CherryBlossoms_0025 copyRecently I received a book free from Story Cartel  in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

If you register with Story Cartel you can download free books. The only requirement is that you write an honest review and post it on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N and maybe your blog. If you’re not registered with all these sites than you can just post on the ones you’re familiar with. You’ve got four weeks to post your review – they even send you prompts. No one comes after you if you fail to post.

Your reviews help authors market their books and gives them valuable feedback to improve their writing.

Are customer reviews important? You bet they are.

Customer reviews of books, no matter how unprofessional, help sell books.

BookBub  , a daily deal site for e-books that helps lesser known authors build a fan base by giving a away deeply discounted e-books, says the following about customer reviews:

If one thing is certain from the results we’ve seen, it’s that customer reviews can help sell eBooks. We’ve consistently found that mentioning reader reviews in a BookBub blurb results in better response rates. In one test, including the phrase “over 200 five-star Amazon reviews” drove over 20 percent more clicks than a version of the blurb that did not mention reviews.

Which brings us to Amazon , a company that captures nearly a third of every dollar spent on purchasing books. It values reviews more than other online booksellers featuring them prominently.

If you think that might make unscrupulous authors try to find ways of garnering lots five star reviews for books that are dreck, well, you’d be right, and they’ve been doing it.

The easiest is guilting friends and family into submitting one paragraph reviews (probably written by the author) and ticking the five star box, likely without even reading the book. Authors give away books for positive reviews, swap positive reviews with other authors, even pay professional reviewers, go to , to write and post five star reviews.

So how do you sort out the fraudulent reviews from the legitimate ones?

That’s what Amazon is wondering.

After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon appears to be cracking down on what appear to be fraudulent reviews. Though the shopping site has not said how many reviews it’s deleted, writers say thousands have disappeared in recent months.

Sorting the legitimate from the illegitimate reviews seems an impossible task, After all, who can account for someone’s taste?

Back to the book I got for free from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

This novel is a mess. The plot glitches are more entertaining than the plot and the characters are one dimensional and unmotivated. I generously gave it two stars, the equivalent to “I don’t like it.”

It so far has garnered eleven reviews on Amazon, five of which are five stars.

One five star reviewer called it Thrilling, tightly written, gripping”, another said it was an “Impressive debut novel”. Both of these reviews were one paragraph. Click on “see all my reviews” and there aren’t any others.

There were five reviews from Story Cartel members. Their average rating was 2.8 stars, or almost “it’s okay”. Factor in the other reviews, which include four five-star ratings and a one-line four-star review (also no other reviews posted) and the average becomes 3.6 or almost “I like it”.

The suspect reviews bump the novel rating by twenty percent.

If you’re a writer who will not impugn their integrity by participating in this online chicanery then you’re pretty much screwed. Legitimate reader reviews are far and few between and they are seldom five stars.

If you’re a reader looking for the truth about a book you’re considering purchasing, I suggest you read reviews in newspapers and magazines. Or, if you find it more convenient to read Amazon reviews, skip the five star ones and read the negative reviews – three stars or less. There are usually more in depth and give you a better understanding of the novel – you have the sense the reviewer actually read the book. They are more unbiased because in most cases the reviewer will attempt to justify his criticisms.

They are almost always better written and more entertaining.

Fraudulent reviews, manipulated best-seller lists, all for a few bucks and a little fame. Is this the way the game has to be played?

I think not.

“Character is that which can do without success.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson



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I’m not a very friendly person.

If we attended the same party you’d see standing alone at the edge of an animated group, not contributing. If you thought I looked like I wished I could be someplace else, you’d probably be right.

But being a misanthrope doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and value comments and criticisms of my work. Insightful comments from strangers have taught me more about writing and photography than anything else.

So please comment and criticize if you wish.

Just don’t expect it to be the beginning of an online relationship.





Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.



Read my current work(s) in progress at



Read ”Bubble” excerpts of my novels at


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Or, if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

Flower with attitude at

Pacific Coast Sunsets at