There’s another reason why I didn’t react strongly to the rigged reviewers news. It’s because there something far uglier happening on Amazon than merely rigged reviews.
A large and anonymous publishing company is fabricating dozens of author personas, creating books of appallingly low quality under these false identities, publishing them as low-price Kindle ebooks and then manipulating their sales by posting fake reviews and by cramming so much content into certain book categories that their content is all but inescapable.
All the little shits who once took us for suckers with mail order Get Rich Quick schemes and Multi-Level Marketing scams have figured out how to mine the eBookstores — particularly Amazon — for easy gold.
What an angry shouty weekend it was. I’d planned to relax, do some writing, work on preparing some workshops that I have coming up. Instead I spent the whole time fielding phone calls, emails, and angry online comments. I’m sure you’ve all seen the allegations (and admissions) that several authors have used fake accounts to promote their own work and give bad reviews to the work of others. There has been outrage at this. It is seen as unequivocal Bad Author Behaviour. Having been put in the middle of it, I want to unpick some of what may or may not be seen as bad behaviour (all in an entirely personal capacity).
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.
Fifty writers find the time to devote to something.
Something that affects their own wallets.
Where the hell was their outrage and collective voice and action while:
- Apple banned and banned and banned and banned books and took a shit on freedom of expression
- public domain parasites loot our collective heritage
- France tries to steal all the books, and
- companies try to own the word “book” online?
I finally figured out why the entire sockpuppet scandal didn’t incite my anger.
Because it’s all about self-interest.
Stop looking at your own bank account and open your eyes to the things that threaten all of us — writers, readers, and freedom itself.
You know what happens when writers focus on their self-interest?
I’m mad — about big things.
You should be too.
image by PaulSteinJC