November 17, 2015

7 sure-fire ways to spot a fake review

By Graham Dickson

Sites of booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble feature countless consumer reviews — some legitimately written by objective third parties; others written by family and friends, and even by mills that pump out phony positive reviews for $5 a pop. Recently, Amazon has begun to take action against the authors of such fake reviews.

In the meantime, how can readers spot an imposter review? Our list of telltale signs should keep you one step ahead.

When looking for fake reviews, check:

The date of the review. Was it left before the book was published, or on the day of publication? Either one means that the reviewer couldn’t possibly have read the title in question before leaving the review.

The reviewer’s history. If they give only glowing reviews, be apprehensive. Nobody likes everything!

For inconsistencies in the personal narrative of the reviewer, such as changing their marital status, ethnicity or other details across multiple reviews. This indicates that they may be haphazardly covering their trail as they post various reviews.

• To see if it’s a short review of only a few words. This may indicate that it was intended solely to boost the book/author’s “star” rating.

To see if the reviewer has bought the book in question. If so, there should be an orange “Verified Purchase” tag under their review.

For references to other people, such as “my family” or “my husband.” When the person writing the review is making it up, the review tends to stray away from the product.

To see if the review sounds like a press release for the book. If so, it may have been written by the author — or his/her friends, using ideas and words the author has suggested.

Graham Dickson is a student at the University of Colorado Denver majoring in marketing and minoring in German. He is an intern at BlueInk Review.

BlueInk Review is a fee-based book review service devoted to self-published titles exclusively. For more news and tips, sign up for our mailing list. And be sure and visit us at

4 thoughts on “7 sure-fire ways to spot a fake review

  1. N.R.Tupper says:

    Just to point out… many authors release ARC copies. So if a review comes out BEFORE or on the day OF release, it could be that the reviewer is simply writing a review based on an ARC.

  2. MM Justine says:

    Authors buy boxes of books from the Publisher which they sell or give away free to friends in order to market the book. So just because a Reviewer did not buy the book from does not mean that his/her review is fake. Just wanted to clear up a misunderstanding.

  3. Dear Mr. Dickson.
    I wanted to contest your first ‘sign’ of fake reviews. As a debut author, I am sending out Advance Review Copies of my novel to interested parties on Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, as well as my own extended network of colleagues. Just because a book is yet to be published, it doesn’t necessarily mean the reviews it has accrued are illegitimate. I just wanted to point that out, but I do appreciate you providing us readers with a warning sign.
    Thank you.

  4. Barbara polan says:

    I have a book for sale on Amazon. While it’s true that all 9 of my reviews are 5-star, only 4 were written by friends and family. The others are true evaluations by strangers.

    One thing you might want to consider is that, in non-fiction there may be a dearth of books on the topic, and readers are delighted to have found something informative in the field; that can splash more enthusiasm into the review.

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