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.
In other news, HarperCollins Publishers has announced a new line of mystery books under its existing imprint, Bourbon Street Books.
The 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.