There has been a lot of talk lately about a number of sock puppets that have been infiltrating Amazon and other book sites near you. To those who haven’t heard, the situation is basically as such: a number of authors including R.J. Ellory, Sam Millar, John Locke and Stephen Leather have been creating fake accounts (a.k.a. sock puppets) to give themselves glowing 5-star reviews, while also bashing some other authors along the way, or else offering payment in exchange for positive reviews.
There has also been talk of a reviewer by the name of Todd Rutherford, who raked in money by selling marketing reviews to those who would buy them at a high price, and this basically launched a discussion regarding what’s ethical and what’s not. Can one still request reviews? When is the line crossed?
In promoting my book, Puppet Parade, I sought out many book reviewer blogs offering them a free digital copy of my book in exchange for an honest review. No monetary transactions were conducted. Is that unethical? Nope. The key things you have to pay attention to here is that the reviewer did not ask for payment – which applies to most honest reviewers – and I did not ask for any sugar-coated reviews. Another thing to note is that it’s never okay to post reviews or give ratings to your own book, because you’re too close to your work to ever be in a position to judge… not to mention how much you would be discredited if someone caught you out.
Before you contact a reviewer about your book, make sure that they do NOT accept payment for the reviews they post. I cannot stress that enough. An author-reviewer relationship that involves money does not seem completely honest, because the reviewer might feel compelled to say nice things about the book if only to placate the author and prevent them from suing them or something like that. But then what does the reviewer get out of this? A free book, of course! It could be in digital form or paperback form, but the fact still remains that the reviewer would be getting a free book that they might’ve had to pay for otherwise.
Submitting your book for an honest review is kinda like putting your neck out there; someone might try to chop it off. As an author, I know that nothing would make me happier than receiving flattering reviews all the time, but then I’d only be deluding myself. Even the most popular books have their share of negative reviews and people who dislike them, so why should my book be exempt? As much as it may pain me to acknowledge this, there are probably many people out there who will dislike my book. I just need to accept the bad reviews with a grain of salt and try to learn something from them.
What do you think of this whole sock puppet business? Have you ever paid for a review? Would you sign your name here?