I posted about this on Murderati earlier in the week, and am not crazy about the idea of getting into the topic again, but I know a lot of readers of this blog don't have time to read Murderati, too, and I wouldn’t be doing my job as an author community blogger NOT to report on the scandal du jour (or de semaine, or du mois, probably.)
The subject is paid and fake Amazon reviews, and the internet is
burning up with outraged posts, petitions, and condemnations against
- Stephen Leather and Roger Ellory and Sam Millar for creating
sockpuppet accounts to praise their own books and trash those of
- John Locke for paying for at least 300 Amazon reviews and then –
what I personally find even more reprehensible – writing a book on “How I
Sold a Million E Books in Five Months” and charging $8.99 for it, while
OMMITTING the fact that he paid for at least 300 Amazon reviews, which
surely had a great deal to do with his sales success.
I’ve linked to some main articles below so you can catch up.
Go read here and here and here and here, and then if you feel like discussing, meet me back here.
There is a lot of sadness and discomfort mixed with my own outrage.
I like Roger Ellory very much as a person and I actually agree with
his own reviews of his books, they’re some of the best crime fiction
I’ve read in recent years. Why he thought that he had to pump up his
already stellar reputation by creating fake reviews and trashing other
fine authors like Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham is beyond me.
Except that it’s not.
I have done many stupid, regrettable things in my life, and paid
dearly for those things, too. Usually when I have been completely out of
my mind with – something – grief over a dying parent, grief over the
loss of a loved one or a loved project, fear over my financial
situation, fear over just about anything.
As completely unchristian as I am I can’t help thinking of that
little verse about “she who is without sin” and “casting the first
It’s very easy to get caught up in the maelstrom of - well,
anything, really, but publishing is what we’re talking about - and do
stupid things we wouldn’t ordinarily condone or be caught dead doing
When we can see other authors blatantly gaming the system: racking up
success after success by faking reviews, publishing fan fiction that
skirts or crosses the line of plagiarism which turns into a series of
multimillion dollar bestsellers and a major movie deal, hiring other
authors to write books for you and slapping your name on them while
grossly underpaying the authors who actually WROTE the books - there’s a
huge temptation to jump on one of those bandwagons because, hey,
everyone’s doing it. And while I’m able to flatly say that the above
practices are wrong – what about tagging parties? What about asking
friends to bury nasty one-star reviews by clicking “unhelpful” on Amazon? Is
that gaming the system? Is it wrong?
BUT - even as I am remembering that I'm fully capable of doing stupid
and condemnable things myself, I do very strongly believe that we
authors have to police ourselves as a community. We need to talk, to
debate, to develop standards and be able to say when required: This is
wrong, this is duplicitous, this is unacceptable.
Whether that will stop the behavior, I have no idea.
But I also believe authors are for the most part an
empathetic and moral lot. I really do believe that. I hope that all of
these authors who have been caught out and are being held up as
examples will take all this furor and censure to heart, self-correct,
make appropriate amends to anyone who has been wronged, and go on to use
their influence to do better. Much better.
So far Roger Ellory seems to be the only one of the four authors in the spotlight willing to step up and say, "I fucked up," but I hope that the others will, too.
And I would hope that friends of authors who are drifting toward moral gray areas would be the first ones to speak up and say - WTF - what are you thinking? Stop that shit NOW before you do somethiing you'll regret for the rest of your life..
I SERIOUSLY hope that my author friends would step up and say it to me.
I hope we ALL will. Because we need to remember how easy it is to get
caught up in the desperation of trying to make a living at this very
tenuous profession and how easy it is to fall into behavior that serves
no one. We ALL need a little help from our friends.
So, I have a lot of questions today. Were you aware of the
blazing heat suddenly surrounding this issue of paid and fake reviews?
Are you feeling outrage about any of this behavior, and if so, or if
not, what are you feeling? Do you believe that given all the success
ladled on cheaters, you have to cheat to remain in the game? Or do you
believe in karma? Or do you believe that a belief in karma is the
modern opiate of the masses?
And here’s another question – who should be policing reviews and author behavior, if anyone?
And another - how do you feel about one-star reviews in general? Would you post one? Do you find them accurate and helpful?