send you an ARC and hope for a blurb, but $20? I’m indie, so you’re way outside of my price range now. (And I can’t get this damn hangman’s noose knot right.)

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Don’t cheap out. This is your career we’re talking about. Step up and grab the fruit of success from the tree of plenty. This is your moment. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – one of my easily customizable reviews will make women swoon and men envy you, and the dollars will stack up like whatever things stack up really quickly. You think you can’t afford twenty? You can’t afford NOT to pay me $20 to help you with your important work.

      No need for the ARC. Who’s got the time to read those? Not when the next bestsellers of tomorrow are lining up to claim their rightful place at the head of the queue, money in hand!

      Now is your time! NOW IS YOUR MOMENT!!! Don’t feed your baby. Borrow it from a friend. Mug someone, or if you’re young and good looking, go earn it down at the truck stop, but get it to me while there’s still time to live the dream to which you are so close!!!!!!

      “RCC’s subtle hand skillfully crafts a compelling, racing, gutsy read that had me turning pages long past bedtime – but with heart and surprising sensitivity. This is a work that will make him a household name among those that love a good XXX (thriller, lawnmower manual, organic recipe book, etc.). I had about given up on the genre until this masterpiece was recommended to me by a trusted friend. Thought-provoking, brilliant and innovative, RCC will soon be taking his rightful place among the superstars of the field. A magnificent achievement easily worth a hundred times the price!”

      Doesn’t matter what the topic is. Tell me that won’t have em throwing cash at you faster than drunks in a strip club. All for twenty measly dollars. I would have thought your career was worth at least that to you.

  13. Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Ummm – where do I send my $20? I could use a quotable review by someone of your caliber. Of course, I would expect it to be positive. If I wanted a bad one I could offer my book for free and let some poor schlub who doesn’t read in my genre tell me how unhappy they are.

    You aren’t wrong about the article, but I’m also not surprised. That’s kind of sad isn’t it? We are no longer appalled at the bad behavior of others. The only thing we’re offended by is that not everyone was evenly splattered by the feces from the fan. Notice that we aren’t surprised by the lack of balance in the reporting either.

    Traditional publishers (romance is what I’m most familiar with even though I don’t write in that genre) often require their writers to review other writers within their stable. Susy writes a positive and pretty review on Joan who writes one on Cindy who writes one of Suzy. Stacking the reviews isn’t new.

    I’ve given up on the review system. I’m with you – read the preview and buy based on the quality of the content.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 5:14 pm

      You have every right to expect the review would be positive, given the time and care you’ve invested into your important work. Fortunately I have a keen eye and can find bright spots that may be less easily-discerned to an untrained reader. Barring that it is written in Sanskrit (not a deal killer, BTW) by a blind chimp with Tourette’s, I have every faith that I’ll find something to gush about believably.

      “Ms. Scott knows how to write, but more than that, weaves an incredible story with unexpected twists that caught me by surprise and delighted me with their ingenuity. Her work is now an automatic must buy. I can’t wait for the sequel. This is what real writing is all about. Perfect for discriminating readers of every age and ilk, I have no hesitation recommending her to anyone who enjoys a well-crafted XXX.”

      Ka-Ching! The tsunami of cash will soon be rolling in! Don’t hesitate. You need the lift one or ten of these quality reviews will give you. E-mail me for volume discount information.

  14. yoon
    Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Wow. You writers start drinking early. And Mr. Blake, sir, you should keep taking your meds.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 27th Aug 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Or at least start taking them, I suppose. I keep hoping I can find some really cool ones. Urp.

  15. Tue 28th Aug 2012 at 3:24 pm

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

    Looks like we’ve moved from stage 2 to stage 3. We’re making progress!

  16. Tue 28th Aug 2012 at 8:05 pm


    Good I haven’t actually complete a manuscript, but I have a bunch of WIPs. I’ll forward them (I hope the pages are in order), and FYI my cheque’s in the mail. hehehe

  17. Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 7:06 am

    Right as rain – one of the reasons traditional publishing and traditional agents are facing extinction is because not one of them ever seemed to care if the book was good. As you said, “I think a better way of dealing with the ability to fake reviews or rig them is to read the excerpt on Amazon – the Look Inside. If the book sucks, move on. If it is well-written and compelling, buy the damned thing and have a nice life.” There would be no need for indies if the mainstream publishing business had the same approach. Quality should always win.

  18. Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I’ll take a grands worth 😉

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 7:54 pm

      “Crowther weaves a wily web of masterfully woven plot twists and richly drawn characters. At times reminiscent of the greats of his genre, he manages to exceed their best with ease. His prose is a delight and his ability to entertain unparalleled. I have no doubt that he will become an automatic buy for his deserved legion of fans and cannot wait for the sequel. A magnificent achievement that rivals the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.”

      I’ll gin the rest of em up over dinner. I have an engine that switches the words around some. But in a sincere and heartfelt way.

      • yoon  –  Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 9:02 pm

        Mr. Blake,
        With this comment, you wrote four reviews, in this comment section, that I can copy/paste in my “review” for your next four books. I’ll try to edit the name correctly. I’m so relieved that I don’t have to write another review for the rest of this year. Yippee.

        • Russell Blake  –  Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 9:15 pm

          I am glad to have provided a valuable service.

          • yoon  –  Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 11:31 pm

            You’re a giver.

          • Russell Blake  –  Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 12:05 am


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