There has been a lot of talk in recent months about sock puppets and for those who’ve only just returned to Earth, sock puppetry is buying reviews for your book or making a fake account from a site such as Amazon and giving yourself a glowing review. That’s the basic version anyway. Google it for more information.
I’ve discovered a new kind of sock puppet and this one wears a disguise to try to hide the fact that it’s just a sock puppet. Over on facebook I get invited to many ‘pages’ and ‘events’ run by authors all wanting to market their book or raise its public profile and many of them resort to good old bribery to do it.
They offer you prizes such as Amazon gift cards, kindles, paypal money etc but in return for being allowed to enter this competition (which is nothing more than pulling a name out of a hat) you have to buy their book, download their book, vote for their book and/or leave a review. Then and only then will you be entered into the draw, which you probably won’t win anyway.
Now, we’d all love a brand new Kindle Fire or £100 paypal money and many people go in for these so called ‘competitions’ without realising what they are actually doing. They are taking the promise of material reward in return for leaving a glowing review of a book they’ve probably never read anyway, which gives potential readers a totally false view of the product they intend to pay honest money for.
Let’s say for instance that this gal wrote a romance novel and offers such a thinly veiled bribe and people leave glowing reviews of it on Amazon or Goodreads saying how wonderful it is, how perfectly written and how they can’t wait to read more from this wonderful wordsmith etc, you know the sort of drivel. So a real buyer comes along and likes the look of the hot guy on the cover and thinks about buying it but decides to read the reviews first. Everyone seems to be awestruck by this wonderful piece of literature so they buy it and eagerly await the postman. When the knock at the door comes they almost bite off his arm to get at the package and rip it open. With a fresh coffee to hand and the cat on their lap, they sit down to read.
Then they discover the spelling errors, the bad (or none at all) punctuation, the continuity errors, the horrendously stilted dialogue, incorrect or total lack of research, contradictions galore and generally bad grammar. They might not know the mistakes are there on a conscious level but they will quickly realise the book is difficult to read, it doesn’t seem to flow and they cannot tell who is talking and who isn’t. They will get irritated by the overuse of identical dialogue attribution (if it’s used at all) and will find themselves thinking,
“What the fuck is this all about?”
They will feel disappointed and angry at the wasted money and time and will then assume that all indie/self published books are of a similar standard and will be far less likely to buy another. For those of us who take a lot of care over the quality of our product, that is a slap in the ta ta’s we don’t deserve. We must act to raise the bar for the whole indie/self publishing world and a huge part of doing that is to stop trying to con our customers. You may think it’s okay to help another author out, even if you’re only doing it in the hope they’ll do the same for you (they won’t, believe me) but take a moment to think of the customer who reads your review. Will they be happy that you told the truth? If not then remember that same customer might not be too happy to buy your book when it comes out, after being conned with the last one.