Another Amazon scandal
Under the headline “Authors bloodied in Amazon warfare”, yesterday’s Sunday Times lifted the lid on “the cut-throat tactics that have entered the once genteel world of literature.” (If you are sensible enough not to fork out £110 a year to Rupert Murdoch, here’s an abridged version of the story on the Daily Mail site.)
Amazon customer reviews, the paper sensationally revealed, are not always the considered, impartial critiques we imagine them to be. It cited the case of Rosie Alison, who has recruited an online detective agency to investigate whether a batch of hostile reviews for her Orange Prize-nominated The Very Thought of You were left by a rival publisher.
This would seem paranoid, were it not for the fact that there are firms out there offering to post favourable reviews for payment. The Sunday Times talked to “reputation manager” Nathan Barker, who explained how it all worked:
“First, we set up accounts. For a romance novel we’d pick seven female profiles and three males and throw in a couple of curve balls. We’d say we like this book, but add a tiny bit of criticism and compare it to another book. Then we would proactively spin it in the next review. For example, ‘I read this book and thought it was great. I passed it on to a friend and still haven’t had it back’.”
Barker, who charges publishers upwards of £5,000 for the service, claimed what he did was common practice in the book industry. The article goes onto say how authors are now advertising openly online for people to boost their books with favourable reviews. Apparently, the going rate is about £160 for 50 fake reviews, although the paper neglects to say where these adverts can be found.
Before you head over to Gumtree, why not pay a visit to the book section of The Omnivore, last bastion of literary gentility.