An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

Sock Puppeting Authors: A Rant

I apologise in advance, but this is going to be a rant. As regular readers will know (I hope) I don’t go “off on one” about subjects very often. But this article in the Guardian has really got my goat.

*RANT BEGINS*

One of the dreams that so many people share is to write a book. I honestly believe that this comes from a deep-rooted compulsion that was instilled in us at an early evolutionary level which compels us to tell stories. That’s why oral traditions from ancient civilisations are still told today, why cave paintings exist and heiroglyphs were invented. We all love to tell stories, to be heard and enjoyed, and to be passed on to others. A story is a little slice of immortality for us finite beings (if you want to go existential about it). And that’s why we write. Our books are our stories, our gift to others, our legacy. As long as a print copy of Greaveburn exists somewhere in the world, someone might read it, and enjoy it, and then pass it on. It’s a positive virus (I’m seriously mixing my metaphors here, apologies).

And, whether this is arrogant or not, I see myself as a professional. I am an author. I write things. Sometimes they’re poo, sometimes they’re ok. But I craft words and that makes me an author none-the-less. Therefore, I will conduct myself in a professional manner. We’ve talked about the quality of some self-published works in previous posts and how people do themselves a disservice with impatience and a non-professional approach. But we who have taught ourselves to be authors have very little guidance and so it can be forgiven. However, what I expect from people who write for a living, is an ounce of decorum.

And so we’re brought to the subject of this most dispicable “sock puppetry”, as it’s been dubbed. I won’t go over the content of the article as I’ve linked it above and I’ll let you come to your own interpretation of it. But I’ve seen this happen elsewhere and my heckles are officially up. Goodreads is a fantastic platform. The forums, the reviews, the ability to find books that you might like. A great idea. But what it also allows you to do is to review your own work…without even needing a pseudonym. Who came up with that? Just today I’ve been scanning through some potential reading material and caught a few authors (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) not only reviewing their own work, but rating it as well. With five stars!

Now, as an aside, you will note that Not Before Bed has a review from myself stating that it is, indeed, the new edition with new stories. However, that review has no bearing on the star rating. It’s for information only, and doesn’t affect the stats. I made sure.

Readers, writers, friends, we have a decision to make. What do we do about this blatant deception? Without sounding anti-establishment or revolutionary, the larger companies will do absolutely nothing to jeapordise their cash flow. They’ll never get rid of an author’s listing as long as it’s bringing in the green. But we have power online. You’ve seen it happen with memes and virals and petitions and forums. We can do something about this.

I in no way want to sway any of you. What you think about this “sock puppetry” is your own opinion. This is mine. This is what I’d like to see, but not what I expect from you. I can’t imagine that any of us would go and buy these people’s books, now, anyway. So there’s the statement made already. And the fact that the authors involved in the Guardian have apologised is surely enough. But others are still out there, schemeing and engineering their ratings for the sake of cheap appreciation.

And (IMHO as the kids say) but I say we douse these sods with negative ratings. Show the world that we, as readers, have integrity and won’t be lied to. What I DON’T want to see are derogatory or negative comments. Don’t lower yourselves. We’re not Trolls, or virtual rioters and looters, but people with opinions that count. We can make a statement with a silent but glaring one star rating to show our distaste. Then we leave, knowing that millions of others will see and understand what we’ve done, and why. We go back to the authors who deserve our adoration and respect because they work hard, and write well, and tell us stories that live and breathe.

What I will say is keep your eye out, folks. Let’s make sure we maintain the high values that Literature has always stood for.

*RANT ENDS*

As always, thanks for reading.

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6 responses

  1. Done it once by way of a mistake when I first joined Goodreads. Not being technically accomplished when I was asked to list books I listed them and included my own in the wrong place. That’s what comes of being old and slightly absent.

    Systematic abuse is morally and ethically wrong, but it will always happen. If John Locke can do it then the bar is set for new indie authors. I know of several (many) mainstream published authors whose publishers rig the charts in this way. It’s part of the marketing package and I’m old enough to remember when the Top Twenty music charts were rigged by mystery buyers from the record companies. Of course, that doesn’t happen nowadays…

    September 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

    • This is true. It will always happen. It’s why I’m proud to be the kind of reviewer with an honest voice. Why many reviewers are afraid of giving constructive criticism and a fair but balanced review is beyond me. Author attacks you for it? Tough. Clearly they aren’t mature enough to be published. Author gets upset because you’re a bit mean? No need to be mean to be critical…

      September 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

  2. It DOES bother me, but I’ve learned not to pay attention to the average rating on Goodreads. I read through various reviews (5 stars, 4 star, 3 star, 2 star, 1 star) just to catch some different opinions and why certain people didn’t like the book. If more than one person find the unedited, poor use of grammar and spelling book appalling for similar enough reasons then perhaps I’ll listen. If they merely didn’t like the voice used and others found the story utterly compelling, then I’ll decide to form my own opinion. This is the best way to use Goodreads et al, it’s a shame not everybody realises this is an issue. 🙂

    September 14, 2012 at 11:39 am

  3. I’m afraid I don’t buy their apologies either, they are sorry they were caught out, that’s all. They knew perfectly well they were being highly deceitful, and if they were the type of people who were genuinely sorry afterwards, then they wouldn’t be the type to do it in the first place (if you know what I mean…sort of).

    September 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

  4. Pingback: Clock Rewinders #16 – Once Upon A Time

  5. Great post. The bit for me was not only that they were providing themselves with glowing reviews, which is bad enough on its own. But also trashing their rivals to try and boost their own sales. Shame on them. I like the fact that on Amazon you get a verified purchase next to your review. Maybe need a verified person.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

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