Well, it’s Wildcard Tuesday and as reluctant as I am to take up this topic, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a mystery 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 several authors:
- Stephen Leather and Roger Ellory and Sam Millar for creating sockpuppet accounts to praise their own books and trash those of competitors.
- 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.
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 stone.”
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 ourselves.
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 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.
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, 'Rati, 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?