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Beth Cox Report: August 2013

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

This month, I spied an intriguing article on the website Polygon, titled "Why do some gamers post fake negative reviews?" Although the focus is on video game reviews, the article's insights can easily be applied to reviews of books, music, movies, or even seller feedback ratings on eBay and other commerce sites. The article is freely available online at

and the crux of its answer is: emotion. Individuals can get so caught up in feelings of revenge, jealousy, hatred (typically for the creator or what the product symbolizes, not for the product on its own merits), or even love for a competitor's product, that they will write a scathing attack piece solely to hurt the product's sales, rather than in response to any observed flaws.

The article draws upon a recently published MIT paper called "Deceptive Reviews: The Influential Tail", which the general public can read in .pdf form at

I strongly recommend reading this paper, especially for its recommendations of how to spot fake negative reviews (overuse of exclamation marks, vagueness, pointless rambling, biting messages directed toward the product creator rather than possible consumers of the product, etc.)

How can this knowledge benefit you? Well, if you're an author or publisher, and you see a particularly savage review of your book on Amazon or the like, you can scrutinize the review for telltale evidence that it's fake, and appeal to the website owners to pull the review. Any such appeal must have meticulous, nuanced, point-by-point evidence for why the review appears to be fraudulent, since genuine, honest negative reviews can and do exist.

Here at the Midwest Book Review, we'd rather pass on a book rather than write a negative review of it, because we have to carefully budget our staff's man-hours. We prefer to spend our limited time telling people about the good books - especially good books by the "little guys" of the publishing industry, who are all too often overlooked by other review institutions - than trashing the occasional rotten apple. (In fact, our passing on a book is not a statement of its quality, because with 2,000 to a peak of 4,000 submissions each month, we must regretfully pass on far too many excellent, deserving books).

However, we place no content restrictions on volunteer reviewers, who are free to write positive, middling, or negative reviews as their heart determines. We also cannot pay volunteers, partly because we don't have the funds, but also to avoid conflict of interest issues.

As of this writing, I can't remember a single instance when we had to pull a volunteer review for being a fake. We've very rarely had to make factual corrections of volunteer reviews (typo corrections are slightly more common), but so far it seems that all the people who want to share their love of books with us and the reading public are genuine and true!

Incidentally, we are always accepting review submissions from new volunteers. Our guidelines are on our website at

and volunteers retain full copyright and ownership of all their reviews. We'll usually display a volunteer's website in their byline, if the URL is included with their submission. Don't have a website? Well, August's Link of the Month is

an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to starting one's very own blog, about books or anything else, using WordPress! Blogging is an invaluable, low-cost means to garner publicity, especially for nascent authors and reviewers.

Now for the Review of the Month. This one is especially relevant for ebook authors and publishers:

The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy
Gini Graham Scott Ph.D.
Changemakers Publishing & Writing
750 La Playa, #592, San Francisco, CA 94121
Jones & O'Malley Public Relations (publicity)
10123 Camarillo St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
9781490331928 $14.95

Print book authors, ebook authors, and publishers alike absolutely must read The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy: The Fight By Writers, Publishers, And Law Enforcement, And What You Can Do If A Victim, which lives up to its title with solid advice about the legal responses one can make when digital pirates fraudulently steal and distribute one's intellectual property on the Internet. Although the focus is on digital book piracy, music and movie piracy are also referenced, especially for comparative purposes. Digital book piracy is not a victimless crime; it is directly correlated with (and almost certainly causes) a drop in sales and royalties, which in turn threatens the abilities of authors and publishers to earn a living writing books, fiction or nonfiction. The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy takes pirates to task, summarizes some of the most recent court battles regarding book piracy, and walks the reader through step-by-step instructions for identifying whether one's book has been pirated, sending a takedown notice, and seeking legal action to shut the pirates down. The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy cannot substitute for the counsel of a trained attorney, but is an absolute "must-read" before consulting one about such matters (remember, many of them bill by the hour)! Highly recommended, especially for the smallest self-published book and ebook authors, who can least afford the devastating toll of piracy.

The former MBR employee who left to write ebooks full-time is doing well on his own, but his profits and living expenses are endlessly plagued by ebook piracy, which he simply cannot afford to fight in a court of law.

Whether attempting legal measures against piracy is worth the cost is a decision that every ebook author and publisher must make on their own. Even then, the degree of such measures can range from simple takedown requests and strongly worded letters to outright lawsuits. The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy is an excellent reference and resource for anyone weighing the pros and cons of their options.

That's all for the August 2013 Beth Cox Report. Don't forget to stay cool, hydrated, and safe from the summer heatwave!

Bethany Cox
Managing Editor
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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