Five Reasons Paid Reviews HURT Indie and Traditional Author Sales

Every writer knows that one thing readers do is review your work.

Some will do this in the excerpt (or preview) if something is wrong with the format, spelling or in general. (I am known to do this if it is atrocious.) However, there are some that will do it when the book is done, which is fine too.

The key to reviews is that they should be sincere, not fake.

Sadly, over 37% of them are and they hurt self published authors who aren’t with traditional houses more.

You may be asking why they hurt authors to have fake five star reviews, so I’ll go over some key points.


#1: Focusing on only positives/negative aspects can make a bad review.

For an Indie who is not well known, reviews are a key component to getting others to buy their book. One bad review at the top and it may deter readers. For others, it may pique their curiosity to buy it, just to see if it’s truly as bad as the review stays.

However, please remember this important rule.

If a reader leaves a bad review based on what they read or felt while reading, then this is a true review from your target audience. With that said, the review should encompass all aspects if it’s a 2-5 star review. If it’s a one, then leaving why it was bad could be acceptable.

A good review should encompass all aspects of the book that you read and what may be good and bad for each group that may read the novel. Well rounded reviews are better received than one sided ones.

Your readers will be grateful and so will other authors you leave reviews for.


#2: Authors in the industry can usually tell when a review is bought.

Sometimes, people buy reviews to boost their own books. They will go on Fiverr or another freelance service and pay anywhere from $50-$200 or more for a group of 50-60 people to review their books. Honestly, it’s the same as paying for Facebook likes or social media promotions where it’s not really your target audience.

This is frowned upon and can often get authors banned on social media if they find out. (Yes, I’ve seen this as well.)

I know from experience that those who book tour online and hand out copies of their book for review do not get all five star reviews. In fact, there are very few that meet that criteria that I’ve heard of.

When people are posting reviews such as what’s below, they’ve most likely bought that review.

fake review

(It doesn’t always happen, but that occurs the majority of the time. The one I pulled the example from was not.)

They are not describing what makes it five or four stars. Saying it’s good is like not hurting someone’s feelings in the writing industry. We like to know if something is crap or it’s good enough to publish. Some just want instant gratification and writing is not for them in this instance.

Every writer who has had a good mentor has been taught that you NEED thick skin in this industry. Authors are harsh critiquers and know their craft. So if you say that a book’s just “good” or “bad”, you’re not doing a writer any favors.

(Keep this in mind next time you review a novel, guys.)


INTERJECTION: Honest reviewers vs. paid ones

Most authors will hand pick a select few (usually die hard fans or close friends) advanced reader copies in exchange for a review.

This is a legitimate practice in the industry. I have done some of them and have used one of my own as an example:


free review


Where this was circled means I did not cheat, pirate or fake the review.

Reviews that you see this on should be treated as authentic and true. You will see the circled text usually at the top or bottom of the review.


#3: Buying reviews is undermining your own self worth.

If this line upsets you, please sit and think a minute.

Why would you spend months writing, self editing, pay an editor to pick apart and help you revamp your book just to pay for reviews? That’s screaming you’re not confident enough to let your audience judge. Honestly, thick skin is the nature of this, folks.

You’ve gotten past the editor, which is one of the hardest parts. Congratulations!

But, remember that writing is hard. Whoever said it was easy is lying to you.

You have to have confidence to put your stuff out there, so do it right!


#4: Bought reviews do not attract the right kind of readers, nor does it do well for “promotion”.

My reason for this post was simple: a fellow colleague posted on Facebook that she was emailed about paying them for book reviews. She has given me permission to post the email below:


gen email


The last line was something that bothered several of us she shared it with, which was “Thanks for putting out such an enjoyable book but please promote it.”

Not only was it offensive, the person who emailed essentially told my colleague she was not working “hard enough” to promote her book.

Indies have to do everything, as I’ve stated at the beginning of the post. They do all their own giveaways, promotions, pay for editing, cover art, write, edit and formatting. To say that someone does not work hard enough because she would not accept paid reviews is insulting.

But those who put in hard work will reap the rewards later.


#5: Paying for bad reviews will get you blackballed by other authors.

This is worth mentioning, since I’ve had this happen to three good author friends. There are some who are jealous of others talents and will pay others (along with the author in question) to post one star reviews just to get someone’s sales down (or their reputation).

This is bad karma. While you’ll end up trashing the author you’re bringing down, that author’s fanbase will ALSO retaliate in other ways. It’ll end up hurting you in the end instead of the author you’re bashing.

You could also end up like this author, who got so crazy she stalked one of her one star reviewers last October. It really damaged her credibility and it blew up all over social media. The worst part was that she didn’t listen to her editor’s advice, which was to “let it go”.


My friends, as you write, you will get better. It comes with time and practice, not with buying fake reviews to mislead readers.




You’re doing yourself a disservice and lying to your readers. That’s breaking trust before you give them time to know your work themselves and make a decision. Writing should be about the love of the craft too, not just making a quick buck. If you want that, there are other writing jobs out there just for money.


Have you ever had any of the above happen to you? If so, how did you handle the situation?


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