What I’ve Learned About Authors This Month
Posted by Kimberly A Bettes
I don’t like to think of myself as naive. I don’t believe the world is made up of rainbows and unicorns. I look at the world around me in an honest and real light. I see the good as well as the dangers. I know people are shady creatures, but what I’ve learned about authors in the last month makes me think I need to paint the world around me a shade darker. I’m seeing it in a light that’s just a bit too positive.
It all started a couple of weeks ago when my twitter and facebook feeds began to fill up with posts about authors who post fake reviews of their books on sites such as Amazon in order to boost sales. They set up fake ‘sock-puppet’ accounts so they can post reviews under different names. Apparently they’ve been doing this for quite some time. Sadly, I knew about this. I’ve never done it, but I have read articles on the matter before. It’s a low-down and dirty thing to do. But apparently there’s something even lower and dirtier that authors can do and they’ve been doing it.
Authors have been buying reviews. Fake reviews. Reviews by people who’ve never even read the book.
Before I go any further let me say this. Reviews are super important to authors. It doesn’t just help the reader decide whether or not to buy the book. It helps the author learn what he/she is doing wrong or right. Furthermore, there are advertising sites in which the author pays money to advertise that their book is on sale or free. In order to do this, they have to meet certain criteria. Mainly, they have to have a certain number of reviews for the book to be advertised. So in that regard, I can kind of see what might drive a writer to do such a thing. BUT I think it’s a dirty shame that they do it.
I had no idea this was happening. I walk amongst the writers, some famous, some not, and never even suspected that this was an issue. I’ve often wondered how authors get so many reviews so quickly when it’s all I can do to get reviews for my work. Not every reader is willing to give up a minute of their time to review a book. Yet some authors just seemed to be doused in them. Their books would come out on the first of the month, and by the end, they’d have hundreds — sometimes thousands — of reviews. It left me scratching my head and wondering how. What was I not doing that they were doing? Why didn’t my books have as many reviews as theirs? Now I know. They were buying fake reviews. Not all authors do this (at least I don’t think, though I’m now doubting everything I thought I knew) but a lot do, and some of them are authors I’ve admired for a long time. At least I DID admire them. I can no longer do that. I can’t admire someone who’s faking it. I just can’t.
As if the fake reviews weren’t enough, in light of Tom Clancy’s passing, I learned that he, as well as James Patterson, don’t even write all their own books. What?! Yes. Apparently, they have other people — unnamed ghostwriters — write their stories for them and just slap their name on the cover. Again, I was shocked and appalled to learn this is happening. Earlier this year, I was wondering how in the world James Patterson could possibly have written and published 11 novels last year. Now I know. He didn’t. I don’t know if he wrote any of them. I’d like to think he did, but then again I’d also like to think that he writes all of his own books.
My mind is reeling at the things I’ve learned in the last month. It scares me to think of what else I don’t know. How many other big name authors aren’t really writing their own books? How many others are buying fake reviews or posting reviews of their own work under false names?
I will say this though. I have NEVER, not ever, posted a fake review for any of my works. I have no intention of ever doing so. I’ve also NEVER bought a fake review. I’ve offered free books in lieu of an honest review which is a common practice in this business (hence advanced reader’s copies of novels), but I have and would never pay someone to write a review, especially knowing that they won’t even read the book. No. Not gonna happen. I want honest reviews from real readers. Not some phony review I bought from fiverr.com. And even though this should go without saying, I write all my own books. Always have, always will.
I plan to make it to the top of this heap of authors one day, and when I do I want to be able to say that I made it honestly. I didn’t fake my way up, I didn’t buy my way in, and I didn’t sell out to anyone or anything to get there.