The war against sock puppet reviews and two new books for Halloween

The_Lurking_Sock_Puppet by ursulav

A number of writers have banded together against “sock puppet reviews,” or those fabricated by authors and their family and friends to praise their books and attack others, thinning the competition. If it wasn’t already hard enough to pick out the good e-books from the bad, now people are permanently smudging the reputation of public reviews on sites like Amazon.

(Reddit user “Onewatt” even thinks he’s cracked the code for identifying suspicious ratings. Beware the C-curve.)

In other words, the next time you’re browsing for books, those glowing recommendations and positive scores might not accurately reflect the novel’s merit — leading you to spend money on a falsely advertised product.

The group against sock puppet reviews includes Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Ramsey Campbell, and David Hewson, among others:

But 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. No single author, ­ however devious, ­ can compete with the whole community. Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?

Do you consider it an ethical breach for authors to resort to fake or even paid reviews? As I reviewer myself, I certainly can’t imagine this passing as acceptable behavior: Just because you have a creative license to make stuff up for money doesn’t mean you can get away with telling lies in real life. But this practice is catching on. British author Stephen Leather and New York Times best-selling author John Locke are just two who have admitted to either constructing false identities or paying for reviews, respectively.

The Hollow Man by Oliver HarrisIn other news, HarperCollins Publishers has announced a new line of mystery books under its existing imprint, Bourbon Street Books.

Blood Line by Lynda La PlanteThe launch this fall will premiere two new books: The Hollow Man by debut author Oliver Harris and Blood Line, the seventh book in the Anna Travis series by Lynda La Plante. Both will release on October 23.

Bourbon Street Books also plans to reprint several Dorothy L. Sayers titles: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Busman’s Honeymoon, and Gaudy Night

Hopefully, none of these show up with sock puppet reviews. :P

What books will you read this Halloween season? Last year I picked up The Book of the Living Dead by editor John Richard Stephens. It collects works from a lot of the big guys (and girls) of horror: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and more.

5 thoughts on “The war against sock puppet reviews and two new books for Halloween

  1. Yes, it is unethical for authors to promote their books via fake or paid for interviews. It makes it very hard to choose a book. I notice that I stay away from (perhaps unfairly) the indie books that have few, but all glowing reviews. After the one experience I had, reading that horrible book I told you about a while back, I noticed that many of its reviewers on Amazon couldn’t compliment it enough. I knew right away that those were the free copies of it the author sent out. The people that paid for it were more truthful in their assessments. If you could read this book, Stephanie, the horrible plot, the mistakes, the lack of good grammar……well, you know what I mean.

    It’s frustrating.

    Thank you for the tips on the new books!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I stay away from those kinds of books, too — the ones that have only a handful of reviews that are all positive…. It’s disappointing that we have to be wary of every composite score we come across now. Authors should be ashamed.

      1. I agree. Yet, I do feel sorry for some of them that think this is the only way they can sell their books because some of them ARE good and deserve the good reviews.

        I want to read indie books, but these bogus reviews make that so much harder to do. I get fed up with them and move on.

        1. Agreed. Overall, these authors are making it harder for the entire community of writers — not just readers who are looking to buy. If people can’t trust reviews, then they’re going to be less willing to take a risk on a book that has had less exposure. That’s sad because, as you said, some deserve the attention.

  2. Exactly, they are making it harder on the writing community. It’s sad. And yes, they should be ashamed.

    Honesty is becoming a lost art….it’s frustrating.

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