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We talk a lot about getting Amazon reviews, great reviews, you know the kind that you want to print off, frame and hang on the wall? But what about fake reviews?

Though Amazon is cracking down, we know they can’t be on all of their pages at the same time, scouring the site for fake reviews. As a consumer and an author, I like to know when I’m reading an Amazon review that’s got great information in it vs. one that was “placed” there by someone who did not read the book.

This is also helpful as you’re inviting readers to write Amazon reviews – mostly about what not to do in terms of reviewing a book. So let’s address some of the things to look for when trying to determine if a review is real or fake:

  • Short reviews are always a telling sign. Granted, some folks just want to leave their thumbs up or thumbs down and move on, but most people who take the time to review a book will also take the time to write something longer than a sentence or two. Short, five star or one star reviews are often a giveaway that this review might be faked.
  • Five star reviews. If a book has nothing but five star reviews, you can almost bet that someone’s been paid to write these. We sort of know this by now, right? But still, I’m surprised by how many authors continue to do this.
  • Reviews that don’t match the star rating. So, for example, a five star rating is generally left by someone who absolutely loved the book, but have you ever seen a five star review and then a few, short sentences about how much the person hated the book? Conversely, I’ve also seen one-star reviews and the person just loved the book. So either whoever reviewed it is clueless about a five-star rating system or it’s a planted review by a shoddy, unscrupulous company or service. Likely the latter.
  • In-depth reviews. Some people will say that reviews that aren’t in-depth are fake but I disagree. I post Amazon reviews for a number of books I read and I’m keen on not dropping spoilers so sometimes I’ll keep the review more general than specific. In-depth reviews are great but if the book is fiction, I find that most reviewers try to omit plot twists so as not to ruin it for the reader. These are Amazon reviews, not term papers.
  • Sour grapes. Emotional language (whether good or bad) is often an indication of a fake review, or someone who has a particular vendetta against the author. Using terminology like “lacks credibility” starts to get pretty personal and indicates a deeper knowledge of the author than perhaps just the book. The flip side of this is too-personal language like, “I’m so proud of my daughter” or something that indicates that the reviewer knows the author on an intimate level. First off, that review will always be skewed, but also, if Amazon finds out they could pull the review because it violates their Terms of Service.
  • Other reviews. Some folks will state that a reviewer needs to review a lot of books in order to be credible. I disagree with this. I review books but only as I have time – which isn’t as often as I’d like. I always try to review a colleague’s book or books that have been gifted to me. My reviewer rank on Amazon however is probably in the millions (so, not impressive). A lack of a lot of reviews doesn’t always mean that the reviewer isn’t credible. I mention this because if you’re asking readers to post reviews, they may not review a lot – or at all – but we all have to start somewhere.
  • Verified Purchase vs. book gifting. So Verified Purchase on Amazon is getting a lot of buzz. But if you’ve ever pitched yourself to bloggers you know that you are always supplying them with books. The minute you ask a blogger or reviewer to pay for a book, you’ve likely lost your chance at a review. Verified Purchase is great when you can get it, but it won’t change the authenticity of the review. If you are gifting books in exchange for an honest Amazon reviews, remind your reviewer to add “This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review” at the end of it so there is full disclosure. Also, it’s part of the FTC guidelines around giving books or products to reviewers.
  • Was this review helpful? Though this isn’t related to fake reviews per se, clicking that Yes or No button at the bottom of the review can really help the reviewer or blogger. If you aren’t familiar with that, here is what it looks like:

yes or no

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