Sunday, February 4, 2018

Authors beware if you get this email

It has recently come to my attention that there's a book blogger out there offering paid reviews, increased sales and visibility. I'm pointing this out because I think it could be a scam or at the very least, unethical.

A little while ago, I was contacted by one of the authors I review for. In her message to me she asked what I thought of her being contacted by a blogger who said she had seen her work and wanted to "work with her". This got me instantly suspicious because as a blogger and reviewer, I have never contacted an author saying I'd like to "work with them". Review their book, yes. Work with them, no. What does that even mean?

The author I was chatting with provided me with her name and between the two of us, we started digging. We found a post by someone on Facebook talking about it. An extensive discussion in another thread. And a blog post written by someone who got contacted by the blogger and wanted to warn people. You can also check out this post which goes into a lot of detail about her emails and communications.

Scam blogger

Let me just say it right here. Bloggers do not get paid to review a book. Well, certainly not the bloggers I know and certainly not myself. I have never asked for money from an author or publisher for reviewing a book. The only thing I've ever been sent is the book I'm supposed to review itself. Because, ya know, I need the book to read it in order to be able to review it. Granted this is paying to be reviewed on her blog website, but we all remember the scandal a few years ago when Amazon cracked down on authors who paid for reviews. Reviews got deleted (they still do) and authors got their reputations ruined. Paid reviews are not on. And paid reviews are against Amazon policy. Perhaps since these paid reviews go on her own website, that's the loophole that the paid review falls through. While unethical, they are not illegal. But the big point here is, if the review is paid for, is it truly honest? Wouldn't the person who is paid feel obligated to review the book positively regardless of how they feel abou tthe book because they were paid?

The email from the blogger read like this:

“I hope you do not mind me emailing you; I am emailing you because I would love to review your work on my website. My site is a book reviewing website which has received a great response from readers and now that I have a loyal following who I adore, I am always on the lookout for great books I can feature for them. I discovered your work and I loved what I saw, so that is why I am emailing you today! Your work looks wonderful, and you clearly are passionate; passion is a quality I love because I am very passionate about reading so I hope we are able to work together”.

It's a form email and it seems to have been sent to dozens and dozens of authors. I'm suspecting indie authors and mostly debut authors who are not experienced about the blogging and review world. I can't imagine the authors for The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl would have paid her for the review on the blog.

There would probably be a lot of debut authors who would be glad for a positive review with the guarantee of increased publicity and sales for her fee. It might not seem like a lot of money for a review but it adds up. She's probably making a pretty penny cumulatively. And she offers "proof" of increased sales by saying she will show you her Amazon sales stats. Let me just say, stats can be doctored unless they are screenshots and even then, those can be changed if someone is skilled with Photoshop.

Upon investigating the blog, this is what we discovered:
  • She has a few recent books with VERY high engagement but they are popular mainstream titles - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. With a closer look, you will see that about 80% of the comments in the post are made by her.It's kind of weird and surreal if you read through the comments.
  • If you take the time to scroll her posts, you will see that only the first few posts have high engagement. Go back a month or two and the older posts with reviews of unknown or debut authors (the majority of them) tend to have zero or one or two comments. It's only the popular mainstream titles that have high engagement. Most others don't.
  • The popular books got very detailed reviews - to detailed, to the point of being spoilery, and the lesser known books got short, run of the mill reviews which makes you wonder if she ever read the book.
  • While scrolling through the blog, I found a WIDE variety of books being reviewed. There is no focus. Since she is being paid, I expect she's review anything and give a positive, if lacklustre review. And I question whether she actually reads all the books she claims to review. 
  • Additionally, there seems to be frequent reposting of reviews to keep them at a current date and make it seem like there are a lot of fresh reviews, however, if you dig deeper and look at the comments, you will see that even though the post is dated say 18 January 2018, the comments date back to September 2017. So there's a lot of rinse, lather, repeat, and most of it suspicious.
  • Since I write a romance book blog, I decided to check out her "romance" category of books. Aside for one highly engaged review of a book by Cassandra Clare (I esriously doubt Ms Clare paid her for the review!) all her other romance book reviews are of indie books with no comments or engagement. Honestly, I've never seen or heard of any of the books in the category with the one exception and I know my way around romance books and authors, even indie ones.

I've seen comments around that say she doesn't read the books but looks through Amazon for key points and write a generic review from it. I've also seen someone say that her comments are probably fake and she's gotten other people or she herself has gone on with multiple profiles to post the comments.

I don't know what's true or what's not but if you take the time to go through her website, read her services list and her Terms of Service you will see that she charges for reviews. It's stated in the Terms of Service. She claims her reviews are honest and all affiliate fees she earns from book sales are donated. I'll leave it up to you to come to your own conclusions after you've checked it all out, if you're so inclined.

So anyway, if you receive an email worded as above, beware. From what I've been told, she's charming and sweet and polite. It's easy to be taken in by flattery if you are hankering for reviews of your debut novel with promises of sales and visibilty.

Tell me. Have you heard of this? And what do you think of all this?


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10 comments:

  1. That's a really underhanded and rotten thing for a blogger to do.

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    1. Yeah, it really is. No blogger I know charges for a review.

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  2. 1800 comments on that review! Wtf and they all seem so fake. All totally happy and telling her she has written the best review in history

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    1. And well, the many comments are sure explained when she writes 5 answers to one comment. But I get why an author would pay for a review if they think she is that fantastic

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    2. Yeah, the comments seem really fake. And she also seems to have only two books with lots of comments for the reviews. Both of them are mainstream bestsellers. I doubt she was paid for those reviews. Her reviews for lesser known books are not as "good".

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    3. And the comments are weird because it looks a bit like she's talking to herself.

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  3. This is really wrong in my opinion

    Have Fun
    Helen

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    1. It is. I hope no one falls for it.

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  4. There are many legitimate organizations that will pay a blogger/reader to review an author's novel at anywhere from $5 - $200 per review. These reviewers provide professional unbiased opinions, and some I've seen didn't like the book.(lol) The difference is that they don't go around soliciting business from authors and/or bloggers. We go to them.(lol) I can appreciate anyone who is trying to make a living, but doing underhanded or unethical things to get noticed is just not cool. I know you brought this up via a group on Facebook, but I'm thrilled that you took it a step further by using your blog to warn those authors and other bloggers who may be unaware. It's always wonderful when bloggers can unite to make a statement. Great post!

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    1. Thanks. I debated whether to post about it or not but decided to. It's a good warning for what not to do as a blogger and what to be aware of as an author.

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