The good, the bad and the ugly about Self-Publishing

When I first started writing back in 2009 I never even heard of self-publishing. I was all set and terrified to take my chances with  a traditional publishing house, leaving my fate to someone that I had never met who would decide whether or not my books were “In” at the moment.

By the time that I was ready to start making inquiries into getting published I got scared, really scared. I found a hundred and one reasons not to even try so I didn’t. Instead I put my finished manuscript aside and started working on another book all while researching ways to get my books published without the added stress. 

It was during one of my searches that I started to find articles about self-publishing. The more I read, the more I was intrigued. The idea of not only keeping control over my work, but not having to deal with rejection was worth the risk of never having a single person read my book, which back then was a real possibility. I know it was only a few years ago, but at the time self-publishing was looked down upon.

I ignored all the warnings about going the self-publishing route and took a chance and I’m glad I did. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing what I do any other way. I love being my own boss, setting my own deadlines and deciding what I write. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last few years and it’s because readers were willing to take a huge chance on us an for that they were forever have my heart and gratitude. They gave me an opportunity that I probably would  never of had otherwise. 

The other reason that self-publishing has become an acceptable and respected form of publishing is because of the authors. They work hard, put in the time to write great books and have them edited as well as took the time to earn the respect of their readers. Whether they have a huge following or only a few dedicated readers, they still earned it, honestly. 

The unfortunate side of self-publishing is that not everyone is as honest. These people are the ones that give self-published authors a bad reputation and cause some readers to avoid self-published authors like the plague and for good reason and I honestly can’t say that I blame them. 

I have absolutely no doubt that I am going to get hit with the backlash after writing this, but hey, that’s life. I’ll deal with it, keep writing and publishing and take that chance. I love what I do and take my job very seriously. I also worked very hard to get where I am and so have a lot of other authors who are now getting tainted by the new trends that are unfortunately going on. I am also  posting this today, because I receive about three to four emails daily from aspiring writers seeking advice and I don’t want to see them do something that they are going to regret one day.

There are new trends in self-publishing, some good, but a lot of it is bad. Instead of relying on their work, we have new authors coming into the scene depending on gimmicks, deals and trickery. Quite a few of them are making deals with male models, who push their books in return for the author to push their merchandise, magazines, photos, posters, etc. They also are working together in groups and with some blogs to push fake reviews, five star reviews to get their ratings on, Apple, B&N up high enough to convince readers who normally wouldn’t have given their book a second look to buy it. 

They have street teams whose sole purpose is to go around the web, open fake accounts and post over the top five star reviews. If the author gets an honest, one or two star review they will go and post five or six more five star reviews to push the honest review to the bottom and off the page so that the reader is less likely to see it. 

Any authors that say anything against this practice receive a hit as I’m absolutely positive that I will after posting this and that’s fine. They are also going after other authors that they see as competition and I have to ask why? Seriously, I love the fact that readers who take a chance on me love to read. It’s good for all of us for so many reasons. One of the benefits is that a well read reader can give you their opinion based on reading experience and that is absolutely wonderful for authors like me who love to write a fun story. 

Some of you are probably reading this post and wondering why all the drama. Well, I’m wondering the very same thing. Just like when I did my research when I first started out, I’m still researching. I follow about twenty different authors at any given time to see how they’re doing, learn from their mistakes and learn new trends in this business. I came across the deceptive practices a few months ago and since then I’ve made it a point to pay attention. 

Another reason why I’m writing this is because this new trend is spreading over and some authors think this is the norm. It’s not, but that isn’t stopping them from sending me e-mails, offering me up deals to get my books five star reviews on book sites and blogger sites that I have no earned. I’m also getting e-mails from male models offering me up deals to have their followers buy my books if I push their stuff. So not interested. It’s getting old real damn fast. 

There are a lot of honest authors and bloggers who are disgusted by this. We don’t like to see readers being manipulated out of their hard earned money. It’s not right and it is something that I promise here and now never to do. I will never ask someone to give me a 5 star review or an over the top fantastic review. Have there been people that have done this for me? Probably, but I never asked and it would upset me to see them. If it happens I would rather the review be taking down immediately and replaced with an honest review even if that meant a one star review.

Do I have a street team? Yes, I do, but I have nothing to do with it other than offering up prizes as thank yous to the leader of the group to give away. Do my friends review my books? Yes, they do and they normally give me three and four stars because they are my toughest critics. They enjoy my work, but they expect certain things from me and if they think that I could have done better, I hear about it and I am very thankful for that. 

There are a lot of great books out there by self-publsihed authors that deserve an opportunity to share with you their wonderful stories and I am pleading with you to give them that chance. A lot of readers are sick of being played are taking a stand by not reading self-published authors and I completely understand. Nobody likes to get played or tricked out of their money and that’s exactly what a lot of new authors and a few established authors are doing. 

Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do to stop them. That’s one of the bad things about self-published authors, there’s no one setting rules or taking action when someone crosses the line. What we can do is to know what to look for. Feel free to comment and add your own warnings, stories, etc, but please don’t name names. I am honestly not trying to wreck someone’s career, but giving readers and aspiring writers a little bit of knowledge. I’m also hoping that these practices stop. 

Ways that MAY help to tell if a review is fake:

1. The purchase is not authenticated, especially at (Sometimes bloggers and readers will post their reviews at multiple sites so you will see that is not authenticated.) What you want to look for is a large amount of reviews together that are not authenticated. 

2. The person who wrote the review opened up the account that very day just to post a review about the book. I got a lot of feedback on this one as well, look for several reviews in a row that accounts were just opened for that review.

3. The reviewer only has a few books reviewed and all those books are by one author.

4. The review title is the same as about a dozen other ones.

5. The same review can be found posted on several sites, word for word, but the reviewer’s name is different on each one. 

6. The review reads like a sales pitch.

7. For every bad review, four or more positive reviews always follow.

8. A fake negative review will come off as extremely personal.

9. Check the dates of the first reviews for the book, if they were posted mere minutes or hours after the book was published there is a very good chance that they are fake, especially if any of the previous warnings apply.

10. The reviewers’  review history all have something in common, reviewing the same exact books by different authors. This usually means that they are part of a group that trades positive reviews.

11. If the book is ranked very high and it’s brand new, check to see how the author categorized it. A lot of them are putting their books in categories that are not popular and don’t match the content of their book just so they can get the high ranking or reach the number one spot.

I hope this helps and again, if you have anything that you’d like to add please comment below. 

This is an unfortunate trend that I hope doesn’t continue for much longer. If you are an author, I think it’s about time that you reassure your readers that you respect and appreciate them by vowing not to deceive them. To those of you who are not happy with this post, well, too bad. I don’t really care. If you want to retaliate and post negative reviews or trash me, have at it. If you would like to bitch and complain about this post, comment below, post on my FB page or send me an email at I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and hope that this horrible trend ends soon. 



For blogs, reviewers, etc, yes, they will post their reviews word for word at different sites. That’s their job, that’s what they do. The problems are the ones that are posting 5 star reviews just to post them. If you pay attention you can tell the difference between a real review and a review that is used to push a book.

Authors do have to promote their books. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem occurs when they promote for a guaranteed five start review.

********I think the safest way to find out if a book is worth reading is to download a free sample and judge for yourself. Fake reviewers get tricky and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to figure out what’s fake and what’s not so I think the best way to handle this is to have a peek at the book in question.********


52 Responses to “The good, the bad and the ugly about Self-Publishing”

  1. Deb Schultz says:

    I’m with you all the way sista…. pisses me off when they do this… I’ve seen that on Amazon… not being an authenticated purchase… whaddanasshole thing to do…. This is why when I do read reviews, they are either from a trusted source or I read the 1 star and 2 stars only…. I can’t believe how deceiving these creeps can be and that an actually author would allow it… that’s bullshit… they obviously can’t write for shit then if this is how they get promoted!!!!

  2. Mary Beth says:

    I have seen this trend popping up as well. All I can say is my blog can’t be bought, and I would give my Mom a 1 star review if her book was bad. I hope more people start manning up and doing the right thing before this wonderful world of self-publishing is ruined.

  3. cassandra says:

    wow. good job!
    (really there is nothing else to say you said that very well)
    i rarely read reviews just check the star rating and book pages. but i may need to investigate more now on authors i have not read before.
    thanx for the heads up.

  4. Lissa Bryan says:

    While I agree that fake reviews are deplorable, I respectfully disagree about cross-promoting with cover models, or doint merchandise tie-ins. After all, if it was an unethical practice, every movie ever produced would be culpable for having the actors promote the film or producing replica props for sale.

    Major publishers promote their books in the same way. Remember Fabio?

    • R.L. Mathewson says:

      What I’m talking about, the practice of having them push, ask for five star reviews for books that have not even been read or liked because they are getting offered special things like half naked pictures or special deals if they do. Cross marketing is fine, but when it is done dishonestly, that’s a problem.

      • Lissa Bryan says:

        Ah, my apologies. I misunderstood. I’ll blame it on it being early morning before I had my tea.

        I agree entirely that gifts in exchange for a review of an unread book are grossly unethical.

  5. Lisa L says:

    Unfortunately, every industry is rife with corruptive practices that some will view as good marketing strategy. But you are correct, when it delves into lies and manipulation, it is truly foul play. I would also think paid for reviews would feel empty and dissatisfying for anyone because they were not given honestly.

    I’ve been aware of the trend of fake reviews for a while now. It isn’t just indicative of indie publishing but mainstream as well… It is also on every site in every industry where one can post a review from restaurants to consumer services.

    It is commendable you have brought this issue to the forefront and as someone who is considering the self publishing route it did bring up some things I hadn’t been aware of but I can’t say I’m surprised either.

  6. Wendy S. Russo says:

    These warning signs are not necessarily indicative of fake reviews, though. My iPad is tethered to my husband’s Amazon account, but I review under my own account, so my purchases are never verified. Also, I post reviews on Amazon regardless of where I obtained a book to help the author. And I post my reviews word for word on my blog, Amazon, and Goodreads, and then pin them to Pinterest.

    I’m an author. I give away ebooks and ask that the recipients leave an honest review.

  7. L. Halat says:

    I appreciate your insight so very much. As a new indie author, I’ve been frustrated at the lack of “things” happening for my book when I see some other indies who published around the same time getting hundreds of reviews posted the same day as purchase. Mine are trickling in, and I keep reminding myself that this is the norm. I shouldn’t feel slighted because something is obviously up with that. It’s nice to know that I’m not just being paranoid.

  8. Wendy S. Russo says:

    These warning signs are not necessarily indicative of fake reviews, though. My iPad is tethered to my husband’s Amazon account, but I review under my own account, so my purchases are never verified. I review books I’ve received from ARCs and giveaways. Verified purchase will never be on my Amazon posts because I don’t use Amazon that way.

    Also, I post reviews on Amazon regardless of where I obtained a book to help the author. And I post my reviews word for word on my blog, Amazon, and Goodreads, and then pin them to Pinterest.

    And, I never post a review of less than 4 stars, mostly because my time’s to valuable to me these days to finish books that I wouldn’t give at least 3.5 stars to. (I round up.) So, to many people, my reviews are going to look suspicious at a glance, even though if you read through them, they’re clearly legit.

    I’m not saying that the behavior never indicates suspicious reviews, just the contrary. Sometimes, there are legitimate reasons for *some* of these things.

    I’m an author, too. I’m engaged is an a few campaigns right now to pick up review numbers, but honest reviews are very important to me. Thank you for posting this.

  9. Steph from says:

    Just a note about repubbing reviews. People told me when I began blogging that I had to post my reviews on AMazon, B & N and Good reads. I don’t do Amazon because they won’t allow me to post as my blog and posting under another name makes me look dishonest. I tease via Tumblr and occasionally reprint an entire review. But I do do Goodreads, where reviews have a long life span.

    I do give fair reviews that are civil. NEVER should we attack an author. However, if an author disrespects readers by failing to proof their self pubbed manuscript all bets are off. Use “won ton” instead of “wanton” more than once in a book and I will tell the author exactly what I think of that. Use a phrase like “he bathed her with his love cream” and you have to accept that I am going to poke fun. Seriously – wouldn’t you? (btw, both of those things have occurred).

    Blogging does present a paradox. Providing original book related content daily requires reading a lot of books. This requires A. a library that stocks what I need to read before it’s published, B. a wealthy family/husband who happens to secretly own every publishing company, or C. ARCs/e-galleys and tours. Lacking A or B, option C means I have to be at least diplomatic in supporting the INDUSTRY (tour companies, publishers and authors). It means I can’t usually say “Do not buy this, it’s terrible because, xyz.” AND I don’t do star reviews; I recommend to different levels and audiences. Occasionally, I will make up a funny rating. But really if I think a book is absolutely awful, my readers know. Doesn’t mean I have to say something nasty.

    And there are writers whose work speaks to me on some level who get my support in a fan girlish way.

    I disclose when I am on a tour, got an ARC, or am a friend of the writer. We are supposed to do that though so it’s not me being great – it’s required.

  10. Andrea says:

    RL, I agree with you 100%. My facebook page is being blown up with these new self pubs. Many which I friended not knowing this was what they were after. I will admit that I have sampled some of their books and found that the writing and editing is so bad I don’t buy the book. I too do not understand their high rate vs on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. Now you have educated me. With that being said there are a few self pub authors like yourself that I adore and can’t wait to read their books. Yes I do even write and leave them reviews. I read a lot so I don’t like to waste my money on a book that I have to force myself to get through. I don’t read a book because of the contests (I actually won one but I never received it) I read the book from the author because
    It is well written and edited and I can trust them every time.

    • Rita Jinkins Knits says:

      Hmmmm, I “liked” a blog so I could enter a contest. I was notified that I’d not only won an e-book, I won a signed paperback. Never got either. I wish I could remember which page it was; I’d block it in a heartbeat.

  11. Selena Robins says:

    Great post, and thank you for pointing out so many things that many authors have been noticing. I would like to add that these practices are not only being done by indie authors, but also by authors who are published with a publishing house. I along with other authors have seen this on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, it’s so obvious to most of us and I’m sure to the astute reader as well.

    I am baffled at times when I see five star reviews on Goodreads (for example) for a book that hasn’t even been written yet. How can anyone rate a book that isn’t finished? That type of behavior does not help the author, in fact in may hinder him/her.

    The only thing that we as authors have control over is our writing, and promoting/marketing ourselves as best we can with a lot of integrity, which I believe the majority of us do.

    Well written and if there is any backlash over your honest point of view, then I would wonder at the person giving you a hard time, as you may have a hit a nerve with them.

    Wishing you more wonderful things in your publishing journey. As an author I don’t see this is a competitive business at all, I think we are all in this together.

    Best wishes.

  12. Lee says:

    Well said. As an avid resder I hate being deceived and am growing more wary of this sort of practice. Thanks for giving us warning signs. I work hard for my money and don’t want to waste it. Keep writing these posts. If others have no guilt or nothing to fear they won’t be worried by it.

  13. Melissa Brown says:

    I feel so clueless–I had no idea. It makes me really uncomfortable, but I’m also grateful that you opened my eyes. I truly hope this trend ends soon so the rest of us can continue to work without being dragged down with those who are just looking to make $$$.

  14. Lilliana Anderson says:

    Thank you for this post! I didn’t realise how awful things could get, although I did wonder about a couple of nasty reviews that I had been given when they had nothing to do with the book and weren’t verified purchases – I assumed they were pirated or borrowed.

    I’m so disappointed that people see this behaviour as ok.

    • Selena Robins says:

      Sometimes a purchase isn’t a verified one because someone may have bought the book somewhere else, however, I am really suspect of books that get hundreds of “unverified purchased” 5 star reviews, and that reviewer has only ever reviewed one book on Amazon, but the one that is getting hundreds upon hundreds of 5 star reviews.

  15. Kristie Pierce says:

    Many people have asked me, “You self-published? Why?” And then either look at like I’m crazy or the comments that follow are ones that imply that they think my work isn’t creditable or worthy because I’ve not gone the “traditional” route with a publisher.
    Thank you for posting this and sharing. It sheds light on the beautiful side of self-publishing, but you also sheds light on the – what you so adequately said – “ugly” side of self-publishing.
    It saddens me that some self-pub’d authors are taking less high roads to get their books made popular. It angers me that some are going to such dishonest lengths to get their book to be on a Best Seller list. The deceitful and fraudulent ways these authors take not only taint their integrity, but the rest of we self-pub’d authors, too.
    Where this author talks about unauthorized user reviews in Amazon being a sign of a fake review (one of the ways these authors are getting their books known), I know that I have a few unauthorized user reviews, but these are from people who bought the book or received them as gifts directly from me. Now, thanks to these dishonest people, those that don’t know me may think that I’ve fallen into the dishonest category of the self-pub’d world, and automatically overlook my work. That not only angers me, but disappoints me.
    However, now I have my answer to the question: What am I doing wrong? The answer to that is nothing. Book success is not overnight – most, anyway. I worked my ass off on my book, and I admit that there are mistakes, I’ve done some things that I will not do with my next book. But it’s all a learning experience. And believe-you-me, I’ve learned.
    I didn’t do this for the money or fame; I did this because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The small number of people that have read and loved Hollow Sight not only surprised me, but delighted me to no end. It still does. I never expected the rave reviews, kind comments, or, dare I say it, praise (I’m uncomfortable with that word) from others. And I’ll take the 20-some reviews – negative ones included – over hundreds of phony ones any day, and stay ranked way below the best-selling belt if it means my work stays honest.

  16. Linda B says:

    Thank you for this article. It explains so much. You know how you know something isn’t quite right but can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong? As a reader, not an author, I have noticed reviews and promotions that didn’t seem to be on-target. I just didn’t know what about them felt off. Now I do and I greatly appreciate the info. BTW – LOVE your books and I’m working on getting ALL of them on my nook. That pescky waiting-until-payday to add more books is soooooooooo annoying 🙂

    • Jcm says:

      I know one writer who use’s a male model who is not even on her covers but she post pictures of him all the time then they use stuff like the hat he wore in the photo to sell on ebay for a ridiculous amount of money and she pushes her readers to buy the stuff I know she is getting a cut of what the items sell for I find that to be so wrong. I just want to read a good book and all this drama lately it makes me want to stop downloading books all together. Thank you for being so honest!!!

  17. Heather says:

    R.L. the height of the pedi-stool/ladder I have you on is so high
    (your super tall!) I admire you so much. You nailed it! Keep up the Great job of being Mom than self-published writer and know we are Dang PROUD of you Missus! Love YA!

  18. Jamie says:

    I know there is a general feeling that something needs to be said, but there are so many exceptions to these particular tips to spot fake reviews. I’m afraid authors innocently using similar tactics could be falsely accused. I’ve never participated in any of these things, but I know authors who have, but not for five star reviews, or any reviews. For new or struggling authors, sometimes standing apart is difficult. We shouldn’t punish them. I would hate to see any of my friends using models or who have several good reviews after a negative (my reviews sometimes resemble that pattern. Doesn’t mean anything.) be accused of something so heinous because of a list of things to watch for that may or may not have a list of exceptions that are just as long. I know that this isn’t the intention, of course, but it’s just as important to discuss the fallout.

    I think the best thing to do is concentrate on our own work, and not get so caught up rankings that have weird algorithms we don’t control, anyway. Of course not playing fair or new authors with a large online book club supporting them and helping to bolster their ranks can be frustrating, but in the end, it is only the good books that stick.

  19. Livi says:

    Thanks for speaking out. It is so depressing that people constantly feel the need to work the system. Oh for a true meritocracy. I am an avid reader, and tend to only leave reviews when I have been particularly moved positively or negatively by a book. Perhaps I should review more in the hopes that the real readers voices get heard amidst the cacophony of spin

  20. Shelly says:

    Wow, this is the first blogpost I have ever read every word of, mainly because I struggle to read long posts on computer screens, and it was so worth the eye strain. This is something I’ve wondered about for a while as I’ve noticed a few oddities here and there. It’s so sad that this happens especially for those of us that don’t have much money and rely on these reviews to help us decide where our money goes. Hopefully one day it will stop & if not then maybe we’ll at least find a way to know for sure which authors/books to avoid!

    I partially disagree with this 1. The purchase is not authenticated, especially at ….only because I sometimes purchase my books elsewhere depending on the price but I still post my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon to help authors.

  21. Ana's Attic Book Blog says:

    This is sad. I have spoken to other bloggers who have been approached like this. I have never had anyone ask for a good review! But as far as identifying fake ones, I read from my personal Amazon account and review on my blog account. My purchases will never be verified. Also, I only publish positive reviews on Amazon (though I post all on goodreads and my blog).

    I have only had one book that has been overly pushed by a street team who continually posts on my facebook page. I will never read that book. I have had a few “recommendations” on goodreads that I ignore as well.

    It seems I have been one of the lucky ones that has not encountered any or much of the negative stuff, and I hope that continues, it’s really sad to hear this.

  22. Christina says:

    Well said! I am a member of several street teams, a PA for an author, and run a blog. I knew there were people out there attacking authors with fake reviews, but I had no idea about the fake good reviews! That being said, I do copy my reviews from Amazon to GR, and have some that are unverified because I received ARCs or won prizes. I do try to remember to include that in the reviews. So that isn’t always an indication of wrongdoing. Thank you so much for putting this out there! Bravo

    • Christina says:

      I also want to say, that I have been priveliged enough to be involved with wonderful authors who would never think of asking for such dishonesty from their readers. 🙂

  23. JSN says:

    Unfortunately not even a verified purchase is enough to prove an honest review. Some authors (and even less reputable publishing houses) are reimbursing people for the purchase so they can get the coveted “verified” next to the review :/

    I look for reviews that actually TELL ME SOMETHING about the book.

  24. T.E. Ridener says:

    I cherish the five reviews I’ve received on Romance In Rodney. They may be all I have, but they are real. I’m sickened by the lengths people will go to these days. Thank you for posting this.

  25. Andrea Johnson Beck says:

    Wow! I had no idea half of this stuff was going on. I published my first book in November and have seen more bad then good but this is quite upsetting. This is a lot to take in but I will definitely be more aware. I would never want anyone to give me some willy nilly five-star review. Honesty is what makes me a better writer. I could never look at my son knowing that someone was lying and deceiving others on purpose. How awful. I am saving this post so I keep your points fresh. Thank you!!!!

  26. Laura says:

    On the flipside, RL, there are authors who beg readers to make them number 1 by offering up another book in a series that they never planned on writing.

    I’ve been reviewing and blogging for 5 years and I think my reviews speak for themselves. I rarely ever give a 5 star review. Most books I read are between 2.75 and 4.75 grades. You have to blow me away with a book in order for me to give you five stars and the book better have more than 175 pages to it!

    I love this post so much. You are my hero!

  27. Katherine Owen - Novelist says:

    Oh…how I would like those names or to share my list and compare! : ) I’ve come across a few in the last couple of months. First, as a reader, in doing research for my current WIP and then, as a writer, when I started following the trends. Your post explains a few things and helps clarify some of the things I’ve been seeing as well. As an aside, author acknowledgements can also be treasure trove in terms of showing connections–bought or otherwise.

    So, two things I would add to this.

    1) What goes around comes around. Bad joojoo begets bad joojoo. Sometimes, it takes a while but it happens. I’ve seen it. Supposed fans that require a handout or treat of some kind to read or just review the work (unread?!?) will get bored and move on. That kind of shaky foundation built on false fandom will inevitably fall apart. Legitimate readers and reviewers–where you garner one review at a time–ensures a sturdy and steady build of your fan base for years to come.

    2) Writing is a solitary process. It’s not done in groups. (Personally, I’ve never done well in groups. Put me in a one-on-one situation and I’m your star, but a group? Not so much.) And while I appreciate the readers who enjoy my work, I can’t spend all my time entertaining them or the writing doesn’t get done. Who exactly would be doing the writing in that scenario? Yet, I, too, have noticed these particular cliques of writers strutting about on Facebook and via various book blogs and have wondered how do they get the writing done? How do they have that much time to entertain all of the time? And, how do they get 5,000 fans and that many reviews within weeks of publishing? Hmmm….. I believe they’re skipping a few vital steps that begins with writing a good book and building from there.Your post helps clarify what I was beginning to construe was going on.

    My dismay is that all indie writers will get painted with this broad brush of bad behavior and so judged. So, thank you, R.L., for being brave enough to say it out loud. Amen, sister!

  28. Mel Bedford says:

    I didn’t realize this was going on like this and this is really appalling! I now get most of my book recommendations from book blogs and friends that I trust, so the reviews don’t effect my choices anymore. However, I remember starting out and I relied on those reviews, so I hate that others could be tricked like this. I used to check out both good and bad reviews to get a feel, but I think the most disturbing is for someone to put out a false negative review! Have they no shame?
    I read all of your books last summer when they were 99 cents each and your work spoke for itself. I was glad I got such a good deal, but I remember telling people that I couldn’t believe I was able to find such great reads for that price! I am a continued fan and am glad to pay more, because you deserve it! I can only hope others will be able to see through the other scams and enjoy the indie authors that I have come to know and love!

  29. P.T. Macias says:


    Thanks for the awesome post. I was wondering what’s up. I did suspect and heard about the one star reviews to bring down an author. I couldn’t believe it! I also heard that some authors provide the money to have friends and relatives purchase their books at once to bring the ranking up. Don’t know if true.

    I recently started writing and self published for all of the same reasons. Keeping control. I also write and live to provide the reader an awesome story. I want to take them into another world. I’m also aware that not everyone will enjoy or appreciate my books.

    I was not aware of the other practices, OMG!

    I wish you lots of success!

    Patricia ♥

  30. Suzanne says:

    Thank you! My FB is increasingly becoming cluttered with recommendations, some good, others not so. Your article is timely and interesting, shedding light on an evolving trend of alerts / recommendations being shared through FB.

    The calibre of a review becomes evident, unfortunately only after you take up that recommendation and discover for yourself if they are genuine or not. As a reader, the challenge is to discover which sources voice an opinion that resonates with your own tastes in reading.

    A couple of dubious recommendations will send a message loud and clear to the recipient, not to trust their suggestions in the future. For me, a good source when considering what to read next is to listen to the banter and reviews via friends on goodreads, as well as a few bloggers that constantly provide excellent feedback not only through their posts, but the response of their followers.

    When I follow an author, I do so because I like their work and want to keep up with what they are doing next! I appreciate and relish the relationship that as readers, we now are able to have a direct link to authors. And I am fine that they occasionally share other author’s works that they are genuinely impressed with, key word being occasionally!

    No matter how addicted, we all have a limited amount of reading time and there’s nothing better than spending that valuable time with a book that captures your imagination and leaves you with that ‘wow’ factor!

    Let’s hope that the book reading community that we all value, rises above this misguided marketing ploy!

  31. Marj says:

    I would point out that having a non-verified purchase review on Amazon only means that the reviewer did not buy it from Amazon. I did one today – it’s a book I bought years ago, and think important. It was a 5 star review.
    Many of the Amazon reviews on my own books are non-verified purchases – it means that they were bought from Smashwords (as I prefer) or maybe that they read the whole thing when it was on a writers’ site. It does not mean that they are false. There was a one-star review on my book recently (a non-verified purchase) quickly followed by two more positive reviews. I do not know those reviewers and certainly did not orchestrate the reviews. I’d have to check whether they were verified purchases.
    Posting the same review on different sites probably means either that the reviewer knows the author, or maybe considers the book important enough that you he wants many people to read it. It does not mean that it is false.
    You can be too cynical, and I think your post verges on that.

    • R.L. Mathewson says:


      I understand what you’re saying, but what I am pointing out here is a huge problem that has been going on for months. I will re-edited my list with the tips that I received today, because a great number of people made some excellent points. I was posting the tips to help identify a certain problem which has overwhelmingly been confirmed by emails and private messages today from readers, bloggers and authors. Every industry gets hit with problems and currently this is the problem that is going on with self-published writers.

  32. Rochelle says:

    I wanted to mention that as a non writer I started a group for authors to get together and support eachother. By “support” I mean give eachother tips on book covers, editors, places to submit for reviewing, where to get great bookmarks made, so on and so on. I do also encourage all of the authors to read each others works prior to personally promoting anything. With all of that being said. In a group such as this I am sure that authors will do HONEST reviews of the books that they read from other Authors in the group, I actually encourage it, ( if your going to read it why not review it) so people may see several authors having reviews for the same group of authors, that however does not mean that they were trading high ranking reviews.

    As far as having only higher ranking reviews in general, I have noticed several review sites that will not post a review below 3 stars. In fact recently I did a review for a rather large site that was very low ranking. The site decided it was best to e mail the review to the author as critique rather than post it as a review.

  33. jeannie zelos says:

    what a great article. I use reviews alot as a reader and noticed some that had 5 stars that i thought didn’t deserve it – you know the sort, one review only etc all the stuff you’ve listed. it makes me cross because if i buy a book (kindle) that doesn’t live up the the hype i’m never going to buy more from that author, so they have shot themsleves in the foot. i almost always read sample first too. about a year ago i began reviewing for a paranormal review site and the criteria was that we review honestly – i wouldn’t consider doing anything else. I’ve just started my own book blog so now add reviews there, amazon us and uk, twitter, facebook, goodreads etc but would NEVER accept anything more than free book – and authors know they my views will be honest. i do choose books carefully as i’d give one or two stars to pratchett or lord of rings etc and thats because they’re not to my taste not becuase there’s anythg wrong with them of course, millions of others love them. Reading is subjective though so i write what i enjoyed and what i didn’t when reviewing so others can see what style of books i like and see of they share my tastes. Fake reviews ultimatley do authors no favours, readers aren’t stupid and we’ll spread the word when we find ones that don’t live up to the five stars. i did that just this week with one i bought as it had a clutch of five stars, stupidly was in hurry so didn’t read the sample and the book just got worse and worse, the leads bickered and made jokes worthy of five year olds. i had to give up in the end so posted a one star review making just that point! and straightaway had an email that someone found that helpful…hurrah – the fightback is on. After all what authors need are sales – not just to be top listed and get a bad rep for future books. I love the self publishing/indie book scene – its brought so many excellent authors out that wouldnt have stood a chance with publishers as they don’t like to take on the unknown – undersrtandlabel as it may cost them lots of ££££ for little back but with SP authors can take their own chances AND keep control. As a reader i notice SP boks in sereis/trilogies are released much sooner which suits us series readers to a T!
    so thanks for this post RL so many of us as readers and reviewers agree, and as a reviewer i hate the thought people may see my words as tainted and biased…

  34. Janet W. says:

    I’ve read some reviews that just didn’t ring true, good and bad. I like that Amazon identifies my review as a verified purchase so a reader knows I bought the book and my review is an honest one. Hopefully this is true for others. I’m not a writer but I try to give an honest opinion even though it may not be eloquent. I hate that there are readers who are trying to deceive me with dishonest reviews. I’ve found some wonderful books via the self published route and I have to wonder how many stories we’ve lost from authors who did not have this option. I hope this trend loses steam so it does not tarnish an avenue of opportunity for talented writers. I have enjoyed many a hour in another world while reading your books….some I liked better than others.

  35. LisaT says:

    I hope I’m not restating something already covered here, I tried to read through the comments thoroughly. In regards to ratings on books before they are even published, that was troubling to me too at one time.

    It can be caused by over zealous fans who just want to support their author – early high rating.

    It can also happen, but I think very rarely, by a disgruntled reader who is just being mean – early low rating.

    It often happens when a reviewer receives an Advanced Reader Copy – ARC and reads, rates and reviews the book before its release date. I do this all the time. It is legitimate and I’ve never been asked to give a specific type of review or rating.

    It is a way for publishers and authors to get the word out early and drum up interest in an upcoming release. I have never been offered anything for reviewing a book. I write and post my reviews on my blog, Goodreads and Amazon. It is a little time consuming, but I really love sharing my reviews. I also occasionally even post those same reviews on Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. I try to say “originally posted” on my blog or Goodreads.

    My reason for reviewing books is to help readers find something they want to read. It is secondary to promote an author, but that becomes part of the game. Most authors are very generous in kindness to reviewers and relationships are formed. I find myself reviewing the same author quite often.

    Now, I don’t think having guidelines to help see through “fake” reviews is a bad thing, at all. However, I would hate to be mistaken for that type of reviewer. What you are doing has good merit, but please just be careful to not vilify all reviewers/bloggers.

    Thanks for your efforts in trying to keep the game honest.

    • R.L. Mathewson says:


      I definitely agree and I went back and fixed some things after I got a lot of feedback. Reviewers and professional bloggers normally ID themselves, mention the ARC, etc. This is a situation that is going on. If I hadn’t seen it going on or been asked to participate several times already I would have had my doubts as well, but after this was posted yesterday I received literally hundreds of emails and private messages from readers, authors, bloggers, professional reviewers, etc. confirming everything and sharing a lot more with me. This is why I believe that trying the sample of the book is probably the best bet.

  36. Savannah Day says:

    Thanks for posting R.L. I agree 110%. When I was in the entrepreneur/corporate world this was also a very general practice and because of it I bailed. I never imagined I would see it again as an author. I have purposely delayed my book coming out because I really was hoping the HYPE of all this would die down, but unfortunately over the months, as one goes down, three more pop up. It is disheartening as a new author. I was told by one of these individuals, those that you speak of, when I asked to be friends, or made positive comments on their FB, BLOGS, etc.; “you need to find people more at your level.” I am not almost certain what that means exactly, but as a grown 38 yr old with a college degree I was thrown for a loop. I actually read a couple of these books and all I can say is, “find a new editor and write like an adult.” When I do reviews or even share my comments about a book to another author, yes I have even shared my thoughts with you R.L., I do not hide the fact of who I am. I am very honest with a book I read. I am a new author myself, though I can edit my ards off in a heart-beat. I like grammar and logic. I will be the first to BETA and review a book honestly without all the drama because I know no one and with friends like those, who needs enemies. 🙂 The point being, I really wish everyone would be honest and play fair and nice. I can not stand anything more than getting a book because of all the HYPE, MALE MODELS and DRAMA only to be let down HARD! So…I am with you. SAMPLE the book first and ask others you really trust, BEFORE you buy a book. Be a LEADER and not a FOLLOWER.

    Thank you for posting this R.L. I like to see another honest and up-front author, because I feel more often then not, I am alone.

  37. Kristy says:

    I’ve “met” two authors who I know fake their reviews. When they do get a bad review, they harass them. Don’t be afraid to be honest!

  38. T. A. Grey says:

    Very insightful article and very brave to write about it. I’m not gonna lie, I’m very curious about who is doing this but I understand keeping these individuals’ names quiet.

    I have to say that your point #11 struck home for me. I’m seeing this more and more not only from self-published authors but traditional ones as well. I recently saw a standard, contemporary romance novel by (I think) Avon Publishing listed under the Romance category Anthology. Except the book wasn’t an anthology in any way shape or form. Yet, this book was bestselling in that category. Surely because of the smaller Anthology category it was in.

    I’ve also seen this recently on a sci-fi romance, where someone in the reviews actually pointed out that there isn’t a whole lot of sci-fi or fantasy in this novel, but the romance is great. Yeah, because it isn’t really a sci-fi novel or it is to the barest of degrees. But this author was also doing well, bestselling in that category because of this grimy practice.

    As a self-published author I have seen some of the practices you are talking about, and it hurts to hear that it’s probably worse than what I thought it was. I feel as though I’m lucky, or just not popular enough (haha!) because I’ve never been sent the emails like you said from fake review sites and models. I did get one from a model but he just wanted an interview for shared promo on my blog. Nothing scandalous and I didn’t do it anyway.

    Another thing I have issue with, as Deb Schultz commented on up above, is the non-Amazon verified review thing. Most of my negative reviews, I’ve noticed, aren’t Amazon verified and it’s gotten me wondering if they’ve read the book but did it someplace else or even pirated it. But then why review it on Amazon? What’s the point? Or maybe they are up to something more nefarious. I don’t know and I just shrug it off and get back to work because that’s all you can do.

    Also, I couldn’t agree more about just reading a sample of the book before purchasing. That’s what I do. I maybe grab 3 or 4 then sit down, reach each and decide which took my interest. That’s the one I buy.

    I also have a street team and give them ARCS. Only a few of them leave reviews and they always state their book is an ARC and received the book in exchange for an honest review. And they are honest and certainly not all super-positive 5 star reviews, that’s for sure. That’s also what I expect because you can never please all your readers.

    Thanks for posting such a daring article. I appreciate the brutal honesty.

  39. Heather says:

    I am starting in this field. It is a haphazard maze that is just confusing as hell. I know soon enough I will have to stop banging my head on the wall and just take a chance. My hardest find so far is finding a a good editor …cross fingers I’ll make good choices…I love to write ..but this other stuff sucks socks!

  40. Shane says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Would it be possible for you to recommend any self publishing company? I read all your books and your sense of humor keeps me entertained. Thank you for taking a chance and sharing your work with us.

    • R.L. Mathewson says:

      Honestly, Shane,

      The whole point of self-publishing is to do it yourself, maintain control, etc. There are companies out there set up to help you with services but a lot of them mix services that you can do for free in with their packages. I am starting something to help aspiring authors, but it won’t be ready for a few months. I’ll keep everyone posted.


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