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.
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.
As always, thanks for reading.