It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

No to sock puppet behaviour

You may have read in the press of the stories of abuse on online platforms for the promotion of books.  This includes authors using identities other than their own to promote their own work through the writing of online reviews; creating buzz under fake identities when discussing their work in places such as online forums; purchasing online reviews of their work that have no authentic basis whatsoever.  During the last few days a group of people came together to create an open letter which resulted in delivery to the Daily Telegraph yesterday.  On issue, nearly 50 signatories – mainly well-known author names – signed this letter condemning the abuse and calling for an end to it.  More importantly, the letter notes that

… the only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process.  The internet belongs to us all.  Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving,­ can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance…” 

and asks

“…Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?”

If you support this, clicking on the picture below will take you to the site where you can sign to add your support.

[Note: personal thoughts on this to come in a later post.]


5 comments on “No to sock puppet behaviour

  1. Maxine
    September 4, 2012

    And can all those well-known authors put their hands on their hearts and say they have never written a cover blurb for a book they haven’t actually read? I think this should be part of any declaration as it is highly misleading and unfair to readers.

    • crimeficreader
      September 4, 2012

      The declaration is a reaction and a start. The CWA issued a statement on the weekend and is considering the actions that could be taken including the introduction of code of conduct. The best piece I have seen on this in the media so far is from Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Daily Telegraph:
      It’s measured and her very last para notes that this is the tip of the iceberg really, by reflecting on one other aspect. This is a can of worms. In my mind it is about the systems and ethics and should NOT be a witch hunt to conveniently trash the less-liked or ‘outside-the-clique’ especially if the argument is that this is more widespread than thought.

      • mwheelaghan
        September 4, 2012

        Thanks for the link to Ruth Dudley Edward’s piece. Well written and very interesting. Her point about publishers “being distressed by such new dodgy practices, but then did they not sell the pass when they agreed to pay shops to position their books favourably or call them “Staff picks”?” is a good one. In my limited experience the book/publishing/writing world can be a pretty murky place and as ruthless as any other business that is about making a profit. So, it’s not too big a surprise to see some people ate “at it!’ I wonder if what shocks readers the most is the fact that some writers can be dishonest? It seems to me that up until now, somehow, the writer has luxuriated in a kind of ‘holier than though’ image? Maybe started by the Romantics and the notion that creativity is ‘pure’ and therefore above corruption? Who knows, but it does seems like the cat (sorry, Aurelio!) is now out the bag and time for everyone in the industry to clean up their act! Cheers 🙂

    • mwheelaghan
      September 4, 2012

      Hear, hear, Maxine! Also, and I may be very wrong about this, but I thought John Creasy got so fed up with rejections for his first book/s (743 to be precise), he began writing reviews for himself under a different name (sent to newspapers, I think). I thought it was very enterprising of him, although, as I said, I may have got this completely wrong! What seems unfair and downright nasty is deliberately writing bad reviews to scupper a fellow author’s credibility. Shame on those who do it!

    • Jeremy Duns (@jeremyduns)
      September 4, 2012

      I don’t see why that one issue is linked to this one. Both are dodgy practices, but there are loads of others, I’m sure.

      A short sharp letter condemning these practices shouldn’t, surely, need a whole list of declarations for every other dodgy practice. I think that would be impractical. We could have expanded it to the cover one, but that problem doesn’t strike me as being anywhere near as serious as leaving other writers scathing reviews under assumed names and buying reviews.

      But yes, I condemn writing blurbs or reviews for books one hasn’t read. I have never reviewed a book I haven’t read, and never will.

      In fact, I think it should be a condition of online reviews at sites like Amazon and Goodreads and others – I have reviews that say things like ‘I couldn’t read past the first 5 pages’. I think reading a whole book is a minimum requirement for reviewing it. If you give it up after 5 pages because you thought it was rubbish, or even after 300 pages with 50 to go, your review is incomplete, clearly, and should not be taken seriously – or published, in my view.


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This entry was posted on September 4, 2012 by in News, Publishing, Publishing News.
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