Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Person, New Topic

Hi, everyone. I'm new to this so bear with me, please.

I'm writing about something I first noticed a long time ago, but didn't give much thought to. There is a person who writes reviews solely to hawk his own book. Have you seen this?

The book is the "Emotional Intelligence Quick Book." The M.O. is to (1) be one of the first to write a review for a new book, a surefire best seller; (2) Write a generic review that fans of the subject will not be offended by and, as best as I can tell, always give it a 5-star -- probably so the author won't complain about someone using his book to hawk another book; (3) Add a final two-sentence paragraph saying: "Another book I like..." "If you liked this book, you should like..." "I read a lot of books this weekend and another good one was..." "I saw a review of another book on Amazon and bought it, it was fantastic..." and then provide a link to the "Emotional Intelligence Quick Book."

The guy is, from what I've seen, using many, many accounts to hawk the book. It's pretty obvious, but he takes some minor steps to disguise his footprints. He might create an account and review his own book, then review another book and insert an "ad" in that review. Then sometimes (not always) he'll toss in a couple of unrelated reviews. The reviews are invariably generic or else rehashes of something such as Publisher's Weekly.

I didn't know this for a long time. In fact, I took links in his review "ads" a couple of times without realizing anything was odd. I would see the book, though, and think, "This had absolutely nothing to do with the book I was interested in." None of this made much of an impression on me until I reviewed a book last week. I spent about three hours writing it. Maybe it wasn't "Moby Dick," but it was not a bad review, and it wasn't offensive in any way. (Nor was it political, which I've learned, garner automatic negative votes.

I'll skip the details, but I noticed my review and other new ones were picking up negative votes for no real reason I could tell. Looking around I noticed the "ad" in the top Spotlight Review. The book ("Call Me Ted") was relatively new and this review was the second one posted. I suspect he is voting on his own reviews, but whether that is the case or not, it had received enough votes to be the top Spotlight Review. I didn't really get suspicious until I clicked into the Reviewer Profile and saw he also reviewed the new T. Boone Pickens' book. And there was another ad. This review was childishly generic. It made Ms. Klausner's work read like PhD theses.

Two generic reviews, two brand new high-profile autobiographies, two ads for "Emotional Intelligence Quick Book." I did some Advanced Google searches and found the guy was pulling the trick all over Amazon.

I was outraged. I spent three hours writing an honest review and it had no chance to garner votes before it scrolled off the first screen. Yet this phony's "review" was the Spotlight, forever to stay on the first page, shilling for his own book.

Amazon has been less than useless. (The phone guy was understanding, but could do nothing but give me the e-mail address I already had.)

Has anyone else seen this? Is it something that is already public knowledge? Can we do anything? Please help bring this to light.

P.S. As I researched, I found complaints that this book was also being "advertised" in the Wiki entry for "Emotional Intelligence Quick Book." I'm so ticked off, I want this to become national news. I want the author of "Emotional Intelligence Quick Book" to explain or else be exposed for an emotionally corrupt human being.



Mark said...

Another entry in the "Nothing new under the sun category."

Back when I first started reviewing, Kent Braithwait was doing this on just about every mystery novel. He would post a decent review. At least every time I read the book, his review seemed like an honest review. But every review started with the line, "As a mystery novelist with my debut mystery in its initial printing...."

He gain enough notarity to be written about in Time. After that, his reviews seemed to stop. He was in the top 200 at one point. Not sure where he is today since he hasn't posted a review since Amazon cracked down on him.

Dave IRV said...

Do you think we can get Amazon to crack down on this guy with the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book? He actually has links in the reviews. I'm not sure I've even seen anyone else ever do that. The guy carefully uses multiple accounts but uses near identical "ads" and I've now seen that he uses keywords to get his book to pop up on some of the "suggestion" and "other books like this book" lists Amazon puts on pages.

So far, Amazon has shown zero interest.

Like that mystery writer, this one is obvious.

Question: Is it easy to set up multiple accounts on Amazon? I always assumed that every account was tied to a credit card so that it would be difficult to do fake accounts, but I don't know that for a fact. Just seemed to me that it would be about the only way to keep any control whatsoever. I have used bulletin boards at Yahoo and there are so many fake accounts there as to make the boards unusable.

Sea Foam said...


Thanks for pointing this out. I've seen this kind of thing before, but never to the extent that you noted. I typically see it on the discussion boards where an author drops in on a discussion in his or her genre and then gently promotes his or her book. It's as annoying as all hell, but I see little at the moment on what can be done about it if this guy's review is not inappropriate in any way and I don't think Amazon's guidelines prohibit self-promotion within a review (although they should).

BTW: I've been on here awhile and don't post much, but I was wondering how to post new topics like you did on this board. I don't see the link or directions for it on this site. Is it where I sign in on Blogger? I notice that there is a spot there where it says "New Post". Is that for a new topic?

I hate sounding like a computer idiot, but I am (hangs head in shame).

Dave IRV said...

I think if the light of publicity were brought to shine on this guy, it might cause him to stop. It's just so darn blatant.

I suppose you are right in that Amazon is somewhat limited in what they can do. Maybe they should just take away the ability to make links in the reviews. That would be a start.

About how I made the new topic...I don't know! I went through the signup process and had no idea what I was doing. I wrote my message not knowing where it would show up.

Sea Foam said...

That's why there are sites like this one, Dave. We hope we can shine a light on these unethical individuals. I don't think this site alone contributed to the new ranking system in which HK got bumped from her neverending perch of #1 reviewer on Amazon, but the publicity of this site in conjunction with many others does help to send up the red flag.

Thanks for info on posting. I realize your new here and I rarely post, but I think I found it on the blogger sign in page link to this site where it says "Make a New Post" or something like that. I'll play around with it later. Thanks anyhow and keep up the good work.

Malleus said...

Dave, thanks for the post -- I can totally relate to the outrage one feels when one notices shenanigans like that. I thought (perhaps I'm wrong) that Amazon did forbid this sort of self-promotion. In general, I haven't noticed this particular case, but I have to say that, regrettably, I've seen so many like it, that I even quit paying attention to them. It's awfully widespread...

As far as setting up multiple accounts: well, before anything else we have to realise that we don't really know how it works, and what loopholes might exist. That aside, the only way to set up an account I know of is to buy something. But so what, so he bought a dozen books, big deal. That is the kind of account you need in order to post reviews (and comments). In order to vote (which also seems problematic in the case you describe), this used to be very simple, no purchase necessary. I don't know if Amazon fixed this as part of the recent "remodelling". If not, then voting yourself into the "Spotlight" position shouldn't be hard -- just look at Mr Harp, who only recently was getting like 300 votes in a week and whose reviews were ever-present in the "spotlight" place. He no longer gets 300/week, but he still gets a lot, quite in synch, and really as suspicious as before, though not quite at the same numerical level. We don't know if the lower levels are due to new Amazon monitoring or his being temporarily careful under the new conditions, but it's obvious that some degree of inflating one's vote is still possible.

As far as our ability to force Amazon to do something about it, my opinion is, no we can't, at least not directly -- they're very good at politely ignoring what they prefer not to deal with. Whatever they do deal with they fix on the spot, so if after a couple of attempts on your part to notify them they haven't, it's gotta be because this is one of those areas they wish to remain blind about. The way to still try to do something, imo, is to post about it, talk about it, raise stink about it and not let go. After all, we (and a lot of others) had been carping about this sort of things for over a year before some changes occurred (of course, here I'm flattering myself with the belief that we had something to do with these changes; but even though in some way they addressed some of the things we talked about, Amazon never admits to anything though -- even when they change something, they attach some touchy-feely and vague explanation and act as if this was entirely uninfluenced from the outside). So...

Sea Foam, in order to post a new topic you log in and then click on the orange button at the top, which will take you to something called "dashboard", where there'll be a link "New Message" or "New Post" or something like that; you'll notice it, it's easy to see.

Mark said...

I should mention I have seen many cases of this over the years. But they eventually go away when enough people complain about them to Amazon. So posts like this and contacting Amazon will help. It just takes way more patience then it really should.

As for posting here, the one thing that Malleus forgot to mention is that you need to log into to find the dashboard to post on this site.