Posted on September 14, 2023 at 10:16 AM by Guest Author
Review bombing can be a problem for anyone, but it’s especially damaging to new authors. Learn how this harmful practice can affect you and how to handle it.
Table of Contents
Review bombing is the practice of flooding an online platform with negative reviews for a particular product or service (like books). Typically, it’s a malicious and coordinated effort by a group of people rather than a single individual. The goal is to damage the targeted entity’s reputation or prevent success.
Basically, it’s a tactic bad actors use to hurt a business or professional they don’t like.
Cases of review bombing seem to be popping up more often, but it’s not a new scheme. This internet phenomenon has been around for years. In fact, the term first appeared in an Ars Technica article from 2008. Since then, it has become so widely used that it has an entry in Merriam-Webster.
Having a lot of negative reviews doesn’t automatically make you the victim of review bombing. You may be tempted to blame low ratings on trolls, but that’s not always true. So, it’s important to understand the difference between review bombs and legitimate negative reviews. That way, you can figure out when reviews are meant to harm and when they’re meant to share genuine criticism.
Review bombs are usually posted in a short period of time — anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks. The point of this tactic is to flood the platform with negative reviews quickly. When many bad reviews appear overnight, it often indicates an attack.
Legitimate reviews, on the other hand, are more spread out since they’re not part of a coordinated campaign. As people read your book, they may be compelled to offer their thoughts (even if they’re not nice). Such reviews tend to appear sporadically, though you’ll probably have more soon after your book is published.
Review bombers often have ulterior motives in posting negative feedback. These include political agendas, personal grudges, or attempts to manipulate public perception. Those driven by greed may even use this tactic for extortion. Usually, their motivations are irrelevant to the actual quality of your book.
Legitimate negative reviews are driven by honest feedback from users who were disappointed by or unsatisfied with your book. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but their motivations are genuine. They’re merely offering up a critique to other potential readers.
Content of reviews
Review bombers often post generic, inflammatory, or unrelated comments. Their reviews aim to harm your reputation rather than provide constructive criticism. In some cases, it’s just a series of 0-star or 1-star reviews without any explanation.
Legitimate negative reviews tend to be specific, detailed, and focused on the actual issues or shortcomings of your book. Reviewers often share why they didn’t like the book with fellow readers. And they may even offer suggestions for improvement.
Many times, those involved in review bombing only post negative comments without any constructive feedback. If you look at their history, you may see a pattern of this behavior.
Users who post legitimate negative reviews may also post glowing reviews for books when they enjoy them. Seeing a mix of positive and negative reviews makes sense because they’re sharing their honest thoughts.
Often, review bombs are left by users who never actually downloaded or bought your book. They may even post comments before your book is published. Some are bold enough to note they didn’t read the book but still object to it for some reason. (This happened to author Cecilila Rabess before her debut novel, Everything’s Fine, was published.)
Real reviews come from those who got your book and took the time to read it. And their review will reflect that. Depending on where the review is left (like Amazon), they may also be marked as a verified customer.
Response to feedback
Perpetrators of review bombing campaigns don’t often respond to replies or attempts at constructive dialogue. Their primary goal is to harm you and your book — that’s it.
Users who post legitimate negative reviews are typically open to discussing their concerns. They may engage in productive conversations with other users or you. In fact, they may appreciate the chance to talk with you one-on-one.
As you may have guessed (or even experienced firsthand), review bombing can have a major impact on authors. That’s because reviews are a powerful form of social proof. The feedback left on your book’s sales page or Goodreads listing can determine how you and your book are perceived.
Here are five ways this practice can affect you:
1. It Can Damage Your Reputation.
Building authority as an author is hard enough, but review bombing can make it even harder. If bad actors decide to criticize your book in an all-out campaign, it can tarnish your reputation. Those who come across the reviews may be tricked into thinking your work is poor quality when that’s not true. And it may result in you missing out on other opportunities, too.
Review bombing can tarnish an author’s reputation by artificially inflating the number of negative reviews or ratings for their book or other literary works. This can mislead potential readers into thinking that the work is of poor quality when it may not be the case at all.
2. It May Lower Your Book’s Visibility.
Having a lot of positive reviews for your book can help bump it up in the search results, but the opposite is also true. Receiving a surge of negative reviews can lower your book’s visibility. For instance, Amazon’s algorithm considers reviews when ranking products like books. Those with many good reviews tend to appear higher in the results, whereas those with few and poor reviews are listed much lower.
3. It Can Destroy Your Confidence.
Even if you know the negative feedback you’re getting isn’t authentic, it can still strike a blow to your confidence. Seeing so many bad reviews for your book can be disheartening. It may stifle your creativity.
Worse, it could cause you to self-censor your work in an attempt to avoid provoking or offending anyone.
4. It Can Drown Out Legitimate Feedback.
There’s a lot of value to be found in book reviews on Amazon and other platforms. Constructive criticism from readers can help you improve your craft. Unfortunately, it can get drowned out amidst the negativity of review bombing campaigns.
5. It Can Cost You Book Sales.
Getting hit with review bombs can also drive down sales by deterring readers from purchasing your book. Many people look at ratings or just skim the reviews. Readers shopping for new titles may see the reviews and assume the book is terrible. As a result, they won’t want to spend money on it.
Anyone can become the target of a review bombing campaign. In most cases, those involved just like to stir up trouble. Still, you probably want to know what you can do to address this practice and limit the damage it can cause.
Here are some steps you can take:
Take the time to read reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other platforms.
Determine which reviews are legitimate and which aren’t.
Don’t react to bad feedback without careful consideration.
Report reviews that violate a platform’s community guidelines.
Report individual users if their actions are considered harassment.
Make a statement regarding the attack on your platforms.
Encourage book reviews and hopefully offset bad ones.
Although platforms are making an effort to combat review bombing, it’s still an issue for authors. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be going away anytime soon.
For now, you can be aware of it. And if you’re ever the target of a campaign, you can address it to the best of your ability.
Ultimately, it’s just another challenge you may face as an author. You’re better off focusing on the positive and constructive feedback you receive from readers.
(Want to reach new readers and bring in more authentic reviews? Promote a free ebook with The Fussy Librarian!)
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