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

What Is Review Bombing?

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

Review Bombs vs. Legitimate Negative Reviews

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.

User behavior

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.

Reviewer status

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. 

How Review Bombing Affects Authors

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. 

What You Can Do to Address This Practice

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!)

Categories: Behind the scenes

Great article. Yes.. you hope the actions of the many outweigh the actions of a few. Still, I've had sales of books stopped by just one, one star review early on.. and without any comment. You can wonder if it's ill-intended sometimes. I've had most poor reviews following 'free days' where you can get 700 downloads over a weekend. Goodreads reviews can sometimes be a bit harsher than Amazon.. but that's all good. I welcome any and all reviews of my books, especially if they are attached to a written comment. I want people to know what other people think of my work. But I have also wondered, if someone had it in for you, it would be very easy to rain on your parade! Especially as, as far as I can make out, star reviews without comment are completely anonymous. It's all about numbers in the end.. and I'd rather have reviews from strangers than friends. In any case that sort of thing is frowned upon, and rightly so. Books full of 5-star reviews, that look they were written by the author, can be tiresome to wade through! Lastly, I do have one poor review - it says 'there is hardly anything on any of the pages'. I write picture books, which have something on every page! so this makes me think it's a printing error. Try as I might, I could not get Amazon to investigate this.. in the end I've just had to let it be.
Julian | 9/24/23 at 2:56 PM
This article confirmed what we already knew and gave validity to our complaints but what it failed to do was offer any useful advice for authors who’ve been targeted by review bombers. So I will offer some tips that have helped me. I write interracial romance which is a huge flashing target for ignorant, hateful, bigots. Amazon and Goodreads turn a blind eye to this form of racism and harassment so I’ve learned to protect myself. Here are my tips. 1. If you have been review bombed and your rating has fallen below 4 stars delete your book and repost it under a different ASIN. Most people don’t like this method because their concerned about losing their sales rank but if your book has fallen to three and a half stars it’s going to stop selling anyway. It’s also annoying to be forced to get all new reviews but it’s worth it in the end. Most readers would sooner purchase a five star book that only has ten reviews, than a three star book with a thousand reviews. 2. Which brings me to my next suggestion. Never make a paperback or a hardcover book on Amazon because you can never fully get rid of it. Even after you discontinue the book and create a new one with a fresh ISBN the old version will still pop up in the search engine. A better platform to post your hardcover and paperbacks is Barnes and Noble. Here you can permanently delete a printed book if you’ve been targeted by review bombers. 3. Call out the review bomber and shame them for their behavior. If you receive a one star review on Amazon or Goodreads click on the name of the reviewer and go to their profile. If yours is the only one star review they’ve written and the average rating they offer is four stars or above, it’s probably a genuine review from a disappointed customer. However… if you view their profile and they’ve reviewed hundreds of books, every single one of them is exactly like yours and 99% of them are rated negatively. This is a good sign that you’ve been targeted. Don’t allow this to stand. You should have two Goodreads accounts. Use the account that’s not in your author name to leave a comment on their negative review. Call them out on their bigotry. Call attention to whatever agenda they’re trying to push at the expense of your career. Allow readers to know how this person is harming you and others like you. Encourage readers to look at the trolls profile so they can see for themselves that there’s a pattern of poor behavior. Encourage the people reading your comment to call out the review bomber for what they are. Amazon doesn’t have a place to comment so you must have a Verified Purchase reviewer call out the bigotry. It’s important to shame them in a Verified Purchase review because those go straight to the top of the list. Potential customers will see the VP review debunking the fraudulent one. By the time they make it down the list to the review bomber they already know it’s a toxic person who is pushing an agenda and there is no validity to their rantings. 4. If you write interracial and multicultural romance do not list it on Amazon as such. Put your couple on the cover loud and proud but list the book under the other genres that are applicable: Romantic Suspense, Historical Romance, Romantic adventure, etc. Interracial romance is where creepy little bigots lurk in the shadows looking for books to damage. Just as many readers will purchase your interracial romance in other genres and the reviews you receive will be far more positive. Because you will be connecting with readers who just want a good romance book to read and don’t care what race the characters are, instead of trolls specifically hunting for an interracial romance to damage. If Amazon relists your book as an interracial romance without your permission, use the customer service link to write a nasty complaint telling them to keep their racial labels off your books, and demand that they put your books back in the genres you selected for them. 5. The Fussy Librarian, Book Gorilla, BookBub, and other services like these can help authors put an end to Review Bombing by adding some minimal standards for their readers. Instead of allowing any and everyone to join a mailing list, as part of the process of signing up for a mailing list they should be required to provide the link to at least one platform where they review books. If their average rating is below 3.9 stars they are likely a troll, especially if they only write reviews for one kind of book. Reject their application and be specific as to why. Here’s an example. Feel free to use it. “At Bedazzle Books we adhere to a code of conduct and mutual respect. We are not in the business of harming authors, as such we do not condone book targeting. Your Goodreads profile has 500 reviews for LGBTQ authors and you’ve negatively rated 499 of them. This is clearly not your area of interest, yet you have signed up for our LGBTQ reading list. For this reason, your application has been denied at this time.” Everyone loses when you allow toxic people to join a reading list. The author’s rating is damaged and they lose money. This makes them less likely to promote with you in the future and you lose money. Then there are fewer free books and bargain deals for genuine readers who just want a good story to enjoy. So please consider stricter standards for the people joining your reading list.
Catalina DuBois | 9/22/23 at 3:49 PM
I recently have been hate bombed I was called "fatphobic" "transphobic" "cultural appropriation" and a "racist" in many Goodreads reviews, and readers titling their reviews "I'm never going to read this book," and Goodreads told me it didn't break any of their guidlines. These reviews are still up. Goodreads is a place where readers can say whatever they want about authors and if authors say anything we are "invading readers' soaces" I'm tired of the trolls and have no idea how anyone can take any readers' reviews seriously knowing this goes on. It's a "sh*tshow" as the Germans would say. And yes it's affected my ranking on Amazon and I'm losing sales. But I don't see a way out because these accusations are groundless. I'm just hoping they'll lose interest.
Olympia Black | 9/22/23 at 9:57 AM
Thank you for this insightful article. It's not easy writing a negative review for legitimate reasons, let alone alone being on the receiving end of a swarm of them. Reviewing is subjective, all positive reviews aren't always realistic either, friends of the author may not want to hurt their feelings. The occassional well thought out negative review can enlighten or alert an author to a flaw that can be addressed and are of equal importance. Are there platforms that can detect and remove bombing?
Janice J. Richardson | 9/22/23 at 9:20 AM
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