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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The great Amazon Sock Puppet Show

R J Ellroy
Sock Puppetry is when a writer assumes a false identity to give his/her own work glowing reviews on Amazon and other book selling websites. There's a lot of it going on but it really hit the news this week when a bestselling, award winning author was found guily of sock puppetry after fellow crime writer, Jeremy Dunn exposed R J Ellroy on Twitter.

The Wiki defines sock puppets - A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person.[1] The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization.[2] A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym[3] and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer.

Ellory, who has won awards and plaudits for his novels A Simple Act of Violence and A Quiet Belief in Angels, took to the online department store under the pseudonyms “Nicodemus Jones” and “Jelly Bean”, praising his own work and slagging off that of other writers. Declaring of A Quiet Belief, “whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul”, Ellory encouraged readers to “just buy” the “modern masterpiece” and “make up your own mind”.

The Bookseller Magazine  have published an apology from Ellroy but it is not only Ellory who does this and earlier this year Stephen Leather  told audiences at The Harrogate Crime Festival that he posts reviews under different names regarding his own work -  “As soon as my book is out I’m on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I’ll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself,” Stephen Leather quoted from The Guardian Newspaper.

Online forums are rife with accusations with high profile names such as Joe Konrath, John Locke and  Sam Miller among those suspected of using sock puppetry tactics.

However this is not the worse of it and those who employ the sock puppet tactics are also attacking rival writers under their sock puppet name. R J Ellory was proved guilty of this.

Authors including Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Joanne Harris, Charlie Higson and Tony Parsons have signed up to a group statement condemning sock puppetry, the practice of writing reviews pseudonymously to praise one's own work and criticize that of others. The signatories are: Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Declan Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Tania Carver, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, N J Cooper, David Corbett, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Stella Duffy, Jeremy Duns, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, Meg Gardiner, Adèle Geras, Joanne Harris, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Charlie Higson, Peter James, Graham Joyce, Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Roger McGough, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Jo Nesbo, Ayo Onatade, S J Parris, Tony Parsons, Sarah Pinborough, Ian Rankin, Shoo Rayner, John Rickards, Stav Sherez, Karin Slaughter, Andrew Taylor, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Martyn Waites, Neil White and Laura Wilson.

The Society of Authors has also joined in the condemnation, calling it "dishonest and misleading."

An Amazon spokesman did not respond to the Archive's request for comment.

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