What are writers to do? It is tough enough out there, without competing against the sock puppeteers.
You ask, what the heck are sock puppeteers, anyway?
There is an eye opening article here: RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books
Sock puppeteers are the people who put up fake reviews. It can be done by opening accounts in other names and putting up great reviews of your own work--to bolster ratings. Or, a puppeteer can tear down another author's rating by leaving bad reviews and bad ratings.
From the article:
"One of the United Kingdom's most successful thriller writers, Stephen Leather, also admitted to sock-puppeting and claimed the practice is commonplace.
“I’ll go on to several forums … and post there, under my own name and
under various other names and various other characters," Leather
disclosed at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, according to the Telelgraph.
"You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books
and sometimes have conversations with yourself … I have friends who are
sockpuppets … One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If
you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them
all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right."
Uh oh. How many lines are being crossed? I've seen Twitter accounts that I know are all owned by one person. At first I didn't catch on. I was amazed that an author could have such devout fans.
In the article, it states that perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I don't want to sound like the naive idiot who will never sell a book due to a stringent code of ethics..but this does beg the question: How much are we willing to compromise for the sake of selling books?
Obviously, trashing another author's work is wrong on all accounts. And I would not have even thought about the rest had it not been for Stephen Leather's admission. He's talking forums--not Amazon reviews. And I've seen the Twitter accounts in action. I actually think that the Twitter accounts are a good marketing approach. But, even there, perhaps lines are being crossed...
I think the sock puppeteering on Amazon is wrong. And "shill reviews" as I call them, are never a good idea.
On forums...as Leather did, wrong when you are misrepresenting identity as being different individuals. If it is disclosed as a marketing ploy, it's just advertising from then on.
With the practice so widespread, how do you feel about multiple accounts for the sake of publicity? Regarding the practice, what are your ideas of right and wrong?
Leave me a comment. I don't bite. Heck...I don't even yell. :-)