Vicki's Book News and Articles

Dirty Tricks

Vicki Hinze, On Writing

Written by Vicki Hinze

On September 26, 2011

WARNING:  This is a no-edit zone…


In the race for topping the list in rankings, many authors are reporting dirty tricks being played against them.  These tricks are purportedly playing out in a variety of ways and authors naturally are concerned about them.


Here are a few hard and fast facts:


  • Reviews are subjective and everyone is entitled to an opinion and to express it, whether or not it’s an informed opinion and whether or not their opinion is expressed in honest assessment or in nefarious activity.  Since opinions are opinions and not facts, there are few tools for determining the true basis of said opinion.


  • It’s always wise to be slow to accuse and err on the side of benefit of doubt.


  • Not everyone will like any given book.  (This is a plus.  If they did, we’d need one book and one writer.)


  • There are those who consider it legitimate to negatively review a book to kick it down a few notches on a list so that a book they want to move up will move up.  Morally and ethically it is not legitimate, of course.  But we all know that works-in-progress are not limited to books, they extend to people too.  And some just haven’t yet learned the lesson that when you set out to harm another, you harm yourself.  Take heart.  They’ll learn, and you’re strong enough to withstand the onslaught or it wouldn’t be happening to you.


  • It’s pretty evident to readers who read the reviews that these destructive types are at work.  Some will blow off their negative reviews.  Some will be angered by them.  Some will pray for people who feel it’s okay to do something so underhanded, corrupt and destructive.  And some will be repulsed and will take on a negative opinion of the reviewer that will stick like glue for a long time to come.


When reports started coming in on this taking place, I did some research.  It became pretty evident who was panning a book because it just wasn’t their kind of book, and who was panning a book because they had an ulterior motive.  So the bottom line advice I have on this to trust your readers.


Readers are bright.  Some just won’t like a book.  But they’re slow to post really awful reviews on books much less free books, particularly if they’re authors.  Maybe it’s because they know the work it takes to write a book, or maybe they refrain because they know being destructive on subjective opinions is, well, subjective and destructive.  Or maybe they’re smart enough to know that a book not suited to their tastes might just be someone else’s dream read.


Readers do read reviews.  And when they see a bad one, often they’ll check the reviewer’s profile.  If that reviewer has reviewed a half-dozen books and all of them have been free books and all of the reviews have been bad ones, how much weight is that reader going to give that review?


Similarly, if a book has a ton of good reviews and in then suddenly in a span of a day or two days gets a slew of bad ones, and then when those reviewers other reviews on different works are examined and one discovers the one book reviewed and praised is two slots down on the list, well, how much credibility do you think the reader puts on these reviews?


Here’s the thing.  When manipulations are being made, it’s pretty obvious to readers.  They are not mindless twits but intelligent human beings with excellent taste—as is evidenced by their choice to be our readers. J  So give them credit for spotting this nonsense, because they can and do spot it.


A tidbit revealed over the years I want to share that might be of interest to those impacted by this nonsense:


As a writer, you must understand that some readers will love your book and some will hate it.  Either is valid and both are good.  Good because you touched something in them.  In a utopian world, everyone would love our books as much as we do.  But we live in the real world, and here, some will love them, some will hate them.  Then there are those who read and shrug, “Whatever.”  That indifference is the worst.  Yet it too will come.  Because we’re different, our tastes are different, our hot and cold buttons are personal and different, and people who read react differently.


Some who love it will say so, some won’t.

Some who hate it will say so, some won’t.

Some who are indifferent to it will say so, some won’t.


That’s a successful book.


Some plotting to zap you off the top of the list so they or their friend can climb… well, you can’t legislate common sense or wisdom, so why feed it good energy?  We all know that in the end the truth comes to light and you reap what you sow.  We also know payback can be hell.    No one escapes it indefinitely.


About a decade ago, there were a ton of “hit and run” reviews.  Short-term it caused authors problems.  Sales of Tums no doubt went up and “Stock in Kleenex is on the rise” became code for I’ve just gotten smacked down by a hit and run review.  But then a computer glitch occurred and these anonymous reviewers’ identities were revealed.  Notorious for “hit and run” reviews that slammed authors, their works—in cases, their editors and even their cover art—these people who intended to tear others down to elevate themselves instead were exposed.  Their reputations were shred, their ethics and absence of integrity were evident and the stains they created on themselves by conducting themselves as they had follow some still today.  What goes around does indeed come around…


Remember too that there are many wonderful reviewers and much wisdom and insight to be gained from their feedback.  Like in every other facet of life, you guard your mind.  You don’t take in just anything from anyone.  You assess the value of it and take in what you deem good and constructive and ditch the rest.  Readers are discerning.  They check reviewer profiles and they spot fakers and those with similar tastes.  Give them credit.  From the feedback I’ve gotten, I can tell you, to many it’s due.


As I said earlier, readers are bright.  Trust them to look at these reviews and, before they grant them validity or weight, to determine that they’re worthy of validity and weight in their own eyes.  (Remember, our eyes are different, too.)


One thing often overlooked by writers but never missed by readers is that writers review like writers and readers review like readers.  It shines through.


Lastly, let me share this.  I’ve been hit-and-run by the best.  It’s not fatal.  It can be frustrating, annoying and irksome, but it’s short-term.  Often these hit-and-runs aren’t about the book at all and have nothing to do with manipulating rankings.  Sometimes it is a reaction to the writer.  A personal reaction.  Let me share a specific that makes my point really clear.


I’m a fiscally conservative female with a strong code of ethics who speaks out on issues in public forums like Twitter.  I try to be fair but I don’t bite my tongue.  I contact representatives and hold their feet to the fire often enough that I’m regularly canvassed by them or their staff because they know they’re going to hear from me anyway.  And I quiz potential candidates hard.  I hate spin and hypocrisy and don’t condone it.  I’m not politically correct, never have been, and I don’t apologize for it.  I exercise my rights.  I have children and grandchildren impacted.  It all matters.  To me, exercising rights is not a privilege but a duty of citizenship.  It’s that simple.  Needless to say, some disagree and some take exception.  But when attempts to argue are met with, “On this, I respectfully agree to disagree,” and then I’m done, it’s not always done.  Sometimes it is done with mutual respect.  But other times retaliation takes place.  And on more than one occasion the victim isn’t me personally but one of my books.  It’ll get a Class-A zap.  Yet in the big scheme of things, a zapped book is a little thing.


I shared this so that when you view these hit-and-run reviews on your work, or notice them on someone else’s, you don’t despair or worry overly and so you are or become aware that often it’s a strike back by someone frustrated about something unrelated to the work.


Like your readers, you need to be discerning and determine the value of the review.


Oh, one more thing.  (Sorry, I forgot it until just now.)  One of you mentioned that you were going to start hitting that “Abuse report” button on Amazon.  (For those unfamiliar, this is a way to report the reviewer/reviews for some serious infraction.)


I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone to do that or not to do that.  You’re a responsible adult and make your own decisions.  That’s as it should be since you’ll be held accountable for them.  But if you’re tempted to hit that button, I would caution you to be extremely judicious, and to be able to back up with hard evidence any complaint you elect to make.  Leave no room for dispute.


Personally, I wouldn’t waste the energy unless it was flagrant abuse that impacted my ability to earn a living and I could prove it.  I trust my readers.  For over twenty years, they’ve had my back.


I do realize this sort of thing can take an emotional toll.  But you decide how much of one, and that’s the truth.  A long while ago, I did a post called WHEN WRITERS HURT WRITERS.  Those of you who’ve written me on this subject might want to visit the ON WRITING blog archive on my site and read it.   You’re not alone.  Many other writers have been on the receiving end of dirty tricks and they’ve survived.  So too will you.


In the mean time, let’s all seek to turn this into a constructive opportunity.  Let’s elevate the standard on ethics and moral integrity by living it.  Leading by example, so that personal conduct and treating others with dignity and respect is the norm.  Now that, IMHO, is worthy of our energy… and our respect.


I hope this helps.









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