On sockpuppetry

So, another day, another woeful tale of authors behaving badly, as a couple of crime writers have been unearthed as creating ‘sock puppet’ accounts to write good reviews for themselves and, even more dubiously, slag off their rivals’ books on Amazon, while apparently on an author discussion panel the writer Steven Leather cheerfully admitted to creating fake accounts to go on discussion forums to create ‘buzz’ about his books. (I must admit it took me a while to pick up on this story, as I thought the headlines on Twitter about ‘vicious sockpuppets’ were a joke, or a news item about a children’s party gone terribly awry).

Obviously – obviously – this is morally reprehensible behaviour, undermines the whole value of reviews and the honour system, etc, etc. But what boggles me about the whole thing is: where the hell do they find the time? Seriously, people: I want me some of that. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, and 3 different blogs, as well as contributing to 3 different websites and, y’know, working for a living. I can barely keep up with all the things I have to do as myself, never mind create fake personas who have to go writing reviews on Amazon. I spend half of my life having to reset passwords: imagine the hassle of having to maintain accounts where the actual bloody name needs to be remembered, too. And thinking up new names! One of the things I hate most about writing it having to name characters (it’s no coincidence that in both of my novels there is a character with virtually the same name, just spelled differently). If I had to create fictional reviewers as well, I think I’d have a nervous breakdown.

It does make you wonder, if they applied that energy to actually writing their books, they might turn out so good that they don’t need fake reviews, or they could at least come up with more original ways to promote them. Still, disapprove as I might, part of me is impressed by all that effort. I might even give it a go. How about: “Tracey Sinclair transformed my life: this is not only a Booker-worthy effort that should be made into a movie at once, but it’s clear from the writing that the author is generous, attractive and spectacularly good in bed.” Whaddaya think? Too much?

Authors! Need a reviewer? Make your own!

Sock puppet kit available, ironically, from Amazon.


DT said...

it has become popular opinion that the first few reviews are always done by friends and family, and are likely to be glowing. The writer in me wants honest reviews, despite the potential commercial impact of a negative one.

The sock-puppet game is not one that I want to play. And no one is pulling my strings either!

AJ Ponder said...

I loved the sock-puppet box picture - very cute - now all you need to do is work on your (self) review - for a start you only mentioned the Booker - I'm sure there are lots of other awards you could win...

Justine solomons said...

Been thinking about reviews a lot recently and how to solve that problem of negative ones. I've been reading lots of stuff that I wouldn't necessarily recommend but don't want to be negative about. You know the old agage - if you've nothing nice to say don't say anything at all.

I personally think it's incredibly difficult to write a coherent novel and anyone that gets to the end of something should be congratulated, lots of people reviewing have never tried to write and just seem to enjoy being negative and that really upsets me (I'm a senstive sort).

When you go into book shops you ask them to recommend books they like and maybe that should be the same on websites.

So that's what we are going to try to do on our site from now. If we like a book we'll recommend them but if not we'll keep quiet, wonder what you think about that Tracey?

Anonymous said...

I understand your point and I think it's valid, but it depends on the nature of the site. While I'd never be malicious and I tend to not post negative reviews onto Amazon, I think a site like Goodreads, where you're basically cataloguing what you read, it's acceptable and expected to post honest reviews, even if they are unflattering.