Saturday, 29 November 2014

Would You Pay For a Favourable Review on Amazon?

My good friend, Dionne Lister, and I recently had an interesting discussion about authors cheating the system on Amazon by paying for favourable reviews. It turned into one of the best blog posts I've read on the subject. I've re-blogged it here.
Take it away, Dionne

Hey, peeps. I haven’t done a ranty post in a while, but ranty Dionne is back! I find getting this stuff out of my system by writing it down helps, and why not educate readers and other authors while I’m at it. Today’s post is all about the wonderful world of authors scamming the Amazon system to trick unwary readers into buying their books.
I must state right out that I may be 43, but I’m naive, to a degree. Whatever I do, I do it honestly, with passion, and to the best of my ability, so it really comes as a shock to me when I discover people scamming the system. Writing has been my biggest passion of all (aside from my family). Ever since I was maybe nine or ten, I knew I wanted to be an author, and I’ve spend a good part of my 30s up until now trying to improve. There are many writers out there who have that passion to write and know that once the fire is ignited, not even a flood will extinguish it. I can admit that what I discovered hurts all the more because of this, and, hell, I know the people I’m about to talk about haven’t given a second thought to me, or any of the other authors out there who truly care about writing. I should not take this personally, but I do, and I feel ripped off on behalf of my author friends who I know put their heart, soul, time and money into each book they publish. The honest, talented, hardworking authors are missing out on sales because some other authors are getting visibility and sales based on dishonest practices.
It all started a few weeks ago when a certain book—which I won’t name because I’m not here to ‘out’ people, but open people’s eyes so they can be aware when they’re choosing a book to read—appeared on my book’s page as a number one bestseller (those orange tags are hard to miss). Being curious, and always on the lookout for fantasy books to read, I clicked on the book. It was sitting just under #200 overall on Amazon and had quite a few 5 star reviews. Naturally, I read a sample. I. Almost. Died. The prose was basic, and punctuation was non-existent; the poor comma was totally neglected and didn’t appear until paragraph eight. Sentence fragments made an appearance, but not the type that add tension or emphasise something, but ones that didn’t make sense. I couldn’t read on; my editor-type brain was bashing itself against the inside of my skull. Crying seemed like a good option. How could so many people LOVE this book—70+ reviews, 28 five star, 21 four star for a book that was release three weeks ago—when my book was languishing at #200,000 and has received 58 reviews since April 2012. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to write an engaging book; maybe readers really don’t give two craps about good writing, punctuation and error-free books. (I must say that I get not everyone will love your book, but when it comes too easy for some when it’s clear they shouldn’t have hit publish, it can get to a writer who has spent $1000 on their cover and hundreds on editing, until they realise it’s all bullshit).
Reading the legitimate reviews—the one star reviews—I could see their gripe was the same as mine, plus the brave, stubborn readers who had pushed on, despite the horror, pointed out that many words were incorrect, names for the same character had changed throughout the book, basically anything you could do wrong, this book did. It left me scratching my head, so I thought I’d do some research. Where did it lead?
To the conclusion that the five-star reviews were mostly either friends or paid reviews. I went to Fiverr to see what I could see after having heard it’s a place to go when you want to score (a good review). Oh, my, I felt like my rose-coloured glasses hadn’t just been removed, but they’d been ripped off, stomped on, then the broken glass stabbed into my eyeball. It’s like a red-light district on a Saturday night (ahem, not that I would know what one looked like except for what I’ve seen on TV). Dealers are everywhere, money is changing hands out in the open, and the dodgy people thanking the dealers for reviews are just as brazen. Here are some quotes from the dealers on what they can score for you:
Have your book on Amazon or Kindle? I’ll read it and write a detailed, thoughtful, and positive five star review quickly! I’ve written dozens of product and book reviews and would love to make yours stand out from the crowd. —kbroder9
I will write review on Amazon US, UK, FR, etc.. I can write it on my own or you can provide me and i will post it from my account(s). From different location and device. The more reviews, the greater the chance it will be found and used by potential users. Contact me for Bulk Order ! —reviewergal
I will write a 100-word verified review, highlighting the best aspects of your book. I have extensive professional experience in writing, editing, and beta reading. Your review will be thoughtful and well written. Please see my gig extras if you need me to do any of the following: -buy an ebook up to 3.99 for a verified review -repost your review to another site -add 100 words to your review -deliver in 48 hours (I no longer offer a 24 hour option–reviewing too fast increases the chances that Amazon will remove the review) —beccalovesbooks. (Some reviewers ignore this small issue yet Amazon hasn’t removed their reviews).
Anyway, you get the picture. After chasing up some of the authors on Amazon and going from one link to the next, from ebooks, to reviews, to reviewers, and back to other books they’ve reviewed, I’ve learnt how to spot some of the dodgy reviews. Because Amazon clearly either doesn’t care, or maybe their toilet is clogged and the disposal of such a huge amount of shit is beyond them, I wanted to give you your own BS detector. When you’re trying to find a book to read, please read the sample to make sure it’s at least been edited, then check the validity of the review by clicking on the reviewer. *Please keep in mind that one or two reviews with the following characteristics may not mean the review is fake (some of the reviews on my book are one or two sentences of just “I enjoyed this”), but if you come across review after review for the one book that meet most of these criteria, you can probably assume the author has garnered fake reviews.
This is what I noticed:
1. The reviewer only posts 5 star reviews
2. The reviewer posts more than one review on any given day
3. Reviewers who have been doing it for a few weeks have a shitload of reviews within a short space of time. Note this reviewer who does multiple reviews in one day, day after day. They must be the fastest reader ever.
Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 4.21.24 pm
4. Look for generic reviews that don’t really say anything about the book, except for gush about how bloody awesome it was and how they can’t wait for the next one (yes, some reviews like this are legitimate, but if there are several within a short amount of time, you can bet your cutest, warmest pussy cat on them that they are fake). Here are a couple of doozies I had to share because hey, you gotta laugh, right? (I was led to this book from one of the fake reviewers when I clicked on their reviews to see what other books they’d been so kind as to comment on for money).
Wow, this alarming book has utterly riddled my mind. I’m stunned at the brilliance of the author has she waves this intriguing tale. It twists and turns with action-packed events. The distinctive characters were well fashioned owing to the vivid descriptions. I refused to put this book down. Indeed it moved so fast I could barely keep up. Here goes a book with a riveting tale that will leave you completely astounded as each character’s role is unleashed in a very surprising way. You have got to check this out!—Nita
How’s that for gushing without actually saying anything?
And this from a reviewer who posted three reviews on the same day, all five stars: XXX (book title left out for obvious reasons) is really a book that you should only read if you are prepared to have a few very late night sleeps. Because yes you are right, it is one of THOSE books that keeps you to the edge of your seat from first to last. And No, you will NOT want to put it down until sleep finally overcomes your eyes. I am sure you are looking forward to the next book in the series if you have read this one. You are lucky to find such an author among all the crowd. Its not every author who can take your sleep away (wink)—Yong C. Hudson.
5. If there is only one 5 star review from the reviewer, they may be legitimate, or they are could be a friend, family member, or the author with a fake account. Again, use discretion. I think it’s prudent to look at the complete picture before you judge on this particular type of review, but if things about the other reviews look suss, this review probably is too.
6. When you’re looking at the reviews for a single book that has only come out in the last few weeks, unless it’s a freak success story (which does happen) or you can see the author has a high profile on social media and has prepared well for their launch with legitimate reviewer copies, multiple 4 and 5 star reviews on the same day, day after day, are suspect. Even bestselling books take a while to gather reviews.
I hope I’ve helped people see when authors are gaming the system. Readers, when you’re looking for a book to read, please check out the sample, and try and buy a book from an author who is doing the right thing, and if you like their book, leave an honest review. Discovering this scummy behaviour has made me sceptical of every good review. It’s not fair that as a reader I can’t trust reviews, and it’s not fair that I, or any other honest writer, should feel they are failing because they are not getting 70 great reviews within two weeks of releasing their book—you’re not failing; I’m not failing. I have to believe that good writing, while it may not sell to millions, will sell better than shit writing, and will lead to a loyal fan base of readers who will buy your books and will truly appreciate your work.
Many of my friends have told me, and I think/hope they’re right, that the crap books will still lose in the end, that readers won’t come back and buy anymore from these authors once they realise the writing, despite the glowing reviews, sucks. And yes, there are some great books out there with fake reviews, which is still dishonest, but at least you won’t be buying a substandard product (although, I don’t condone this underhanded levelling of the playing field).
Anyway, I’ve decided to brush it off and run my own race, sans performing-enhancing reviews. I’ll keep doing what I love—writing—and take comfort that when that one review every few weeks comes in, it’s from a reader who really did love my book. After all, the drug high only lasts so long, and coming down can be a bitch. To all the honest writers, I’m glad and proud to call you my colleagues, and to all the dishonest ones, I wonder how it feels to have to pay people to love your book? I wonder what else you have to pay for…?

Friday, 28 November 2014

Give a Book This Christmas - Chills and Thrills Giveaway.

It's that time of the year again when we all begin thinking about Christmas gifts and, being a writer, I naturally turn to books. They're the type of present that transports you to other places, other times and even strange and unusual worlds.
Yeah, yeah, a DVD can do that, too, I hear you say. But eventually DVDs break down - they stop unexpectedly and no matter how hard you press the play or fast forward button, that sucker refuses to listen. You got a dead DVD!
Doesn't happen with a book.

Starting this Black Friday and ending December 23rd, is a fantastic giveaway in which I'm privileged to be involved. Not only is there an amazing array of books from which to choose, but there are prizes, too - 12 Books, 12 Fantastic Authors, and dozens of ways to win! Simply enter to win at the link below for your chance to receive one of 22 prizes. And if a prize happens to go out of stock, the winner will instead receive a gift card in the amount of the prize.

Happy Holidays

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Bloodgifted (The Dantonville Legacy Series, Book 1) REDUCED to 99c

For this week only, BLOODGIFTED the first book in my Dantonville Legacy Series, has been REDUCED to 99c. I thought it would be fun to do a pre-Christmas special, so those readers who haven't yet discovered my book, this is your chance. Buy it for yourself, or as a gift for someone who loves to read urban fantasy and paranormal romance thrillers.

This sale lasts till midnight, Sunday 30th.

Happy reading!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Guest Post - Lilo Abernathy and The Light Who Shines

This week a dear writer-friend of mine, Lilo Abernathy, is being featured in the Amazon Kindle Daily Deal. Any writer whose book is listed on Amazon knows how hard it is to be chosen for this special type of promotion. Lilo's book, The Light Who Shines, has been on several best seller lists, and continues to climb the Amazon ranks for urban fantasy and paranormal romance. But it's also a mystery and a thriller that'll have you turning those pages and keeping you up into the wee hours of the morning. 
Today only, The Light Who Shines, is reduced to $1.99. Go to Amazon, press the Buy Now button and enjoy one good read.

The Light Who Shines
by Lilo Abernathy
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance / Mystery
Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars
Regular Price: $4.99
Sale Price: $1.99 (One day only)
Kindle Daily Deal Sale Date: Thursday, November 20th, 2014 
Amazon Link:
When Supernatural Investigation Bureau agent Bluebell Kildare (a.k.a. Blue) arrives at the scene of the crime, it's obvious the grotesquely damaged body of the deceased teenage boy was caused by far more than a simple hit and run; and she vows to catch the killer. Using her innate sixth sense, Blue uncovers a powerful magical artifact nearby. She soon discovers it acts as a key to an ancient Grimoire that was instrumental in the creation of the Vampire breed and still holds the power to unravel the boundaries between Earth and the Plane of Fire. 
Blue and her clever wolf Varg follow a trail that starts at the Cock and Bull Tap and leads all through the town of Crimson Hollow. Between being sidelined by a stalker who sticks to the shadows and chasing a suspect who vanishes in thin air, the case is getting complicated. If that isn't enough, Dark Vampire activity hits a record high, and hate crimes are increasing. However, it's Blue’s growing feelings for Jack Tanner, her sexy Daylight Vampire boss, that just might undo her. 
While Blue searches for clues to nail the perpetrator, it seems someone else is conducting a search of their own. Who will find whom first? 
Danger lurks in every corner, and Blue needs all her focus in this increasingly dangerous game or she risks ending up the next victim. 
Bluebell Kildare: Blue is a Supernatural Homicide Detective and a gifted empath who has a pure spirit and a will of steel. She was orphaned at a young age and has had a tough life so far. Yet, she continually picks herself up by the boot straps and fights to do what is right, regardless of the cost. Just how high will the cost be?
Jack Tanner: He's Blue's sexy boss, the head of the Supernatural Homicide Unit in Crimson Hollow. Jack is very old and powerful Daylight Vampire with many layers. He is driven a little crazy by his desire to protect Blue in the face of her independence. Can he keep his cool when Blue needs him most?
Varg: He is a great grey wolf who comes out of nowhere and decides to be Blue's companion. He seems to have some mysterious magical abilities and uses them to guard Blue's life. Can he keep her safe?
Maud: She is Blue's dear friend and mother figure. Maud used to visit Blue in the orphanage and read to her as a child. She can't cook but she makes awesome Southern beverages. What color is her hair today? Is it blue, fuchsia, scarlet, or peach sherbet?
Alexis: She is Blue's comrade and neighbor, as well as the sassy owner of a store called Herbal Enchantments. She is gifted in earth magic and if she isn't busy feeding her friends, she's telling them what to do. Does she have her hands on her hips right now, or is she waving her finger at Blue?
The Villain: Can he get any more evil? No. He is about as evil as they come . . .
Lilo Abernathy is a somewhat eccentric, deep-thinking, warm-hearted young woman of at least 43 years. She started out as a restaurant chain hostess and worked her way up to the exciting world of global mergers and acquisitions. She has enjoyed an on again/off again relationship with formal education and has been affectionately referred to as information hound. In the evenings, she fills her writing breaks by scanning the internet for answers to provocative questions, such as: "What causes diamonds to be formed in different colors?"
One thing that never changes is Lilo's ongoing love affair with books. A born bibliophile, by age ten she finished all the children's books in the house and started devouring the adult section. By age 15, she was working her way through grocery store book aisles and libraries. Just as Picasso had his blue period, Lilo had her own periods of readership--urban fantasy, paranormal romance, Gothic novels, etc. Now she's planning on creating a bookshelf for you to enjoy.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Meet My Guest - Author Elizabeth Ellen Carter

It's always a pleasure to have a special guest on my humble little blog, and today it's historical novelist and friend, Elizabeth Ellen Carter. Only this week, Elizabeth released her second book, Warrior's Surrender. It's a thrilling read that takes place in 11th century Britain just after the Norman Conquest - a dangerous time to live, and not only for women.
But I'll let Elizabeth takeover here:

There is a wonderful film from 1939 which I absolutely adore.

It's called The Women and it has an absolutely stellar cast - Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine and Pauline Goddard. The film's tag line is 'it's about men'. And indeed it was, even though The Women had an all female cast 

It occurred to me almost at the end of writing to Warrior's Surrender, that it too is about men - as well as a love story between our hero Sebastian de la Croix and our heroine Lady Alfreya of Tyrswick.

I enjoyed exploring the range of masculine experience from boyhood to old age  - the lovers and fighters, the sons and fathers, the garrulous and the taciturn. And I hope you enjoy meeting the wonderful men who live at Tyrswick.

Sebastian, of course is an alpha male - he is decisive, strong and brave. He is also chivalrous, tender and passionate (Fantasy casting: Ian Somerhalder as Sebastian de la Croix):
Sebastian looked back at her. He had sisters and brothers. And he would fight to his last breath to protect them too. He could not fault a father for protecting his family.

The Saxon Earl’s sword dipped. Because of his injury, exertion had weakened him. A feverish sweat broke out over the man’s face and lingered on his graying beard. He needed a physician, Sebastian realized. There were monks in an abbey a league away who would help.

The young Norman addressed his instructions to the girl. Her cornflower-blue eyes refused to show fear of him; her father and brother would need her bravery and strength if they were to survive this night.

“Go! Get out of here!” he hissed. “I will buy you as much time as I can. Do you understand me?”

The girl’s eyes widened in surprise and she nodded.
Then there is Larcwide, a Saxon man-at-arms in his 50s. He is experienced, pragmatic and fatherly. He is a protector but he is also hampered his position in the Tyrswick household. Larcwide is a man whom Alfreya can trust and whom other men look up to. He is a rock. (Fantasy casting Kevin Sorbo as Larcwide):
They rode in silence for some time, Frey lost in her thoughts, when Larcwide finally spoke.

“You need to understand the difference between men and women, Alfreya.”

The use of her first name startled her from her reverie, and she considered him cautiously, unsure whether she wanted to hear what he had to say. 

“I’ve been married for nearly six months, my friend, do I need further instruction?”

Larcwide ignored her attempt to deflect him with a jest.

“Men are designed to do one thing at a time and do it well. Women seem to do fifteen different things at once,” he began awkwardly. “He needs you to let him go and do the things he needs to. He’s not rejecting you; he’s not dismissing your skill. Do you understand what I’m talking about, lass?” 

But not all men are so cut and dried, not every one is so open with his feelings or have the ability to articulate how he feels. Yet nonetheless he is a good man -  loyal, protective of those he cares about, but he feels frustrated when he can't solve a problem which isn't tangible. Meet Orlege, another of Lady Alfreya's men-at-arms. (Fantasy casting Aaron Eckhart as Orlege): 

Orlege exhaled deeply, making clear that he did not want to continue the conversation. He scuffed the ground with his booted feet and in doing so, dislodged a stone, which he then kicked into the garden.

“I’m no good with words. I don’t know if I can make you understand,” he said. “I’m a soldier. I pledge my life for my lord. He goes into battle and I go with him. I use a sword, a battleaxe, a pike staff, a bow to attack and defend. Understand?"

Frey shook her head. 

“I would willingly take a life to preserve yours, my lady, but I don’t know how to fight rumors or battle gossip and evil words.”
Young boys grow into men, sometimes all to soon, sometimes their initiation into manhood is one marred by tragedy (mild spoiler). (Fantasy cast member David Wayman as Robert) 

The past few months had altered both young men; they seemed to have grown taller and their physiques had broadened. No longer carefree youths, both were now serious young men for whom, she later learned, Larcwide’s death bore hard. Frey wasn’t sure if the change was to be celebrated or mourned along with her old friend.

They escorted her from the suite of chambers and into the Great Hall to break fast.

As she sat, another six men she recognized from Tyrswick left their places and surrounded her table.

Now, this was too much.


The young man who just three months ago would have quailed at the censure in her voice, crossed his arms and planted his feet.

“My orders are explicit, Lady Alfreya. Your life above all others.”
Do you recognise any of the men in your life in these archetypes? I'd love for you to share in comments below.

Buy Warrior’s Surrender here
Etopia Press Bookstore
Barnes and Noble
All Romance Ebooks
Kobo Elizabeth Ellen Carter: Facebook: Twitter: Web/Blog:

Go get your copy. I've already got mine and can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

I've Been Nominated for Best New Author in the AusRom Readers Choice Awards.

It has been an exciting couple of months. In October I celebrated the first anniversary of the release of Bloodgifted, my debut novel, and this month I've been nominated for Best New Author in the AusRom Readers Choice Award. To say I'm thrilled is an understatement. Even if I don't win, it's still an honour to have been nominated; to know that readers enjoy my books and are asking for the next in the series.
For any author, that is amazing. Plus, as an indie author, it's also a recognition of our place in the writing community, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Since the AusRom nominations will be running the entire month of November, readers will have time to go to the site and vote for their favourite authors, books and book covers. So, unlike the Academy Awards, you the reader, will decide the ultimate winner, and I hope you vote for me.
All you need do is click on this link and press the Like button on my name graphic to register your vote. And thank you to all my friends and fans who've voted for me already.