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Monday, 5 November 2012

Amazon Strikes Back: The Sock Puppet Saga continues

These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended on-line, and the health of this exciting new ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers. But some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large. British author Stephen Leather recently admitted that he used fake identities online to promote his work. The American bestseller John Locke has revealed he has paid for reviews of his books. The British author RJ Ellory has now confessed to posting flattering reviews of his own work and to using assumed names to attack other authors perceived to be his rivals. No Sock Puppets Please

“Sock puppet” accounts, in the context of online book reviews, are fake forum, customer review or Twitter accounts that an author creates to promote his or her book under a different name.

Author Joe Konrath has attacked the No Sock Puppets Here movement with a vitrolic post on his blog - "Congratulations, NSPHP signatories. Because of your concerns about Amazon's review policy and your ridiculous little petition, and the resulting media witch hunt, thousands of legitimate reviews have now been deleted", Konrath wrote and you can see the full post HERE

Yep, the Sock Puppet saga continues and it really is too important an issue to ignore here on The Archive - Amazon were recently stung by the sock puppet scandal and they have replied by removing many reviews from their website. Author Joe Konrath, finding that Amazon have removed many  book reviews, both for his own work and for writer friends in his network sent off a letter of mild complaint to Amazon. Check out his post HERE - and once again commentators on his blog are attacking him for what many see as his incredible stance that posting fake reviews is perfectly good and proper. Of course Konrath recently posted many fake reviews himself, commenting on them in this POST, but many saw this as an attempt to cover up his own sock puppet antics.

He also attacks many of the household names who signed the NO SOCK PUPPETS PLEASE petition, calling them a bunch of holier-than-thou authors. When one commentator made positive remarks about the petition Joe responded with - "Creating and signing that petition was a hasty, short-sighted, and foolish thing to do, and I said as much at the time. I also warned against innocent people being hurt.I was right. But I suppose its easier to defend your actions and take pokes at me than it is to perhaps consider the NSPHP letter set into motion unfortunate consequences.Hopefully next time a group of authors get together to incite moral panic, they'll let common sense override the heat of the moment, and perhaps thing about the potential ramifications of publicly whining in the media."

Amazon responded in an email to another reviewer who questioned their actions: " I'm sorry for any previous concerns regarding your reviews on our site. We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.

We have removed your reviews as they are in violation of our guidelines.  We will not be able to go into further detail about our research.

I understand that you are upset, and I regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter." 
More on this HERE

If Konrath is to be believed then the following authors, all of whom have signed the petition against fake reviews, are inciting a moral outrage -  Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Declan Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Tania Carver, Lee Child, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, N.J. Cooper, David Corbett, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Stella Duffy, Jeremy Duns, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, Meg Gardiner, Lee Goldberg, Gordon Harries, Joanne Harris, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Charlie Higson, Susan Hill, Peter James, Paul Johnston, Graham Joyce, Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Roger McGough, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Jo Nesbo, Ayo Onatade, SJ Parris, Tony Parsons, Sarah Pinborough, Ian Rankin, Shoo Rayner, John Rickards, Peter Robinson, Stav Sherez, Karin Slaughter, Andrew Taylor, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Martyn Waites, Tim Weaver, Neil White, Laura Wilson.

The sock puppet crisis was sparked off earlier this year when author Stephen Leather said during a panel on eBooks at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. -  "I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself. And then I’ve got enough fans."
 When Leather was asked if his readers knew about this, he said  - "Well, I think that everyone … well, are the readers aware of it? No … But they’re not buying it because of the sock puppet. What you’re trying to do is create a buzz. And it’s very hard, one person, surrounded by a hundred thousand other writers, to create a buzz. I mean, that’s one of the things that publishers do. They create a buzz. One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got 10 friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right." 

There’s an excellent account of the whole sorry mess on the blog of respected crime writer, Steve Mosby 

Personally I'm one of the authors who signed the petition - as well as being published traditionally I have also seen several titles out as eBooks and, like many writers, find that good Amazon reviews help sell books which in turn helps us make a living at our work, which is why I found myself turning against Konrath, a writer who I once admired. He is very visible and his comments that fake reviews are okay could damage the integrity of all online reviews. It's the same with John Locke and Stephen Leather and I will never again buy anything by these guys, but at least these guys are remaining silent on the subject while Konrath continues to shout loud and proud that there is nothing wrong with sock puppetry.

Time to pull your socks up, Joe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From the Big River Review

When this website was created in January 2011 by an author with several books sold on Amazon, the understanding that the Amazon book review process was damaging to the long term health of publishing was just coming to light. Since then, the site has tried to keep track of the developing deterioration of the Amazon “review community.” Links to the site have gone out to many of those in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet who have written the stories found on these pages, and the site has been reviewed by those who administer the review community at Amazon, accompanied by a cordial email exchange with some at Amazon. The repeated suggestion to Amazon has been to retake ownership of the review mechanism that it pioneered on the Internet, acknowledge the problems, and take public steps to restore integrity and intelligence to the culture of book reviews.

The site assumes absolutely no credit for what has happened since. It was predictable and inevitable: Amazon, finally understanding the chaos it had created, tried to poke away parts of the problem . . .