Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I'm sure many of you are already aware of what went down in Harrogate recently. The fall out following "Sockpuppetgate" has gone viral and I feel compelled to add my own two cents.

The definition of a sock puppet (and we're not talking muppets here),  is "an online identity used for purposes of deception" and boy, there sure has been a lot of deceiving going on.

The fabulous Claire McGowan was at Harrogate's annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival where it all started. Per her report in Red Herrings, (The Crime Writers' Association's monthly newsletter) the trouble began during a panel about the e-book. Among topics discussed were the difficult issues of Digital rights management (DRM), price points and piracy—guaranteed to get anyone's blood boiling. But it was only when the conversation strayed into self-publishing that things got lively.  Stephen Leather unwittingly opened Pandora's box when he admitted using multiple fake accounts to promote his books and create "buzz" on Amazon and Twitter.

Stephen Leather is not the only sockpuppeteer. There are many more offenders as outlined in The Telegraph where Ian Rankin, Lee Child and Val McDermid condemn the "underhanded tactics" of such manipulators.

On Type M for Murder we've talked about the ethics of writing glowing blurbs regardless of whether we've liked (or even read), the book or not. Is that so very different from penning one's own fake stellar review?

When I was a brand new author, family and close friends gave me five-star reviews on Amazon. Some of them hadn't even read my book at all and although their intentions came from a supportive place, it made me feel a fraud. And then I had a mortifying experience that still makes me go cold with horror at the memory. My daughter added her review to one of the Amazon mystery groups using my computer but forgot to log out of my account. The backlash was staggering! I was practically annihilated by angry readers shocked at my B.S.P. Of course I apologized and came clean and all was well.

The truth is, I want to earn those good reviews and if they're from complete strangers, all the better.

Do those reviews on Amazon really matter anyway?  In the great scheme of things I'll still read an author I love regardless of a bad review. But what about those people who deliberately give an author (or worse, a rival author) a blisteringly bad review out of spite. I just can't wrap my ahead around that which is why I was happy to find Joe Konrath's petition  "Vote for book reviews you can trust." 
I signed my name ... and I invite you to do the same.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, there's a deeper issue here to me. We are becoming a very distrustful society, and this kind of manipulation is feeding it. It goes beyond books!

Hannah Dennison said...

I completely agree. It's really disillusioning. Would love to discuss this with you at some point!

Carlene Rae Dater said...

I find it endemic to a lot, not all, self-published books. Either the authors are using other identities to give the books five stars or getting friends to do so. I have found too many self-pubbed books that are terrible! The "authors" seem to be in such an all-fired hurry to publish that they write and throw up a book without editing! How can a book earn five stars when it's rife with spelling and grammatical errors? I've sold all nine of my novels to publishers. I will never be rich but...I'm proud of every published book I have and the few honest reviews I get.

Hannah Dennison said...

Carlene - thank you for voicing what I feel too. The old term "vanity publishing" says it all! Congratulations on your 9 published novels. That's a great achievement - a real achievement.

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