Dishonest Reviews Are Just Sabotage

Morris Rosenthal, whose Self Publishing 2.0 blog is a must-read, saw an exchange I was having on Twitter and emailed me with this:

I saw you tweeted a recent post of mine in relation to an argument some people were having over the ridiculous assertion that flames don’t hurt.

Attached is a graph of the last two years of sales rank data for a nonfiction book of Biblical Hebrew Flashcards I published on Kindle as an experiment a few years ago.

Click = big

The flame, which was coincidentally posted in late March one day after a competing title appeared on Kindle, reduced sales by around two-thirds if not more.

I can’t find the competing book on Kindle today, so my guess is the author eventually pulled it due to a copyright violation or something. It’s the ideal example because there haven’t been any new reviews since March, something that would muddy the situation.

Bad reviews matter much less to books that have off-Amazon promotion, not to mention controversial books where basically two opposing camps bash away at each other. But for how-to books and other non-literary nonfiction, a single bad review can spell death when the Amazon catalog provides the only visibility. I’ve seen it many times over the years for paper books and eBook alike, and it’s especially offensive when a competing author posts the flame, something I’ve seen many times.

For all the frauds out there bashing “competing” writers, know that turnabout is fair play and Justice is not fooled forever. You think you sit on the top of the heap today, but tomorrow you’ll be sitting in the midst of ashes and no pen names will rescue your corrupt ass.


  1. Eric Welch1 October, 2012

    He may be right, but his graph doesn’t convince me as it shows a downward trend beginning months before the flame. In fact, you could draw a line starting at November 2011, months before the flame, which shows the beginning of a sales drop.

  2. Alan Barta1 October, 2012

    This is very interesting stuff. It is horrible to sabotage competing authors and I hope that a solution is implemented in the future. I’m very curious about what the sales trajectories look like for a wide range of titles and whether they are available for sales volume in addition to sales rank. I can imagine some books with increasing sales once the word gets out about how good a book is but I can also imagine some volumes having a decreasing sales trend once an initial market of interested parties approaches saturation.

  3. KarlB1 October, 2012

    I feel like I’m missing part of the story here. What is the “flame” in question? Was it a single bad (and presumably dishonest) review? If so, why would a single review make much difference to sales, unless it was one of very few reviews? And if there were very few reviews, then this book presumably wouldn’t be making many sales anyway.

  4. Alan Barta1 October, 2012

    It was a single review. It was one star and it was on March 30, 2012. There are three reviews in total (the others are both 4 star). All reviews are from Amazon verified purchasers.


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