With her debut tome dropping to a mixed reception back in April (the Telegraph reviewer claimed it was the worst novel he’d read in ten years) part time MP Nadine Dorries has spent the summer boasting about the astronomical number of five-star ratings The Four Streets has gathered on Amazon: 1,115 and counting.
An amazing feeling to be at #1 on the Amazon kindle chart. Just amazing.
— Nadine Dorries MP (@NadineDorriesMP) May 12, 2014
— Nadine Dorries MP (@NadineDorriesMP) July 6, 2014
But something smells distinctly fishy about this apparent groundswell of popular support.
Take Mrs E. E. Lilley, for example. She hadn’t reviewed anything on Amazon since October 2013 — until four days ago when she posted a whopping 67 book reviews within hours, including one for Dorries’ The Four Streets. Every single one was five-star. Every single one had the title “I love it” and the body “Swift smooth transaction”.
And while some of Dorries’ reviews are certainly genuine, the number which fit patterns commonly associated with fake reviews is highly suspicious. Even some of the longer, more plausible sounding comments from ‘customers’ — such as those mentioning specific characters in the story — eerily similar phrases are repeated over and over.
See for yourselves by clicking on a few:
- Select on one of the shorter five star reviews
- Click ‘See all my reviews’
- A sure give away is every review from that account either being a short but gushing five-star recommendation or a one-star trashing (to stymie a competitor). Notice the use of samey phrases and endorsements.
Back in 2012 the online retailer was forced to begin a crackdown on fake reviews, purging thousands written by suspicious accounts after business magazine Forbes described the practice as “Amazon’s rotten core”. One disgruntled writer explains why some people are prepared to pay literally thousands of dollars for fakes:
“Now for big name authors, their books’ Amazon ratings may not matter so much – they have such a reputation and presence in bookstores that the average Joe will just buy the book off the shelf without doing research first. But new authors and authors who publish in smaller genres often earn their bread from the Amazon review system. A drop of a star can make a significant difference in the sales of the book.”
While there is no evidence linking Dorries or her publisher to the appearance of the questionable reviews, Scrapbook can’t help being reminded of Mad Nads’ description of her own blog back in 2010:
“70% fiction and 30% fact”.
- Five stars for five dollars: buying reviews, reviewed (Huffington Post)
- Fake reviews: Amazon’s rotten core (Forbes)
- Amazon book reviews deleted in purge aimed at manipulation (New York Times)
- How to spot a fake review on Amazon.com (WikiHow)