An Open Letter To Authors: Please Play Fair

Dear Authors,

Manipulating reviews is NOT acceptable. It compromises the system that otherwise helps readers get a realistic view of a book. I know some authors are buying positive reviews for their books as I type this, but even worse than that is to purposefully bash your competition.

On the Amazon page of Mini Habits, I posted a guarantee that I will never manipulate the reviews of my books.

Author Guarantee

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean others won’t manipulate MY reviews.

Mini Habits has been out for a little more for two months now, and it has never been rated below three stars…until yesterday. I’m not saying my book is above being disliked—we all have different tastes—but when the first one-star review comes in, as an author, you’re going to check it out. 

I clicked to see what the person had rated other books to try to figure out why they disliked my book so much. But then I saw this:

UPDATE: The picture has been removed. What I saw was that a competing author rated my book one star on Goodreads. But that person claims it was a younger family member who did it and has since removed the review. Thus, I’ve removed the evidence. Regardless of if this case was accidental or not, it still happens frequently.

It’s not easy, you know. I spent 2.5 years and a lot of money writing free articles for my readers to build a platform of trust so that I could launch a book like Mini Habits.

When you bash a competitor, know that there’s a real person on the other end of your unfair rating. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy to forget that there’s a person behind every book, and that these people have rent to pay, families to feed, and dreams to pursue. Do you really want to be one to hurt their cause? Is that something you’re going to be proud of as you lie in bed that night?

Consider this: as authors, our competitors are the writers most similar to us! So not only are you bashing a real person, but this real person likely has a lot of the same passions and interests as you. They could be your friend in real life. This is especially the case with Nonfiction books that share the same message.

We know how grueling (and rewarding) it is to write and publish a book. We know how competitive it is once our books are launched, and how frustrating it can be to try to convey the immense value in the work we’re so passionate about. We all know the joy of positive reviews… and the sting of poor reviews.

It’s tough, and few of us ever make it to the top. So can we please support each other and promote our work honestly?  I know this is a plea to values, and so it will fall on quite a few deaf, greed-stricken ears. But it’s also about restoring trust in the system, which benefits all authors and yes, increases sales. So for those still listening…

If you agree with what I’m saying, I encourage you to add a guarantee under editorial reviews on Amazon saying that you will never manipulate your or your competitors’ book reviews.

Those of us who are honest need to find a way to communicate that fact. Review manipulation is a huge problem, and there’s only so much Amazon can do about it. I think it’s time for us to do what we can to show that we’re handling book reviews honestly.

Without trust, reviews are worthless. Without meaningful reviews, consumers have a difficult time knowing what’s best for them and the whole system suffers. For now, adding a guarantee is probably the best solution. But if you’re an honest author who is interested in coming up with something better and more official to let readers know what authors they can absolutely trust, please contact me. I’ve just registered a new domain and I have a few ideas.


Stephen Guise

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