Goodreads Scams and How to Avoid Them

Goodreads Scams and How to Avoid Them

The internet phenomenon of “review bombing” isn’t new, but it has finally made it into the world of books. Amazon’s book reviewing hub Goodreads is one of its latest victims. We’ll give you the lowdown on this tactic – why and how it’s been used, and how to prevent it from affecting you.

What is ‘review bombing’?

Review bombing has become so much of an issue that it even has its own Wikipedia page. It describes a large number of users leaving negative reviews of a product online, such as a video game or film. Why do people do this? Usually, the objective of review bombing is to harm the value, sales or popularity of that product.

Techniques include creating dozens of fake accounts to leave negative reviews. Unfortunately, this is a relatively easy process for Goodreads as it doesn’t require email verification to register. To discredit authors, scammers have also created fake accounts for authors’ friends and family, and influential figures within their books’ genre.

man using laptop with his credit card ready in his hand
Review bombing has been used to extort authors. Image credit: Ivan Samkov via Pexels

Alarmingly, review bombing has even been used in extortion scams, which is a huge problem for Goodreads. In this way, authors receive threatening anonymous emails asking for money in exchange for positive reviews. If they don’t pay up, their books are inundated with 1-star reviews. Alternatively, in some scams, authors are contacted with offers to remove 1-star reviews in exchange for money.

Why is it such a problem?

Accumulating bad reviews can be catastrophic for new and indie authors. Additionally, it makes the site less reliable for those of us looking for authentic reviews to help us choose a book to read. With a membership of over 120 million, Goodreads reviews remain influential and can make or break some careers. Concerningly, review bombing may be used to further marginalise some authors. Author Abida Jaigirdar reports racism may be a factor “authors of colour are often review bombed on Goodreads, simply for speaking up for themselves”.

Photo by Gary Barnes from Pexels

What are Goodreads doing about it?

According to Goodread’s guidelines, spam reviews will be deleted immediately. Additionally, reviews that abuse their ratings system or harass authors are not permitted. Authors can also email Goodreads to raise any concerns about review bombing. However some have reported long response times or no response at all. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to sharing humorous scam reviews, indicating that sham reviews remain undetected for some time. A Goodreads spokesperson told TIME magazine that they are continuing to work on solutions by investing in “making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behaviour and inauthentic reviews.”

What can I do to avoid this?

If you spot a fake or scam review, Goodreads provides helpful guidance on how to report it so it can be removed. Some giveaways are reviewers who have posted many 1-star reviews very quickly, and reviews that have been posted before a book’s publication date. Giving less weight to Goodreads reviews in your decision-making can also help, and only considering reviews from reviewers you trust. If you’re seeking a site to track your reading or recommend your next book that hasn’t been affected by these scams, we recommend The Storygraph.



Stef is a medical doctor and public health specialist, with a passion for the prevention of illness. When she isn't working at her day job or trying to keep her plants alive, she often has her nose in a book or goes for a walk with an audiobook for company.

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