Over the weekend the NY Times reported that mega-successful self-published author John Locke (over a million ebooks sold on Amazon) bought 300 reviews from a review mill run by Todd Rutherford who churned out 5-star reviews for money ($999 for 50 reviews). According to the article, Locke instructed Rutherford “If someone doesn’t like my book they should feel free to say so.” but this was an outfit that paid their freelancers full-price only for 5-star reviews, and pumped their fake reviews out as fast as they could (one of Rutherford's freelancers claimed in the NY Times piece that she spent no more than 15 minutes with any one book), so the odds are pretty high that Locke got only 5-star reviews from Rutherford and freelancers who spent little time looking at his books.
Why is this so significant, other than grossly misleading potential book buyers? Because Amazon's algorithms select books to promote through direct mail based on the number of reviews a book gets and their average rating. Locke further hid this by having Rutherford and his freelancers buy his ebooks directly from Amazon (as opposed to distributing them freely) so that the reviews would show up from verified customers, and also so the sales would help trigger Amazon's algorithms.
The article also has Locke stating: “My first marketing goal was to get five five-star reviews. that’s it. But you know what? It took me almost two months!” After he bought those 300 fake reviews, things changed quickly for him as Amazon quickly sold 15,000 ebooks, which kept Amazon's algorithms triggering all the way to over a million sales.
To put those 300 fake reviews in perspective, especially coming to a little known author in such a short time, I've had 10 books traditionally published, the first, Fast Lane, showing up on Amazon in 2004. I've also put out additionally as ebooks 3 collections of short fiction, two original novellas and two original novels. Since 2004, the total number of reviews these books have gotten on Amazon: 204. number of 5-star: 156.
This is why so many authors are so angry seeing that NY Times piece. 1000s of us have tried to act with integrity, and build up our readerships honestly, and seeing how Locke so successfully gamed Amazon with this deceptive and dishonest act is like a slap in the face. Make it an uppercut to the jaw.