Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Sock Puppetry - It's Bad...

I doubt there are many writers who haven't seen the news about fake reviews posted by authors to praise their latest book. Or others buying bulk reviews.

But the admission by crime writer RJ Ellory that he'd been posting fake reviews for his books, and making adverse comments on reviews of novels by fellow writers is unacceptable.

I don't think any of us are naive enough to believe that fake reviews don't exist. You only need to look at Amazon and after a while you can pick out the dubious reviews because they sound wrong.

Yes, your book might be brilliant, but there will still be readers who don't like it and will say so.

I try to be realistic about the business. But I can't help but be irritated that a writer, who has been fortunate enough to be taken on and published by a mainstream publisher, with the publicity advantages that brings, feels the need to big up their books by fake reviews.

If he had stopped at fake reviews, I could have understood; but to make adverse comments about fellow writers books is beyond the pale. Especially when there are enough readers around to say completely the opposite.

He's apologised and admitted that he's in the wrong straight away. (Always a good idea to admit you've made a mistake when it becomes open knowledge.)

Sadly there will be long term consequences on his reputation as a writer, and as a colleague of numerous other crime writers- what will be their attitude toward him next time they meet?

(See this piece on the Bookseller website.)

And the reading public? Will they now think they can't trust anyone's reviews, and will other writers suffer a drop in sales? (Especially those who have self-published and rely on good reviews and word of mouth recommendations.)

When I leave a review on Amazon, I have read the book, and if I've liked it, I'll say so-if I haven't I'll say why. Even if the book is by a friend, I won't give it a great review just because they are a friend.

Okay, I've not got a novel out vying for sales against numerous other competitors within my genre. But if I did, I wouldn't resort to buying reviews, or creating identities to review my own book. It's unethical and dishonest.

My work has to stand on it's own two feet and take the knocks that may come to it.

A writer once said at a talk I attended, if you can't take criticism then don't go into publishing.

It's a tough business...


Maxi said...

Quite agree, Carol. Give a review after an honest appreciation of a book, not 'just because'. As for Ellory, well, I would think that was pretty stupid thing to do really. As you say, with all the backing and support invested, why resort to childish things like that. The next time he bumps into a fellow crime writer, I can see a few cold shoulders in the midst. Wouldn't surprise me if one or two next bestsellers feature a crime writer getting bumped off! ;)

Steven Chapman said...

I think that's the bit that annoys me most, Carol. The fact he's already 'made it' and he still feels the need to do this. One million sales! A mention on Richard and Judy's book club...but noooo he's not satisfied with that he wants to decieve his readers. Grrrrr! Some of us are just desperate for a small audience and wouldn't dream of lying to them.

Patsy said...

All this is almost making me wish I had a couple of bad reviews for my books, just to 'prove' the others are legit. (If anyone has read mine and thinks they deserved less than 4 stars do feel free to post a review saying so!)

John Byatt said...

Well said, Carol. Personally, I think that anyone who write fake reviews to persuade people to buy their books does not deserve to sell any books at all. In the case of RJ Ellory, I haven't read anything of his, not being into crime fiction, but with his admission that he has resorted to deceiving potential readers in this way, I won't be buying any of them anyway.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

The whole scandal has left some of us very sad, Carol. RJ was an inspirational speaker at a conference a few years ago and we're stunned that someone so successful could do this. Maybe reviews shouldn't be taken too seriously!

Carolb said...

Thank you for all your interesting comments.

I think we're all surprised(and sad)that Ellory felt the need to use fake reviews, but of course we don't know all the circumstances of what led him to do so.

Hopefully this incident will encourage readers to look closer, rather than taking reviews at face value.