This is the second post in Linda Hilton’s ongoing series of blogs about paid reviews.
A few weeks ago, I posted the above blog about at least one “reviewer” on Amazon who appeared to be a paid shill from fiverr. In other words, the person going by the name “Winchester168” on Amazon was brazenly soliciting business as a 5-star reviewer. This is not only in violation of Amazon’s stated Terms of Service, but it is against Federal Trade Commission regulations which require reviewers to state clearly whether or not they were compensated in any way for their review. That includes receiving a free copy from the author or publisher or any other entity for the purpose of review. And it most definitely includes payment through fiverr for the review.
Here’s the book, and yes I know it’s showing my purchase information:
As of today, 12 June 2014, it has 6 reviews on Amazon, all of which are 5 stars.
Here’s one of them, from Winchester168:
Here is Winchester168’s Amazon profile:
Here is Winchester168’s fiverr profile:
Scrolling down Winchester168’s fiverr profile we find this:
detailing how the client author can even get the “verified purchase” stamp that’s supposed to “prove” the reviewer is an impartial customer.
Although this information has been sent to Amazon several times over the past three weeks, Winchester168 continues to post reviews.
Last night, another GoodReads member located more evidence that Amazon top reviewers and GoodReads top reviewers are in fact fiverr shills. That evidence has been passed along to GoodReads staff.
I personally was so upset about it, that I began looking at all of Winchester168’s reviews on Amazon and deliberately putting those books on my do-not-want-to-read shelf on GoodReads. I do not want to support ANY author who stoops to buying five-star reviews.
In the process, of course, I eventually found Winchester168’s reviews on GoodReads.
Which led to Catherine Winchester’s GoodReads profile:
The connections between the various reviewers form a very tangled web. Winchester is GR friends with Feng Zhou, whose book she 5-starred on Amazon. There are other suspect reviewers whose reviews interestingly show up on many of the same books that Winchester has reviewed.
If you’re a reader, you should be able to trust that the reviews posted on any site — Amazon, GoodReads, BookLikes, Leafmarks, a blog, anywhere — are an honest opinion. You should be informed when a “review” is in fact a paid advertisement. You should know which authors are engaging in practices to pad their ratings to push their books to the top of whatever lists.
If you’re an author, you should be able to trust your fellows. And you should never, ever break faith with your readers.
I will never support any author who stoops to buying reviews. Call me a vigilante if you like, but I find this practice more than just unethical and potentially illegal. You’ve broken the sacred trust that should exist between writers and readers, and I find that despicable, abhorrent, and unforgivable.