The Problem with Visibility

Few people realize how hard it is to get visibility in the self-publishing world. Heck, it’s difficult enough to get it in the traditionally published world. I’ve heard horror stories of authors finally getting their book published through traditional publishing for it to fall flat not because it was bad, but because the publisher’s didn’t bother spending more than twenty minutes marketing the book.

Why do I bring this up? I have something slightly controversial to say. Something that it seems most others disagree with and vehemently despise.

Amazon recently had a huge lawsuit against sellers on Fiverr.com for selling reviews for books in exchange for the sum of five dollars. Amazon claimed it was false advertising. I know some authors bought tons of reviews and readers were mislead into believing that sub par work was better than it actually was. But I’m here today with a small mic and a crowd of people who are likely to disagree to say that I can see why some authors resorted over the years to buying reviews. And I certainly don’t think that they have sold their soul in doing so as other claim. Or that they are bathing in a sea of dishonesty and shame.

Through Amazon, you don’t get visibility through high ratings. You them them by the number of reviews you have. Something can have three stars, but if it’s reviewed thousands of times, it will get exposure and visibility through the Amazon algorithm. Not fair, but that’s how it generally works. Some authors were buying tons of reviews (which I don’t agree with AT ALL), while others were buying maybe one, two, or three. Not many. Just a couple here or there.

Here’s the thing. To sell books, you have to have reviews. But in order to get reviews, you have to sell books. People have to know that you exist. So the logic for some is that if you buy a few reviews, when you run an ad your book will have at least some small form of credibility. Enough to get a small glimmer sunlight and a small hope of surviving in a sea of many books. Self-published and traditionally published. And giving away books for free (as I have learned) isn’t the answer. The amount of reviews I received when I had books on permafree vs the amount of downloads I gained was less than .01%. Yep. You read that one right.

People are complaining that having fake reviews gives room for false advertising and you are claiming something is better than it is (even thought these complainers often haven’t looked at the work in question). But here is my point. The starving artists of the world can’t always wait for readers to get wise. They deserve a fighting chance. To get others to even SEE your work (not buy it, but see it), it has to come with some small ounce of credibility in the form of reviews. I don’t see the real harm in giving a book a push by having purchased a review. I can see why some authors might do it. And I don’t think they have sold their soul to Satan for having done so.

No one is going to stay in a hotel that has no reviews. Or eat in a restaurant with no reviews. It doesn’t matter if they have giveaways or give out free meals or rooms to the homeless, they have to have some credit out there in the universe in order to have a fighting chance of being discovered. Some people complain about these companies putting up reviews for friends, each other, or for themselves. Unfortunately, I see the logic in doing so.  To fight, you have to have a sword at hand. Many writers don’t even have access to a sword to fight the battle known as publishing. And many who say that those who buy a review are evil incarnate have either, a) already experienced a lot of success, or b) haven’t experienced abysmal sales that threaten to eat their souls with a spoon.

So that’s my take on the whole “buying reviews” drama out there right now. I see how it can be bad. I see how readers might think they are being mislead. And in many cases, they might be. But I also see from an author’s perspective how getting a review for an unknown book by whatever means possible can mean whether or not they eat dinner at night.

My take on the drama. That’s all.

:::hides from flying pitchforks:::

And no. I do not buy reviews. I give out ARCs. It took me a long time to learn that it was perfectly okay to ask people to read my book.

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