Okay, so maybe we were a little too innocent -- or, worse, just plain ignorant -- but we always thought that a 5-star review on Amazon.com was a pretty impressive feat. (Well, for a book. Not so much for a waffle iron.) Hey, we've received some 5-star reviews and we were impressed! After all, five happy yellow stars means the reader thought a particular story was great.
Yesterday, we learned differently.
Y'see, one of us had dropped $2.99 on a short e-read for his Kindle. There weren't very many reviews for the three-set of stories; in fact, only three people had bothered to say anything about the collection. But each and every reviewer loved the stories. They were a "fun read", two of the reviewers insisted; the collection was "amazingly sexy"; it was a "great value" for so little money.
So we were surprised when the stories Harrell downloaded turned out to be badly written, boring, and about as sexy as seeing Grandma rinse her dentures. He enjoyed it so little that he abandoned the read in the middle of its second story.
"The writer uses stilted, awkward language," he said. "English isn't their native language, I can tell. Even though the main characters are 'talking', there's paragraph after paragraph without any dialogue -- and no contractions in the little dialogue we get. Besides, I just can't take another run-on sentence."
So exactly how did this chunk of not-great literature get some real-great reviews? We asked around and we found out, there's all kinds of ways. Most writers can count on family members to put up a 5-star salute, no matter how lousy . We say, 'MOST writers' because our particular family members refuse to read our stuff. They still believe that electronic reading is the Devil's work. Some writers will trade 5-star reviews with their colleagues...and we received just such an offer, when we started to look into this. We had to turn it down, on principal, and because, sorry, N., we wouldn't feel good about ourselves in the morning.
One of our buddies shook her head at our ignorance. "People can buy 5-star reviews," she said. After she read the first few pages of Harrell's e-purchase, she was positive: "Bought and paid for reviews. No doubt about it."
Within minutes, we discovered she was right. Our internet search found dozens of "reviewers", ready and willing to purchase an e-book and write whatever the author wants to hear...and for cheap, too. We're talkin' pennies per star.