It’s a good time to be in the publishing business, especially if you’re publishing e-books. And according to this article in today’s New York Times, romances are especially enjoying a real resurgence thanks to the ebook boom.

After seeing the article, I found myself wondering if the writers at the NYT weren’t reading our minds. Just this past week we discussed how Kindles and other electronic devices have made it easier than ever for the modern, independent woman to discreetly purchase a spicy “bodice-ripping” romance featuring situations – and characters – that are far less politically correct than what’s currently in vogue.

But with an increase in sales comes an increase in competition. Sometimes that spirit of competition can  turn ugly. According to this article in the Daily Mail, in a bid to increase their own sales, some publishers and authors are employing dirty tricks, and using reviews as their weapons.

The story involves subterfuge, jealousy and dirty tricks in the world of literature.

And its unlikely setting is the readers’ reviews section on Amazon.

Alongside details of a book for sale, the website offers supposedly independent verdicts from customers, including a rating of from one to five stars.

However, rival publishers are accused of hijacking the system to praise their own volumes and disparage the opposition.

Authors are turning on each other, agencies are charging up to £5,000 to place favourable fake reviews and Amazon has recruited a team of amateur critics to restore the balance.

I’d like to say this sort of thing surprises me, but it doesn’t. But it does disappoint me. With the growing popularity of e-books, the marketplace is big enough for everyone and the energy rival publishers and authors expend on attacking the each other or penning falsely flattering reviews would be better served in improving and marketing their own books. In a perfect world, people would play fair. But the world isn’t perfect.

In addition to exposing the problem of with these false reviews, the Mail article does something else as well:  It does underscore the importance of reviews to authors and publishers, which is why we are asking our customers to take the time and write an honest review of any Blushing Book title they purchase. We want you to review our books, and we’re even offering you an incentive to do so.

Twice a month, Blushing Books blog will post reader-submitted reviews, with the writer of selected reviews receiving a $20 credit towards free book downloads from Blushing Books. The only requirement is that you be a verified buyer, either through Blushing Books or through one of our other vendors. If you purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEBooks or any other store, just send a copy of your electronic receipt along with your review to blushingbooks@gmail.com.

Is this a way for us to insure positive reviews? No. We want truthful reviews from our readers. Love a plot? Hate it? Want a sequel? Then tell us about it. I know I put far more weight on reader reviews than I do on the opinions of professional book critics. Perhaps that’s why learning that disreputable publishers and authors are now gaming the review process has me so incensed. Reader-submitted reviews are – in my opinion, at least – the best way to gauge whether a book is worth buying. It’s a process we at Blushing Book support support, and a process we hope our readers will start to use more often.