To be a writer is to be vulnerable. We open ourselves up to criticism and rejection (especially rejection).
And, sadly, we also open ourselves to predators — mostly the virtual kind, among them those who would take advantage of our never-ending need for reviewers for our books. For example, lately I’ve noticed a spike in “phony reviewer” emails, like this one I received a day ago:
I am having issues checking out your site. I cannot find any information pertaining to your book. I hope you can offer me some help. Sorry to bother you.
This email then includes an email address for me to kindly respond. Had I responded I would have been asked for a copy of my book, a digital copy. Why? Most likely to fuel the online trade in pirated ebooks. Consider this story about rampant piracy on LinkedIn’s Slideshare site. Now, I should consider it a compliment to be “pirate worthy,” but I’d also rather send review copies to people who will actually read the book.
And here is a recent email I received via Goodreads:
If you are looking for reviews for your newest book, I am willing to read and review it. You can send me a review copy to _____. I accept epub, mobi and pdf formats. I am also available as a beta reader.
Please email me your queries at _____. I don’t login to Goodreads often.
P.S. I don’t have a Kindle Unlimited account.
This is, sadly, all too common on Goodreads, and Amazon deserves a good amount of blame. Amazon acquired Goodreads a few years ago and pretty much left it to rot, opening the door to countless bogus accounts and people preying on authors. I still use Goodreads, but I’m much more vigilant about any messages I receive from members — which is a shame. This used to be a great site to meet fellow readers.
Finally, I recommend that writers bookmark the Writer Beware website.
The website, sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, collects and disseminates information on various literary scams, from dubious agents and publishers to schemes targeting writers.
Yet just because we’re vulnerable does not mean we have to be victims. The best way to avoid being taken advantage of is to educate yourself on all aspects of publishing, and do to plenty of research before handing over money or digital copies of your work.