Saturday, September 08, 2012

Get Over Yourselves

Updated below.

I had a long talk with a friend last night, and we realized something obvious.

Amazon allows one star reviews. 

In other words, the existing system allows and encourages people to publicly trash books. 

Reread that sentence. Just about every book has one star reviews. So there are, quite literally, MILLIONS of one star reviews.

Every one of those millions of reviewers who trashed a book deliberately did it to harm that book's sales. That's the whole point of a one star review. Someone yelling to the world "Don't buy this!"

This is why I don't leave one star reviews. I think it is a shitty, mean thing to do.

But it's allowed.

If it was wrong to trash a book, it wouldn't be allowed. Like murder isn't allowed. Our society doesn't allow murder.

But society does allow people freedom of speech. And that includes the right for people to offer their opinions. Even anonymously. Even stupid opinions. Even biased opinions. Even opinions with agendas.

Recently, three authors were exposed using an existing system--one built upon the very principle of people voicing their opinions--to their advantage, and they're branded immoral and beyond reproach.

Sorry, no.

Ellory did a shitty thing, and because he didn't sign his name to his reviews he was also cowardly, but what he did wasn't any different than what millions of other one star reviewers did and continue to do.

Ellory didn't want people to buy his rivals' books. He wanted them to buy his books. That was his agenda.

He's allowed his agenda. And I'll defend his right to do things like that, even if I wouldn't do it.

If I have a bad meal at a restaurant, I'd warn my friends not to go there. I'm deliberately preventing that restaurant from making money. That is my agenda.

And if I warned my friends to avoid a restaurant I never ate at, I'd be doing the same thing, except I'd be a dick.

And if I owned a restaurant, and publicly denounced other restaurants, I'd also be a dick. (Or an advertiser using Pepsi Challenge rules.)

There are dicks on the Internet! Gasp! Circle the wagons, Pa!

As I said, I don't leave one star reviews. I think trashing books is shitty. That's my personal opinion.

But if you want to throw Ellory under the bus, you need to condemn the millions of others who give malicious one star reviews, and then condemn the system for allowing it.

If you want to throw Locke under the bus, you need to condemn the millions of others who give unsubstantiated five star reviews, and then condemn the system for allowing it.

If you want to throw Leather under the bus, you need to condemn the millions of others who use sock puppets and post anonymously, and then condemn the system for allowing it.

And if that's what you're trying to do, condemn the entire system, then you are a pinhead condemning what comes down to personal freedoms, and showing you have zero faith in writers or readers.

No reader automatically believes every review they come across. Before all this uproar, there have always been fishy one star and suspect five star reviews. Reviews are a tool readers use, and Amazon has done all it can to give readers more tools to judge their veracity--comments, likes, verified purchases, etc.

We may not approve of an author leaving one star reviews, or buying reviews, or using fake names. Personally, I don't approve of authors trashing me on Twitter, posting anonymously on my blog, or getting a ton of coop money and front page NYT ads while I get none.

I don't think it's fair.

Boo hoo, poor me.

That's the sum total of this scandal. Some authors bitching that other authors aren't playing fair.

GET OVER IT.

Let's all gather together in self-righteous solidarity and change Amazon, then change the whole Internet, then change the behavior of every single person on the planet, so everyone plays fair!

Good luck with that. Especially since everyone's definition of "fair" is different.

It is my opinion that 95% of one star reviews are shitty. But because I don't like something, or because I wouldn't personally do something, doesn't mean I need to go on a holy quest to punish those who displease me, and gather up a lynch mob of like-minded hysterics.

Reviews and the reviewing system have never been some sacred act beyond reproach.

Pinheads have dumb opinions, and the Internet lets them shout their dumb opinions without any fear of repercussion. We're all free to condemn whoever we want to condemn, and be outraged by whatever gets us off.

Right now I'm outraged at all the unwarranted outrage.

Locke didn't hold the world hostage by threatening it with nuclear annihilation to get people to buy his books. He bought reviews which MAY have lead more people to buy his books.

Leather didn't put on a mask to hide his identity and then go on a bank robbing spree. He used a fake identity to make fun of people who were making fun of him.

Ellory didn't go into a rival's house and beat him to death with a hammer. He left one star reviews, which MILLIONS OF OTHERS DO.

But Joe! If this kind of behavior is allowed, the system will devolve into chaos and madness! Madness I say! MADNESS!!!!

Don't be a pinhead. This kind of behavior IS ALLOWED RIGHT NOW, and has been allowed for decades. Every book has one star reviews. There are millions of one star reviews. I'd bet there are also millions of fake reviews. And millions using sock puppets. Just because three authors were discovered doing what millions already do, within a few days of each other, doesn't mean the system is going to hell.

The system works fine. We're all able to sell books, even when some pinhead gives us one star reviews.

We're all not in danger of losing our morals. But we are in danger of losing our perspective.

Amazon, and the Internet, and the Bill Of Rights, allow free speech. Even anonymous free speech. Even speech we don't like.

That petition was stupid. This whole issue is stupid. The hysteria is unwarranted. This is just a self-righteous mob who feels the need to jerk off in public by pointing fingers and declaring themselves superior.

This sums it up:


Addendum

I published an earlier version of this blog inadvertently while I was still tweaking it. The previous opening was:

Buying reviews isn't wrong. Using sock puppets isn't wrong. Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong.

It's shitty, and I wouldn't do it. And that's how I'm able to prove I'm right.

Amazon allows one star reviews. In other words, the existing system allows and encourages people to publicly trash books. 

Here's a snapshot of that earlier version.

I don't believe that was as strong an opening as my current one, but I still stand by those words.

You either believe in freedom of speech, and allow people to say things within a system where freedom is allowed, or you try to police the system, which is impossible and also very wrong.

Get it? It isn't wrong to speak your mind. It's wrong to not allow people to speak their mind.

That's the problem with democracy. People do things we don't like them doing. But it beats the alternative, doesn't it?

Calling an action wrong because you wouldn't do it is bad logic. There are certain legal sex acts I wouldn't do. I don't condemn them as being wrong. It just isn't my thing.

In the comments, people are trying to say that fraud was involved.

They're wrong.

Fraud involves damages. No one was damaged here. Amazon allows one star reviews, so that doesn't count as damage. Amazon allows book returns for full refunds. So again, no damage. People call each other names all the time on the internet. That's allowed.

Show me every paid review is a lie. Hint: they aren't.

Show me people bought books based on lies. Hint: people buy books for lots of reasons.

Show me that people who felt duped were prevented from getting full refunds and then leaving negative reviews of their own. Hint: Anyone can do this.

Show me one star reviews harm authors. Hint: Amazon allows one star reviews.

In the comments one of the authors who created the petition is insisting it isn't a mob action. Here is my reply:

When there is a call for many to condemn the behavior of three, I am comfortable calling that a mob.

When that call for action has media coverage, it makes me even more suspect.

When that call to action involves moral superiority, it clinches the deal.

You're part of a mob, whether you intended it or not.

You're signaling out three people for scorn and ridicule and humiliation, whether you intended it or not.

The wording of your petition sucks, whether you intended it or not.

I pick on groups. Big groups who do authors harm.

I don't pick on authors behaving badly.

I'm fine with going against a mob of 400 even though it is an incredibly unfair, one-sided fight. (Hint: you'll need at least 500 more signatures before I'd consider us evenly matched.)

But I'm not okay picking on individual writers.

Say I took every negative thing you've ever said on the Internet, strung it all together in a blog post, then rallied my large readership to publicly condemn you, then called my vast media contacts to join in the excoriation.

That's what your mob is doing. And it doesn't matter if that wasn't your intent.

Update #2

So let me sum this up, because I seem to be getting misunderstood a lot.

If someone buys reviews, I don't care. I don't value reviews enough to pay for them, so I wouldn't do this. I see a very thin line between asking for honest reviews with the reviewer disclosing they'd been paid, and a review where the reviewer discloses nothing, doesn't even read the book, and gives it five stars. I believe readers are savvy enough to figure out which reviews are worth listening to, and how much they affect their buying decision. Considering that readers can download free samples, return the book for a refund, and post reviews of their own (along with comments and like/dislike buttons), I think Amazon is doing all it can to make the system fair. They don't police reviews, and that's a good thing.

If someone gives me a one star review, I don't care. Doesn't matter if they read the book or not, or use a fake name or not. All one star reviews intend to hurt sales. Amazon allows them, and there are millions of them, yet people still buy books.

If someone posts anonymously or uses false names, I don't care. Anyone who has been on the Internet for more than ten minutes soon learns to distrust everyone and everything. The web, by its very nature, is much different than communicating face to face. People say and do things on the net they'd never do in person. Reasonable people understand this, and are automatically wary.

I don't give one star reviews, use sock puppets, or pay for reviews. I understand how my peers might think these things are unfair. They may be unfair. But they aren't serious, and they aren't automatically morally wrong, because they are a by product of free speech. Just because I wouldn't do them doesn't mean I have the right to prevent all others form doing them. That road is a dangerous one to walk, because it leads to sanctimony, witch hunts, censorship, overreacting, hate groups, and mobbing.

Everyone is allowed to be upset about whatever they want to be upset about. But publicly humiliating these three for their minor transgressions is silly. The press covering this is no different than the tabloids printing pictures of drunk celebrities.

I think witch hunters and muck rakers are scum. Humiliating a peer so you can get your name in the paper is pathetic. Exposing author dishonesty, when dishonesty abounds in the publishing industry, is hypocritical. My previous posts have shown that there is no such thing as universal morality, and we all do various questionable things in our careers.

Last, and certainly least, I do finally understand why some authors are so pissed off. Someone just emailed me Nielsen Bookscan number scans of several authors who signed the petition. Wow. I've sold more books in a week than they've sold in years. No wonder they're upset at me, Locke, and Leather.

I'm sorry, guys. I really am. I'm sure your books are good, and I say that with utmost sincerity even though (full disclosure) I haven't read them. But maybe you guys should stop spending so much time on social networks spewing hateful nonsense, and more time on your careers.

I've heard that self-publishing pays 70% royalties and you can set your own prices. If you need pointers, I have a lot of them on my blog. If you have any specific questions, email me. I get a lot of email, but I am being completely honest when I say I'll help you if I can. Seriously. The legacy system is screwing you, just like it screwed me, and you have my sympathy. And you can go right on hating me even though I'll help you.

Ebooks aren't a zero sum game. I wish you nothing but success. 

266 comments:

1 – 200 of 266   Newer›   Newest»
P.A. Wilson said...

It will all die down and then the next scandal with beat us around the head. I don't know that readers even care about this issue.
One thing that pisses me off is that John Locke made money on his book "how I sold a million..." and he left out a tip that he thought was worth the cost and effort - buy some reviews.
We all work to push our books high enough on lists to get in front of readers. Reviews are one way.
I also don't trash books - if I can't leave at least 3 stars, I don't leave anything.
I've posted a few places that I think of paid reviews as marketing. I don't pay for them but if I had some proof they worked, I might.

Katie said...

So.... if everyone else did something wrong, then it's ok? Sorry, that's not a great argument. Ethically, all those people are wrong. It is possible for even a majority of people to be ethically wrong. Maybe this will teach people to read reviews more carefully, maybe not. Certainly everything will die down. It doesn't make it ok. It's a jerky thing to do and remains so no matter how many people do it.

Kurt Lazarus said...

You went full pinhead, man.
Never go full pinhead.

Anonymous said...

If a book is really bad, I leave a one star review, but I explain why. I'm not trying to trash the book, just to let other people know why I didn't like it so they can decide if they want to buy it or not. When I am looking to buy a book, I look at the one and two star reviews, because if there is something that annoys those reviewers and also annoys me (like grammar or typos), then I know I don't want to read the book. Sometimes the poor review is based on something I don't care about (like the inability to read the map in the forward) or a sloppy index. One star reviews can be very helpful, both for and against the book.

P.S. Power said...

If you do something "shitty" or dickish and you know that you're doing it, it's wrong.

If you do something to harm another person (even if, as you say, reviews don't do...) that's wrong too.

Don't confuse legal with right. We're allowed by law to trash other people in a lot of cases, but that doesn't mean that anyone should.

I know, it may seem like I'm arguing semantics here... Because I am. But I think that a lot of people, even highly intelligent ones,can see that you're saying these things aren't "wrong" and be impacted by it, instantly translated that to you claiming it's right.

Even though you weren't saying that at all.

That isn't a conscious thing, which makes it even more dangerous, because people will see you (as an authority in this field of indie publishing) saying these things and run with it, rebounding from arguments against such things and moving into attack mode the second they feel someone else has had an unfair advantage.

The whole reason we point out that some things are "wrong" is to inform others of what not to do in a clear fashion.

We have four things that people generally consider "wrong" in western society. (Well, five, but I'm leaving one out on purpose.)

Murder is wrong.

But this isn't murder. (Granted)

Hurting another person is almost always wrong.

And attacking their work unfairly does that, if not on a physical level.

Theft is wrong.

Again we find that a person trying to prevent you from making money using fake reviews falls under this category.

And finally...

Gaining an UNFAIR advantage is wrong.

This is almost universal, though it sounds minor. People don't get up at arms over things until they find that someone has really gotten away with something that seems to help them.

This is the "cheating rule". People don't care if you cheat, as long as they think that cheating didn't push you past others. At that point, people freak.

Buying fake reviews, may or may not do this, but it certainly seems that way to some. Hence the tremendous backlash from the crowd.

But my whole point here is that, of the five main things that people will view as instantly wrong, three of them are potential players here.

*It doesn't matter if you agree, it just matters if other people do.

Morality may be flexible for many people (myself included) but we hold a societal concept of right and wrong for a reason. To get everyone on the same page.

So, I disagree with the main article after a fashion. Those things aren't just mean, they are, by the way we categorize everything, truly wrong.

It's just that some of them (buying good reviews for yourself) have fewer points of "wrongness" than others. (Buying attack reviews.)





Alexia561 said...

I've posted one star reviews for books, but that doesn't make me a malicious, shitty dick. I don't trash these books, just explain why I didn't care for it.

Most of my reviews are 3-4 on the rating scale, and I try to explain why. I tend to disregard 5 star gushing reviews, but do read the 1 & 2 starred ones.

Paid reviews are marketing, and that's my main objection to them. I want reviews from my fellow readers, not a professional marketer.

Dora McAlpin said...

Amazon does have review guidelines that prohibit some of these behaviors, as posted at:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-reviews-guidelines

What's not allowed:

...

Promotional content:
• Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
• Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
• Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package
• Solicitations for helpful votes

Granted, these are difficult to enforce. But I believe those who use the Amazon service are behaving unethically if they knowingly violate these guidelines.

Joe Konrath said...

I hit publish inadvertently while tweaking my argument, so the post changed slightly.

When a group of people get together and morally declare something wrong, that doesn't make it wrong. And when a group of like-minded folks don't band together for the express purpose of voicing outrage against something they consider immoral, and pointing fingers at those how don't meet their ideals, that's bad.

And I'm pretty much done saying that same thing, over and over.





Rick Gualtieri said...

I mostly lurk here and usually agree with a lot of your posts, but I don't this time.

"you need to condemn the millions of others who give malicious one star reviews, and then condemn the system for allowing it.

you need to condemn the millions of others who give unsubstantiated five star reviews

you need to condemn the millions of others who use sock puppets and post anonymously"

I don't know what you're reading out there, but this is exactly what I'm seeing. Locke, Leather, and Ellory are getting more press than others. Unfortunately for them, they've become the poster boys for this. However, they're not the only ones being named and indeed lots of people are standing up and saying they don't want to tolerate this from anyone.

Just because a system has always been corrupt doesn't mean it's wrong or pointless for people to want to change it.

And here's the kicker, it IS wrong according to Amazon. Though, they're not exactly proactive, Amazon will remove items that go against their TOC if they're notified of it, including: shill reviews, sock puppets, and paid reviews.

Joe Konrath said...

So.... if everyone else did something wrong, then it's ok?

That isn't the argument, Katie. If everyone did something you didn't like, it can still be okay..

The Million Moms don't like gay marriage. I think they're wrong. And I think that they try to pressure public opinion is wrong. But I also support their right to be homophobic pinheads.

You went full pinhead, man.
Never go full pinhead.


I was dancing around this issue, not giving it 100%. Now I did. And I'll be hated for saying it. I'll live.

If a book is really bad, I leave a one star review, but I explain why. I'm not trying to trash the book, just to let other people know why I didn't like it so they can decide if they want to buy it or not

And I defend your right to do that.

If you do something "shitty" or dickish and you know that you're doing it, it's wrong.

It's hypocritcal. But not wrong. Not when the system allows it.

Locke didn't gain an unfair advantage. He just did something you wouldn't do. You call that unfair. You're allowed your opinion.

I've posted one star reviews for books, but that doesn't make me a malicious, shitty dick.

If you're fine with what you've done, no need to defend it.

I don't do it myself. Reasonable people can disagree on these things.

Note I don't signal people out for my disapproval. I attack groups, not individuals.

But I believe those who use the Amazon service are behaving unethically if they knowingly violate these guidelines.

And I drive over the speed limit, and take illegal drugs. I'm knowing violating those guidelines.

I'm not going to join a mob to condemn others for violating guidelines.

Joe Konrath said...

Just because a system has always been corrupt doesn't mean it's wrong or pointless for people to want to change it.

You missed the point.

One star reviews are allowed. So it isn't wrong to post one star reviews.

It cannot ever be policed to the point where only reviews of honest intent are allowed. We either accept the system, which allows freedom of speech, or reject it completely.

If I'm wrong, how would you change the system? I'd like to hear how you can force people to behave as you'd like them to, without stomping on personal freedoms.

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

> there are, quite literally, MILLIONS of one star reviews.<

Millions?

>But it isn't wrong.<

Nobody said it was.

>Ellory did a shitty thing,<

You say shitty we say wrong.

>But if you want to throw Ellory under the bus,<

No one but you said they did.

>you need to condemn the millions of others who give malicious one star reviews<

No you don't. It's possible to throw one guy under a bus and then walk away. Well, run actually because pushing people under buses is not nice.

>If you want to throw Locke under the bus,<

Must be a simpler way than throwing all these guys under buses.

> you need to condemn the millions of others who give unsubstantiated five star reviews.<

I don't think we have enough buses.

>If you want to throw Leather under the bus,<

I told you, forget the bus idea, we need a better plan.

>That's the scandal here. Some authors bitching that other authors aren't playing fair.<

No, the scandal was about authors posting fake reviews. Read the newspapers.

>Let's change Amazon, then change the whole Internet, then change the behavior of every single person on the planet, so everyone plays fair!<

No, let's just be aware that some authors tried to scam money from readers by posting their own reviews.

>Good luck with that. Especially since everyone's definition of "fair" is different.<

You're the only one talking about 'fair.' The headlines were about fake reviews.

>It is my opinion that 95% of one star reviews are shitty.<

95% of millions right? That you read?

>because I wouldn't personally do something, doesn't mean I need to go on a holy quest to punish those who displease me, and then gather up a lynch mob.<

There are no lynch mobs. And all the buses are already in use.

>Reviews and the reviewing system have never been some sacred act beyond reproach.<

That's why it is being reproached.

>The rest is just details.<

The rest 'are' just details.

But let's not consider any details. Broad brushstrokes, straw men and generalizations are enough.

>We're all free to condemn whoever we want to condemn, and be outraged by whatever gets us off.<

Good to know. I was beginning to think you'd rather we didn't believe that authors posting fake reviews to con readers into buying their books was wrong.

>Locke didn't hold the world hostage by threatening it with nuclear annihilation to get people to buy his books.<

Is Amazon in Iran?

> He bought reviews which MAY have lead more people to buy his books.<

He did sell a million books but maybe that's just a coincidence. And he forgot to mention this scheme in his bestselling book on how to write a bestselling book. Could be another coincidence.

>Ellory didn't go into a rival's house and beat him to death with a hammer.<

Oh my God! Where did you hear that story?

Oh wait. You didn't. You just made it up.

> The hysteria is unwarranted.<

Okay, yes to outrage but no to hysteria.

>This is just a self-righteous mob.<

Joe's right I just saw it on Fox News. There is a huge mob right now outside Amazon's headquarters. They are all setting light to their Kindles.

Oh wait. Breaking News. They're just trading their old ones in for the new Kindle Fire.

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon will remove items that go against their TOC if they're notified of it, including: shill reviews, sock puppets, and paid reviews.

Awesome. So what is everyone bitching about?

Joe Konrath said...

No, the scandal was about authors posting fake reviews. Read the newspapers.

Posting fake reviews. Which isn't fair.

There is a huge mob right now outside Amazon's headquarters. They are all setting light to their Kindles.

First a group of authors sign a petition based on morals.

Then the group tries to force their view on others and singles out those who disagree.

Or maybe not. Maybe there won't be any witch hunting. But I'm seeing fear and paranoia. I'm seeing moral superiority. I'm seeing name-calling. I'm seeing outrage to the extent that it is getting media attention.

Maybe it'll die down. But if people consider it news that an author posted 1 star reviews under a fake name, I doubt it will die down anytime soon.

sympathyforthedevil said...

You're right, Joe. Here's an easy way to prove that the witch-hunt against sock puppets is worse than sockpuppeting: ask yourself which causes greater harm? So, a writer gets some 1* reviews, another writer gets some 5* reviews - that's not, ultimately, going to make or destroy anyone. BUT, a coordinated witch hunt that vilifies three men in particular and gets busy on Twitter making everyone hate and condemn those three men - well, that could be enough to psychologically destroy a person. Or three people. It's cruelty and I actually burst into tears every time I think about it, particularly when the people who signed that NSPHP document MUST all have done the odd shitty thing themselves in the past. How could they not feel the hypocrisy coursing through their veins as they signed? It's all so sad, and well done, Joe, for speaking up.

Joe Konrath said...

BUT, a coordinated witch hunt that vilifies three men in particular and gets busy on Twitter making everyone hate and condemn those three men - well, that could be enough to psychologically destroy a person.

Shit, you said it better than I did. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Those who can, do. Those who can't write 1-star reviews. My suspicion is that in most cases they're simply mean little people angry at life and taking it out on whoever happens to be closest in time and place.

J. Fields Jr. said...

We're all on the hustle one way or another. Some people play a straight up game and some are mechanics, dealing off the bottom. The cheaters sometimes win big and have a long career and rake in lots of pots.

But the rest of us still play straight up and have a circle of respectful nods at the table when we buy in.

More often than not the people standing around watching the game can't tell the difference, they are just looking for a little entertainment.

Hey, Joe. Next round is on me if I get the Ace on the turn.

Steven Witmer said...

Hey JA what are your thoughts on this John Green fella?

http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/31026577075/on-self-publishing-and-amazon

Dan Meadows said...

I'm personally disgusted by the conduct of some of some writers, particularly the sockpuppeting to rip other writers. I think that's pretty cowardly, and questionably legal in some instances. I have no ethical qualms ripping somebody if they deserve it, but have the balls to put your name to it. Regarding anonymously promoting of your own work or buying reviews, its not something I'd engage in because I don't really care all that much about reviews and the review system isn't terribly accurate anyway. I'm not at all surprised that others are because, as you said, the system is set up to allow it. To me, the moral mob mentality is far more dangerous than buying some reviews. Ask the LendInk guy all about that. They might (and I stress the word might) have some claim to a moral high ground in this case, but they sure as hell didn't in that one.

I suspect that what we're seeing is a group of writers who either have no experience with the publishing industry or were sheltered from how it actually works. Publishing was born and bred with dirty tricks; unethical, immoral, illegal activities are its bread and butter and always have been. Amazon and self publishing may have made it easier to get in the door, but this isn't some kind of pleasant little day camp. It's a billion dollar international business with serious stakes on the table. If you want in the game, put on your big boy pants and grow a pair. That doesn't mean I don't think we should criticize or advocate where its called for, but I've got far more important things to do with my time than harp on inconsequential gray area moral issues, which is totally what much of this is, whether the mob wants to admit it or not. It seems as if you do, as well.

T Ludlow said...

And if I have a bad meal at a restaurant, I warn my friends not to go there. I'm deliberately preventing that restaurant from making money. That is my agenda.

How is that different from warning people away from a 'bad' book? What you think is a bad meal might be perfectly acceptable to someone else. You can't have it both ways; you either warn people away from the things you consider 'bad', or you don't.

I've written a handful of one-star reviews in my time and I didn't do it out of spite, I did it to warn fellow readers away from books I considered terrible - generally ones where the author has treated the reader with complete contempt. But I've never just written 'This sucked' or suchlike; I give considered and, where I can, constructive, criticism on why I think a book has failed.

A book can be a big investment in time. If I finish a book that I think is utter crud, I'll say so, and say why, to hopefully save someone else wasting hours of their lives.

You seem to think leaving one-stars is being mean to the author; I'd say that not leaving one-stars is mean to the reader.

If you want to throw Leather under the bus, you need to condemn the millions of others who use sock puppets and post anonymously, and then condemn the system for allowing it.

Well, yes, I do condemn the 'millions' of others, but Amazon don't 'allow' it, do you think for a moment that Amazon wouldn't prevent sock-puppetry if they could? It happens because it's very difficult to stop (if you have any bright ideas on the subject I'm sure Amazon would be pleased to hear them).

Five-star fakery has got to the point where I rarely consider them any more. I'll start with the four and three-stars (if there are any) and work down. A thoughtful low-star review can often tell me more about the tone and quality of a book than a clutch of perfunctory, gushing five-stars.

But it's a shame, isn't it; a useful, informative, democratic review system now crippled by dishonest authors and publicists.

gniz said...

I have a few novels under pen names that happen to sell very well. And they also happen to garner a ton of negative one star reviews...like some of the most vitriolic stuff I've ever read.

I get the distinct feeling that more than a few of them are from other disgruntled authors who are angry that my books are selling well (or better than theirs). Angry that my particular brand of fiction is being bought, while theirs is not.

And then I am sure some of those nasty reviews are just people who hated my books, also.

You know what? None of it hurt my sales any.

End of story for me.

Joe Konrath said...

You can't have it both ways; you either warn people away from the things you consider 'bad', or you don't.

I'm not trying to have it both ways. I think people should be able to trash things if they want to. I don't do it with Amazon reviews. But I don't want to stop others from doing it.

But it's a shame, isn't it; a useful, informative, democratic review system now crippled by dishonest authors and publicists.

That's the problem with democracy. People do things we don't like them doing. But it beats the alternative, doesn't it?

Rick Gualtieri said...

"I'd like to hear how you can force people to behave as you'd like them to, without stomping on personal freedoms."

Fair enough. If I had a perfect system, I'd surely be out there marketing it rather than on here bitching about it. :)

For starters, though, let's be realistic here. Personal freedoms != the right to leave reviews. That's entirely at the discretion of whatever website allows it. So amazon stopping certain practices isn't exactly a civil rights issue. I'm not talking about controlling people, I'm talking about fixing a potentially broken closed ecosystem.

Can I come up ways to make it better? Sure. I have little doubt you could too.

Therein, though, lies the problem. Those who break the system also potentially earn Amazon a lot of $$. It makes me leery of any real fix from them. The only ways I can see to force a fix from them is to continue keeping this public. If their stats show enough people have lost faith (aka it's costing them) in the current system, then I can guarantee changes will come down the pipe.

J. R. Tomlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter L. Winkler said...

You've lost it here, Joe. You keep admitting that what Leather, Locke and Ellory did was unethical. Then you try to whip up some kind of smokescreen that tries to extenuate their behavior in some relativistic context. It doesn't fly. Unless you're clairvoyant, you don't know whether a reviewer leaving a 1-star review intends to damage an author or just express their opinion and disappointment. And their review is an honest expression of opinion, not a fraud. That's the crux of the issue. Fake reviews pretending to be the authentic opinion of a reader are fraudulent. Fraud also happens to be legally actionable, civilly and ciminally.

You keep posting on this, saying that it's your last word on the subject. Then you post again, repeating yourself to diminished effect.

I think that you'd like for there to be no reviews whatsoever of any kind. Let's abolish criticism. Then only advertising will be left to tell us about books.

Joe Konrath said...

So amazon stopping certain practices isn't exactly a civil rights issue.

I agree. But policing comments is a slippery slope, and no doubt will lead to innocent, heartfelt reviewers being banned.

Clint Johnson said...

These writers put considerably effort into deliberate deception expressly to get people to believe their products are better than they actually are. They lied to people to get them to buy their product.

We accept hyperbole and overblown claims when they are in the context of a paid advertisement where we know the players and their agenda. It is considered unethical at the very least when they conceal origin and agenda.

When a Ford or a Walmart does this a case is often made for it being "fraud"- not just your vague "wrong" or "shitty".

Joe Konrath said...

You keep admitting that what Leather, Locke and Ellory did was unethical.

Where do I admit that? I think I've been trying to show that morals are a slippery slope, and that none of these three did anything unethical according to how the system is set up.

Fake reviews pretending to be the authentic opinion of a reader are fraudulent.

So who will be in charge of deciding which is fake and which is honest?

I have an idea! Let's create a government committee to have the power to bring every reviewer to trial and force them to answer if they are, or ever have been, a communist! Er, I mean, if they are, or ever have been, dishonest while reviewing.

I'm sure that will improve things for everyone.

I think that you'd like for there to be no reviews whatsoever of any kind. Let's abolish criticism.

Where so I say that?

Have you been reading my posts?

J. R. Tomlin said...

Let me state this with absolute clarity.

The No Sock Puppets Here Please ("NSPHP") was nothing but a mob action. If they had been concerned about the ISSUE they would have addressed that instead of naming and shaming individuals. Instead, they were concerned with hurting the individuals involved. That is shown by their actions in naming people. That made them a mob.

Joe Konrath said...

They lied to people to get them to buy their product.

Really. Show me.

Show me every paid review is a lie.

Show me people bought books based on lies.

Show me that people who felt duped were prevented from getting full refunds and then leaving negative reviews of their own.

Randall Wood said...

Joe, I’ve read both of your last posts and all the comments and I still have to disagree with you on this one.

I keep looking for one word to come up and it just hasn’t appeared yet. I’ve seen the subject of sock puppetry called many things; deception, dishonest, deplorable, but I think there’s one important definition missing.

Fraud.

The practice of sock puppetry is Fraud. No matter what scale it is performed on, it is fraud plain and simple. Furthermore, it is fraud with intent. The authors who chose to perform these acts perpetrated a fraud on the people. The victims of this fraud are the entire reading population, and every author putting pen to paper. I usually shy away from absolutes, but this was not a hard conclusion to come to. If one recognizes that first and then wishes to classify the severity of each different offence, I have no choice but to call that a weak argument. Scale should not matter. Neither should the means by which they carried it out. Whether the act was committed with the intent to reap personal gain or to directly or indirectly cause harm, it started first with fraud.

I believe the goal of the writer is to entertain the reader for the amount of time that we asked them for. I believe that to the point that I have that sentence displayed on my wall. The reader is the person I am trying to reach. In order for me to obtain my goal I have to earn their trust. They have to trust me to entertain them in exchange for their hard-earned money. That’s the deal we make with them.

Now I have someone, someone with a voice in the self-publishing world, I voice I respect, (that would be you Joe), telling me that it’s okay for authors to lie to the reader? It’s fine because everyone else does it? I just can’t get behind that. And I don’t feel that it’s wrong to point out those who do. If a crime (and yes, fraud is a crime) happens in a crowded room and no one points a finger at the guilty party, what’s to stop the crime from happening again? I don’t think signing a pledge counts as joining a mob. Pointing out bad behavior that affects us all should not be stifled. Bad behavior deserves to have a light shined on it. These authors brought this on themselves.

I see less debate here than I use to see. Just wanted to add that. To what end are you pursuing this?

E.C. Belikov said...

Steven Witmer said...
“Hey JA what are your thoughts on this John Green fella?

http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/31026577075/on-self-publishing-and-amazon”

It's kind of off topic and I’m not Joe, but I just read that and thought I’d give my .02. Besides, I think this whole issue about reviews has been blown way out of proportion.

John Green makes a great point about books not being written by just one person. Though I think he’s generalizing, and I don’t think ALL authors need the level of help he’s talking about (for instance: read Dean Wesley Smith’s blog on the subject). I know my book The Destiny Engine benefited greatly from the constructive criticism and help I received over the course of numerous drafts. The Destiny Engine is indie, and that’s exactly where I think he got his point completely wrong: the assertion that an author needs a traditional publisher to offer that type of assistance.

I was able to get excellent help with the big-picture, structural editing on my book from my peers at Critique Circle, a few authors I know more personally than simple over-the-internet communication, and a handful of beta-readers. All of which were free!

I was able to clean up the grammatical issues and typos by hiring Arran McNicol at Editing720. That cost me less than $200!

Then he said that people will read less because of Amazon and self-publishing… Why would he say this when all the evidence points to EXACTLY the opposite?

Gordon Harries said...

I'm not going to get into this again, it's Saturday night here and there are better things to do.

I said yesterday, more than once, that this was not a mob action and explained why. Both John Rickards and David Hewson also stopped by and explained their positions.

That said, the majority of people here who are judging our intent when they clearly haven't read the statement is pretty funny. Please read the statement, conversation is so much better when everyone knows what they're talking about.

(I'm a little confused that judging people is wrong, but judging people you perceive to be judging people is okay. Have I got that right?)

Rick Gualtieri said...

"The No Sock Puppets Here Please ("NSPHP") was nothing but a mob action. "

I think that's a gross oversimplification.

Maybe I'm just overly optimistic, but I like to think that the majority of people who signed on that site were doing so not to spite Locke and the others, but moreso because they believed that sockpuppeting is wrong. I didn't see a call to action to shun or destroy those writers. I instead saw people agreeing to not commit certain actions because of their fraudulent nature.

Can be spun both ways, but I know the latter reason is why I signed.

Guilty Conscience said...

I preferred version 1.1 of this post. As it cleared up any lingering doubt of your position on the matter.

For clarity...here's your original position.

Buying reviews isn't wrong. Using sock puppets isn't wrong. Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong.

And, just in case your man Joe here tries to pretend it never happened, it's still available here - http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/09/enough-already.html

Own your words Joe.

TK Kenyon said...


Yup, I agree with you again, Joe. (This gets repetitive, doesn't it?)

It is shitty to leave a 1-star review. I don't give 1-star reviews. I didn't before, and I read your post a while ago about 1-stars and agreed, so it became the rule.

TK Kenyon

MySpace is still around, right?
My Amazon profile.
Tweet with me! I tweet links to free e-fiction on the web and happy thoughts!
A great place to see what I’m up to, writing-wise.
All my reviews on Amazon:

Luca Veste said...

I preferred version 1.1 of this post. As it cleared up any lingering doubt of your position on the matter.

For clarity...here's your original position.

Buying reviews isn't wrong. Using sock puppets isn't wrong. Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong.

And, just in case your man Joe here tries to pretend it never happened, it's still available here - http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/09/enough-already.html

Own your words Joe.

LaDonna said...

Yawn. This 'scandal' has grown to such epic proportions that it's boring. Big deal, a guy (lots of them, actually) paid for reviews. Big deal, a guy on the internet got caught being an anonymous asshole. Big deal big deal big deal. Everyone's so polarized on it that one side is never going to change the collective mind of the other. If you're shocked by these authors' actions, don't copy them. If you approve of them, know that others will think you're douchebag, not that you care. Isn't it time to move on?

Anonymous said...

what happened was; you and croutch sockpuppeted 165 1-star reviews of SERIAL to try and break the record (on the grounds that all pub is good pub) and now you’re desperately ashamed of yourself and are trying to defend your actions

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Rick Gualtieri I'd believe you if the signed statement didn't read (yes, I read it) more as an attempt to harm and punish the people the named than address the issues.

I saw no real attempt to address the issues and suggest substantive fixes. What's more, by excluding the issue of exchanging blurbs (which we know darn well most of those authors have engaged in), they manage to also come across as both hypocrites AND bullies.

Were some of the signators also concerned about the issue. Yes, I can believe that. It didn't keep the end result from being a mob when they went after individuals with the intent of punishing them.

Gordon Harries said...

J.R: Blurbs never came up, they weren't the pertinent issue.

If you have an issue with blurbs, why don't you consider a response to it? other than complaining about the manifest failings of the NSPP people.

Incidentilly, we're not a group. It's not a manifesto. We drafted a letter, sent it to the telegraph and invited others to sign it.

the involvement of the people who drafted the letter is pretty much over at this point. So please don't confuse us with anykind of offical body.

Finnean Nilsen Projects said...

Correct me if I'm wrong - and I could be way off base, here - but it seems to me we wouldn't even be talking about this if these guys hadn't written good books. I mean, if you wrote a shitty book, you could buy five million five star reviews and it'd still be a bad investment because your book fucking sucks. People are going to notice that fact, and stop buying them. So the only way I see to go from buying 50 "honest" reviews to selling 1.7 million copies is to write some pretty fabulous books. And if they're that good, why be pissed they sold?

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Gordon Harries Mobs are rarely an "official body". No one mistook it for an "official body". It was a group of people out to punish a few other people they didn't like.

And when blurbs have been brought up -- as they were by Barry Eisner, for example -- the comments have been deleted.

Sorry, the issue HAS come up and the people involved prefer not to have their OWN behavior looked at. It's known as hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Can we get back to what is important - should I go with Smashwords or Bookbaby and why?

Gordon Harries said...

@J.R: Barry's comment was deleted because the petition thread is not a place for discussion. It was designed to be a petition and not a forum.

Barry and David Hewson talked about this, agreed on it and then Barry took his comments over to his own blog and posted them. So we're hardly in the buissness of silencing critics.

No one involved in the letter wanted to hurt other authors. Believe that, or don't.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

But it's fun to talk about. :)

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Gordon Harries, I don't. If their intent hadn't been to hurt other authors, three authors would not have been named and attacked. The issues would have been addressed instead.

And by refusing to allow comments, the effect IS to silence critics or to deceive people who go there into thinking there is no criticism.

But they are so honest they would never write blurbs praising books they've never read or try to deceive people into thinking the letter is without critics.... Or would they?

Gordon Harries said...

@J.R: I'm going to stop talking now, because you clearly have no interest in conversing. (exchanging opinions. Your idea of how this works appears to be you tell me I'm a bully and a hypocrite until I agree. I don't.)

There are problems with the document, sure. But all you guys are doing is bitching about it and not taking that energy and investing it in actual discussion about what the next step should be.

Night.

Brian Rush said...

I absolutely agree with you here, Joe. Let me say that not only do I not post 1-star reviews myself (if I dislike the book that much I won't finish it and won't post a review at all), but I also pay no attention to them and very little attention to 5-star reviews. I assume that most of the former are from pinheads, to use your favored term, and many of the latter are from friends, family, puffers, stock puppets, and a different type of pinhead.

Also, the information provided is really limited. I look at it this way. If I'm asking a friend for a recommendation for something to read, I'm going to want to hear something a little more specific than "Man, this book rocks!" Like: What was it about? Are the characters good? Does it have a good pace? Is the plot interesting? Does the author write well? Will I want to strangle him/her because of some philosophical point implied in the story that I consider spawn of the Abyss?

I look for the same thing in a review, when I pay attention to reviews at all. One review with coherent and insightful things to say that make me think the book might interest me is worth an infinite number of slap-labeled five-stars.

So I think authors who pull things like this either for their own books or for those of others are wasting their time, as well as being dicks. But you're absolutely correct that they have a right to do so, and the fact that they're wasting time should make us chill out a bit about the practice.

Sandra Ruttan said...

"And by refusing to allow comments, the effect IS to silence critics or to deceive people who go there into thinking there is no criticism."

That's definitely part of my issue with this whole thing. Yes, of course it's obvious that there was personal attack. If this was a call to arms for a moral stand, nobody would have needed to be named. But three people were singled out and shamed by being named.

The lack of public debate and discourse on how to approach these issues, the lack of cohesive action from legitimized organizations such as ITW, MWA etc. put the actions squarely in mob mentality category. Deleting comments that disagree? Shameful. Let's all pretend by omission that the whole world is in agreement, and gang up on anyone who doesn't automatically jump on the bandwagon.

And when other legitimate issues are raised, words are twisted, people are ridiculed or insulted, and people won't engage the issue. The remove to their own venue where they can control the discussion, or, like some have done, go to my Facebook Timeline and slag Konrath behind his back.

Yeah, that's honorable.

Joe Konrath said...

Hi Gordon! So nice of you to post here again even though you find me so disagreeable and unpleasant.

By the way, I don't believe the only reason people become writers is to make phat stacks of money. You're welcome to try and find where I said something similar, but you'll probably instead find me talking about how writers write because they can't help it, and to make phat stacks of money one has to get lucky.

I said yesterday, more than once, that this was not a mob action and explained why.

And because you say it isn't, it must not be.

When there is a call for many to condemn the behavior of three, I am comfortable calling that a mob.

When that call for action has media coverage, it makes me even more suspect.

When that call to action involves moral superiority, it clinches the deal.

You're part of a mob, whether you intended it or not.

You're signaling out three people for scorn and ridicule and humiliation, whether you intended it or not.

The wording of your petition sucks, whether you intended it or not.

(I'm a little confused that judging people is wrong, but judging people you perceive to be judging people is okay. Have I got that right?)

Happy to set you straight. I pick on groups. Big groups who do authors harm.

I don't pick on authors behaving badly.

I'm fine with going against a mob of 400 even though it is an incredibly unfair, one-sided fight. (Hint: you'll need at least 500 more signatures before I'd consider us evenly matched.)

But I'm not okay, picking on individual writers.

Say I took every negative thing you've ever said on the Internet, strung it all together in a blog post, then rallied my large readership to publicly condemn you, then called my vast media contacts to join in the excoriation.

That's what your mob is doing. And it doesn't matter if that wasn't your intent.

J. R. Tomlin said...

@ Gordon Harries I said nothing about you personally. If you take the comments about the letter personally, I really can't help that. I assume you signed it with good intent, a decision that I think was mistaken but probably well-meant. Barry Eisner signed it. He also decided he had been wrong.

A for improving the letter, don't you see a problem with complaining about how no one is talking about improving it when comments on the forum where the letter appeared does not allow comments or criticism?

I have been no more stubborn in criticizing it than you have been in defending it, but you will note, according to you that puts me in the wrong but not you. Hmmmm...

Joe Konrath said...

Own your words Joe.

I do. I sent my original post to some friends to read it before I published, and somehow published it before I was ready. Shit happens.

But I do stand by my original words as well. Buying reviews isn't wrong. Using sock puppets isn't wrong. Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong.

The system exists that allows those things. However, leading with that wasn't as strong an argument. It was too knee-jerk.

Joe Konrath said...

To prove fraud, there must be damages.

Show me damages.

Dustin Scott Wood said...

I feel the same way. If a book is horrible, I don't finish it, I don't review it. Sometimes it's merely a matter of taste on my part. For instance, it would be immoral and unjust of me to read romance novels and then rate them. I don't care for romance novels and their rankings with me wouldn't be great. However, a lot of people on the Amazon reviews seem rather narcissistic in their approach to reviewing books.

They didn't like it and neither should you.

What I do treat with suspicion, though, are the one star reviews by persons who have never reviewed anything else. That to me seems a bit suspect. I question the reviewers motives in those instances.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I'm not sure I agree with Joe that sock puppets and buying reviews aren't wrong. They are. So is speeding and using dope, Joe, but in the greater scheme of things let's say they are venial rather than mortal sins.

There are also already mechanisms in place to take care of all of those issues.

There are speed cops to give you a ticket when you speed. There is a link to complain to Amazon about reviews that break Amazon's guidelines which most of us are quite capable of using.

Gordon Harries said...

Joe:

With all due respect, you are disagreeable and unpleasant.

this isn't news. This isn't a personal slight. You've built your entire internet community on those two poles.

The reason people stop arguing with you isn't because you expose the flaws in their arguments or whatever, it's because people just reach a point where they can't be bothered with you.

Hope that clarify's where I stand.

Robert said...

Until about a year ago I never gave much thought about Amazon reviews. Since then I've come to realize they can literally make or break a book. So as an author, when I read a book I really like, I try to review it, especially if it's by an author who's up and coming. If I read a book and don't care for it, I don't review it. It's that simple. The one-star reviews happen all the time. Nobody loves everything all of the time. It just doesn't happen. Though I will say it seems readers are more apt to leave bad reviews than good ones. Awhile back I got a one-star review from a reader who claimed to LOVE one of my other books but hated this one ... and yet they never reviewed the book they claimed to love. *sigh*

Finnean Nilsen Projects said...

Don't feel bad Robert. I got a 1 star review on my short story because it was short.

Joe Konrath said...

it's because people just reach a point where they can't be bothered with you.

I'm familiar with these people. I call them pinheads. Welcome to the club. You're in good company, as many of the people you associate with are also pinheads. They're also a great deal more unpleasant than I am.

But we're both entitled to our opinions. You don't want to be bothered with the truth because you don't like my tone. I think your tone in these comments has been extremely polite, but truth eludes you.

I'm as civil as the person I'm debating. Show me a case where I'm not.

I also use tone to draw attention to how shitty I think some behavior is. And then I go into great detail proving that behavior is shitty.

I'm not blogging because I want to be loved. I'm blogging because there are assholes who do harmful things, and someone has to call them on it.

Your petition sucks.

Joe Konrath said...

Added an addendum to the original blog post, touching on some things said in the comments.

Anonymous said...

I'm blogging because there are assholes who do harmful things, and someone has to call them on it.

Like write fake 1-star reviews. Oh, no, that's not harmful. It's just done to "deliberately...harm that book's sales." Which is OK, because it's "allowed." But it's "shitty" and "mean" and makes me a "dick." But, alas, "Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong."

Logic is hard.

Robin Burks said...

As a reader, I never even look at those one-star reviews. I'm much more likely to look at the good revies - I want to find a book that I would enjoy and the good reviews are generally more informative than the bad ones.

JF Brown said...

Joe,

Wow! You've certainly touched a nerve or two with this blog, given the number of comments it's generated.

This uproar, too, shall pass. Until the next "moral" outrage occurs.

Deceit, dishonesty, and self-interest (unless you're caught!) are nothing new. But the NMSPHP crowd reminds me of the Claude Rains character in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked, to discover gambling is going on in Casablanca."

Frankly, many blog comments are simply boring. Unless they're spittle-spewing multiple postings from red-faced ravers. Those, I find, are amusing (Comments to David Horsey's Top of the Ticket column in the LA Times are an example.)

Last, IMHO, being overly influenced by some else's review is an abdication of personal responsibility. Read a book sample, decide for YOURSELF if it's worth buying. Reviews are opinions. And opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has them. So what?

Kurt Lazarus said...

In the comments, people are trying to say that fraud was involved.

They're wrong.

Fraud involves damages.


Joe, this is incorrect based on the very first sentence of the Wikipedia article you that you linked to:

"In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent."

Or does not mean and.

Care to clarify--or should we edit this Wikipedia entry to suit your needs too?

B.

Joe Konrath said...

Like write fake 1-star reviews. Oh, no, that's not harmful. It's just done to "deliberately...harm that book's sales." Which is OK, because it's "allowed." But it's "shitty" and "mean" and makes me a "dick." But, alas, "Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong."

Logic is hard.


Apparently it is, for you.

I'll try to make it simpler.

1. The system allows 1 star reviews.

2. Millions of people post 1 star reviews.

3. Someone who posts a 1 star review didn't do anything wrong.

That easier for you?

Joe Konrath said...

Keep reading, Kurt.

Proving fraud requires proving damages.

Show me damage.

Joe Konrath said...

Like write fake 1-star reviews.

I forgot to add: I have spoken out against pinheads who write 1 star reviews. I didn't name names, though.

Be Deliberate.

Anonymous said...

JA's correct in that fraud requires damages. I'd go one step further however and state that selfl-puffing doesn't rise to the level of fraud in the first place. In fact, almost everything authors do 24/7 has a flavor of puffing to it. Even taking a B review from Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly and printing only the A excerpts on the front of a book jacket is in the nature of puffing.

Authors are no different than every politician, corporation or seller or products or services who airs an ad on TV, on the web or in person. It's all puffing, incomplete, one-sided and designed with the same purpose in mind, namely sell the product.

James Thorn said...

Wrong or right is irrelevant. Read the sample. Buy the book or don't. I love good reviews, I hate bad ones, I don't leave 1's. And I can never be "reviewed" into buying or not buying a book that I can sample. End of story.

My post isn't as detailed as Joe's but I tried to help my readers put this bullshit in perspective.

http://jthornwriter.blogspot.com/2012/09/reviews-oh-horror.html

Christamar Varicella said...

I've known traditionally published authors who blurb books by their friends. I didn't hold that against them, just thought writers were trying to get an advantage. It did make me skeptical of blurbs though. This new scandal should make people skeptical of reviews.

Joe Konrath said...

James - The picture on your blog burned itself into my mind and won't vanish.

Great point about sampling. I should have mentioned that.

If customers are worried about fake reviews, download a free sample.

James Thorn said...

That photograph is far worse than fake reviews ;)

Full disclosure: I did not take the picture for anyone lining up to accuse me of promoting prostitution. I don't pay for reviews or sex.

sympathyforthedevil said...

ODE TO THE 'NO SOCK PUPPETS HERE PLEASE' LIST

(by the ghost of Dylan Thomas)

Do not go gentle onto that 'good' list.
Writers should fear and doubt all such crusades.
Rage, rage at the hypocrisy they missed.

The purest person ever to exist
Has done things wrong. Who hasn't sinned in spades?
Do not go gentle onto that 'good' list.

What next? The gun? The bomb? The knife? The fist?
Apple Macs seized by masked thugs in dawn raids?
Rage, rage at the hypocrisy they missed.

All who have given arms a gentle twist
While playing Please-Review-My-Book Charades,
Do not go gentle onto that 'good' list

With frauds who torrent books, yet still insist
They're qualified to dish out moral grades.
Rage, rage at the hypocrisy they missed.

And you, my friend: ever done drugs, or kissed
Forbidden lips? Lay down your word grenades.
Do not go gentle onto that good list.
Rage, rage at the hypocrisy they missed.



Anonymous said...

booooooooooooooooooring blog...

Mark Edward Hall said...

I have never left a one star review. If I don't like something I pass. It's tough enough out there without trashing other writers. Liking something or not liking it is usually a matter of opinion anyway.
I see a mob mentality in all this. It's the same mentality that has been burning witches and hanging innocent men for eons. Sadly, this sort of behavior is in our DNA. It's part of the very nature of our species.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't pay for reviews or sex.

Have you ever taken a woman out, dinner, dancing, a show, blowing a lot of money in the hopes of being invited up to her place afterward?

Isn't that paying for sex?

I'm married. I've been paying for sex for 16 years.

Luckily, it's worth every penny, and I'm getting the deal of the century. :)


Amazon lets buyers sample the book. Grade reviews by liking or disliking. Comment on reviews. Return books for full refunds. Does its best to ensure that every reviewer has an Amazon account, which means a credit card on file in a real name.

Leaving a 1 star review isn't wrong, even anonymously.

Paying for five star reviews isn't wrong.

Using fake names isn't wrong.

We might not like these things, but the alternative is hiring a fulltime police force to check the veracity and integrity of reviews. And what happens when they silence honest people? Who decides what an "honest" review is?

This should have been my first blog post on this topic. I've been holding back. And I'm ashamed to admit I've been holding back because I didn't want to deal with the flack I'd get from saying what I really thought.

So I first blogged that mobs are dangerous and ethics are variable.

Then I gave examples of how all writers can have varying takes on various ethical questions.

But the real fact is that we live in a world where we're allowed to speak out mind. We're allowed, and even encouraged, to try to influence readers. We all have limits of what we feel comfortable doing.

Locke and Leather admitted, without prodding, what they did because they weren't ashamed of it. Now everyone want to make them feel ashamed.

It's good that this has fostered discussion.

It's bad that they're being signaled out by their peers, and the media, as being bad people.

It's really bad that a mob has formed. And if it starts to try to influence moral behavior, it is only a small step away from becoming a hate group.

I don't think anyone wants that. But every hate group begins with moral condemnation.

Mark Asher said...

"This is why I don't leave one star reviews. I think it is a shitty, mean thing to do."

I wouldn't expect you to leave a one star review, but how about a three or four star review every once in awhile? If all you do is leave five star reviews it makes you sound like you're shilling.

A four star review is a good review. Even a three star review can be a good review. "Good book, enjoyable read. Three stars."

Roger Lawrence said...

If I didn't like a book then I would leave it no stars, and no review. After all it's only my opinion. Other people might like it and there's no point in trashing what may be a few year's work for someone else.

James Thorn said...

"Have you ever taken a woman out, dinner, dancing, a show, blowing a lot of money in the hopes of being invited up to her place afterward?"

Of course. There is a price to paid for everything. Exchanging money for sex in my state is illegal (Nevada rocks) so I wanted to be clear that I'm not breaking the law :)

At the risk of a broad generalization, I believe those that are most upset are angry with the scale, not the act itself. According to their logic, asking mom to 5-star your book is "different" than paying 300 people to do it. Its somehow not as bad. Again, I don't share this outrage so its pure speculation on my part.

To the mob: If Locke had admitted to purchasing 3 reviews would you still be asking for petition-signers?

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

>Maybe it'll die down.<

It will if you stop trying to defend the indefensible.

As you have said many times to people on this blog, let it go Joe. Let it go.

Next time you claim to always be right, your Pinhead of the day can just link this thread.

Let it go Joe. Let it go.

Don't be remembered as the bestselling Amazon author who said that faking reviews wasn't wrong.

Let it go Joe. Let it go.

When so many people, on your own blog, who are fans, tell you that you've lost it, well, maybe it's time to stop ranting and start listening.

Let it go Joe. Let it go.






Christian K said...

I am annoyed that enough people have such poor reading comprehension that they changed the meaning of Sockpuppetry, which originally meant creating a false secondary identity to use as a straw-man or a yes-man. Now Sockpuppetry seems to mean anonymous internet activity, which I believe is necessary for a free and healthy internet. So, I guess that not only am I a supporter of Sockpuppetry, I think it is required.

There is something very wrong with someone who needs to know who I am specifically in order to weigh my comments or reviews. I think it’s a judgmental desperate elitist fear that needs to be able to discount disagreeable opinions using class (whether that class be race, religion, sex, social standing or sexual orientation). Yup, I just called those who are against sockpuppetry bigots because, honestly, why the fuck do you care who I am?

JA, I also disagree with you about 1-Star reviews, mostly because I have actually looked at a number a marketing studies and my own behavior. Only a sample has a greater influence on my decision to buy than a 1-Star review that I disagree with. When dealing with digital products the positivity of reviews is largely unimportant, but the number and divisiveness is. Youtube, Fox News and TMZ prove this. :)

V. L. Smith said...

As a 'mere' reader, I would just like to interject something, here. Horror of horrors - I don't give a shit about reviews. Seriously. I long ago decided that the whole idea had jumped the shark. At this point, I have gone about 90% digital - except for academic works which continue to lag behind the real world.

What that means is, I don't have to care what someone else thinks about a book that might interest me. I think the dividing line for me came when I began to realize that people were writing reviews in order to be recognized for their reviews - which seemed tome to be ridiculous. Now, of course, I see that there was some profit in it, whereas before I thought it was pure ego in action. I mostly still think that, really. I don't care whether a review was written by a 'somebody' or a first-time reviewer. If I bother to read them at all, anymore, I only care about the quality of the review and the relative literacy of the reviewer.

Believe me, I have read enough Amazon reviews to recognize when someone sounds jealous, or superior, or (more often) just plain stupid.

What motivates me to buy is not what other people think but how the book resonates with ME. I have my own ideas of what will or not work for me and I read everything from academic works to literature to chick-lit fluff. The beauty of buying for audio or Kindle is that I can sample the book before I buy. When the premise is interesting and the language flows well, I will buy - whether the book is festooned with 5-star or 1-star reviews.

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"Buying reviews isn't wrong. Using sock puppets isn't wrong. Leaving fake one star reviews isn't wrong."

You're going to regret that the moment it starts showing up in your Amazon reviews.

Sounds like perfect ammunition for the no sock puppet campaign.

You should have it made into a badge. Or, better still, a T-shirt!

Can't see Amazon promoting it though.

Katie said...

You say, "We might not like these things, but the alternative is hiring a fulltime police force to check the veracity and integrity of reviews."

Maybe some people are talking about hiring some sort of weird comment police force, but I'm not.

That's why I used the word "ethics". Ethics is just a word we use for what you do when no one is looking. Are you doing X, Y, and Z because you think you will get arrested or people will hate you? Or because it's wrong?

I don't refrain from killing puppies because I think the police will catch me. I don't do it because it's wrong. Well, and I don't want to. So yeah, I don't want to lie to game feedback mechanisms. And I wouldn't, even if no one was watching.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

What motivates me to buy is not what other people think but how the book resonates with ME. I have my own ideas of what will or not work for me and I read everything from academic works to literature to chick-lit fluff. The beauty of buying for audio or Kindle is that I can sample the book before I buy.

Amen. I feel the same way. I don't read reviews when I'm shopping for books. Back in the dinosaur days, I went to bookstores, saw an interesting cover, picked up the book, sampled a few pages and if it excited me, I bought it.

I buy on Amazon the same way.

I'll admit I do look at the number of stars, but that's mostly because they're in my face. But even if they're low, I figure no other person on earth can possibly know what I'll like or dislike (hell some of my favorite movies are what most would consider direct to DVD drivel), so I pick whatever I think I might like.

And even I get it wrong sometimes. So why would I expect anyone else to know?

I honestly think most readers are the same. Not all, of course, but most.

Anonymous said...

"But if you want to throw Ellory under the bus, you need to condemn the millions of others who give malicious one star reviews, and then condemn the system for allowing it."

There's a difference between giving a bad reveiw because the book is a load of shit, and giving a bad review because I WANT MY BOOK TO SELL MORE THAN YOURS AND WILL DO ANYTHING TO ATTACK YOU.

Can't you see that?

A Pinhead

sympathyforthedevil said...

Dear A Pinhead,

Yes, there's a difference, as you say. So how do you know that R J Ellory gave other authors 1* reviews because he wanted to damage the competition? How do you know he didn't just happen to think their books weren't very good? You don't. If he genuinely thought those books were rubbish, why shouldn't he give them pseudonymous bad reviews, just as any reader could?

Joe Konrath said...

If all you do is leave five star reviews it makes you sound like you're shilling.

I leave four stars occasionally. But I tend to only review books I really like, and authors I really like.

If people think I'm shilling, that's fine. They don't have to believe me, and I encourage them to form their own opinions and not take my word for it.

Joe Konrath said...

You're going to regret that the moment it starts showing up in your Amazon reviews.

If I were afraid of repercussions, I never would have begun blogging about this issue. I would have stayed silent. Or signed that suck ass petition.

If people hate me because I say things they don't like, they're entitled to do so.

But I think, in this case, I said something that a lot of people were afraid to say. I think it needed to be said. And I should have said it earlier.

I made the mistake of trying to get people to question themselves. But not too many people can do that. So I'll take an unpopular stance, because it's the correct one.

What can be done to me? My reputation destroyed? My sales hurt?

That's what pen names are for. :)

Joshua Simcox said...

"Note I don't signal people out for my disapproval. I attack groups, not individuals."


"I don't pick on authors behaving badly."

That's not entirely true. Konrath vs. Scott Turow, Konrath vs. Jonathan Franzen, Konrath vs. Stephen King...

--Joshua

Joe Konrath said...

It will if you stop trying to defend the indefensible.

Everyone deserves to be defended.

It doesn't have to be me doing it. But I don't see any others stepping up to the plate.

Don't be remembered as the bestselling Amazon author who said that faking reviews wasn't wrong.

So I should shut up because I'm worried about my legacy?

I can't begin to count all the things wrong with that.

Joe Konrath said...

Konrath vs. Scott Turow, Konrath vs. Jonathan Franzen, Konrath vs. Stephen King...

Turow is the President of the Authors Guild, which purports to help writers. Instead he sold those writers out, and did so publicly. I responded publicly.

King made a public statement. I took him to task for that statement, which I believe will hurt him and encourage piracy. And I didn't attack him.

I didn't attack Franzen either. I just pointed out where he was wrong, after he made a public statement.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Actually if I'm reading the addendum right Joe has said that faking reviews is "shitty.:

Which is kind of equal to or maybe WORSE than wrong in my own definition. I think I'm finally starting to understand. Or not. But kind of.

I still maintain it's fraud to rake in money on a book called "How I Sold a Million e Books" and not mention buying 300 reviews to kick start all that selling. It's fraud AND it's shitty.

But I can live with "shitty".

I agree about one-star reviews, completely. It's sabotage, and it's ugliness, but people do have that right of free speech.

I think the outrage against AUTHORS who leave one-star reviews is about authors holding other authors to a higher standard. And I believe we SHOULD hold each other to a higher standard. (Authors sabotaging other authors is also against the Amazon TOS, but that's not anywhere near as important as the community standard, IMHO...)

And I am posting this AFTER I made my word count for the day....

Simon Haynes said...

I got a 1-star review on my middle-grade novel yesterday, complaining about the bad language and quoting offensive passages at length. The problem? The reviewer had switched books on their Kindle halfway through, and the quotes weren't from the book they were reviewing.
Now I stand accused of writing a kids' book packed with offensive words. What am I supposed to do, ignore it? This reviewer has set out to warn others off, but they've made a mistake and the fallout could really hurt sales of this book.

Joe Konrath said...

But I can live with "shitty".

We all have to live with "shitty" because people do shitty things. And unfair things.

Right now, the Twitterverse is aflame with people who can't believe I'd defend buying reviews, or sock-puppets, or leaving one star reviews. Seriously, Alex. You want to be outraged at something? Search for my name on Twitter and see what our peers are saying about me. See how they're distorting my argument and attacking.

But I fully support their right to do that. I can defend shitty behavior without doing it myself.

And I believe we SHOULD hold each other to a higher standard.

I agree. But if someone's moral standard is lower than yours, do you call up the Guardian to humiliate him publicly?

The Guardian's piece on Ellory was no better than the tabloids printing pix of drunk celebrities.

If someone decided to treat reviews like ads and buys a bunch, and doesn't mention it in his How To book, if that worthy of a NYT story?

I can understand why you feel Locke not mentioning it was fraud, but it doesn't fit the definition of fraud. You weren't harmed by it. And you can return the ebook for a refund, and post a 1 star review in response.

If you read Deepak Chopra's 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment, follow his suggestions, and don't experience joy and enlightenment, is it fraud?

Anonymous said...

Joe said

"Everyone deserves to be defended."

But not everything.

"It doesn't have to be me doing it. But I don't see any others stepping up to the plate."

That's because there is no plate. You're still trying to argue that posting fake reviews isn't wrong. Possibly to save face and live up to your imagined Joe Konrath "is never wrong" image. You're the Putin of the indie authors. I think that month on the beer diet softened the brain.

"So I should shut up because I'm worried about my legacy?"

You have no legacy. The moment you stop promoting your books they'll be gone. You're not Shakespeare. Worry about your sales. While idiots will buy books from anyone, not everyone will buy books from idiots.

"I can't begin to count all the things wrong with that."

That's surprising. Earlier you were able to count millions of 1 star reviews and make assessments of 95% of them. And you're able to count the opinions of everyone in the world except those on your own blog.

"Posting fake reviews isn't wrong," so says Joe Konrath. It's amazing you can't count all the things wrong with that.



Joe Konrath said...

What am I supposed to do, ignore it?

If Amazon won't remove it, leave a comment under the review, explaining you're the author and the reviewer is mistaken.

If I read bad reviews, I always read the comments if there are any, and I suspect others do too.

Joe Konrath said...

You're still trying to argue that posting fake reviews isn't wrong.

Free speech isn't wrong. Fake reviews are part of free speech. Argument over.

The moment you stop promoting your books they'll be gone.

You wish.

Earlier you were able to count millions of 1 star reviews and make assessments of 95% of them

Ha. Millions of ebooks, most have reviews, and more have one star reviews. In my Be Deliberate post I linked to, I made a good case for the vast majority of 1 star reviews being drivel.

It's a post about pinheads. Read it. You'll find something to relate to.

"Posting fake reviews isn't wrong," so says Joe Konrath. It's amazing you can't count all the things wrong with that.

And yet you offered no argument to show that I'm wrong.

Are we to assume things are wrong because you say so?

See, free speech is allowed, and fake reviews fall under free speech, so they are allowed. And if Amazon's TOS says they aren't allowed, then what is all the uproar about?

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"Right now, the Twitterverse is aflame with people who can't believe I'd defend buying reviews, or sock-puppets, or leaving one star reviews."

Twitter is not "aflame." Joe exaggerates. No surprise there.

You can check it on Twitter Search. There are a few tweets from Joe and others but Joe isn't trending and Twitter is not aflame.

Stephen Leather is Joe's biggest supporter on Twitter.

Stephen Leather said...

@Gordon Harries "No one involved in the letter wanted to hurt other authors. Believe that, or don't." Oh really? That's not the impression you get on Twitter, where several of the movers behind that letter have done nothing but Tweet abuse about me for four weeks now and one made it clear he hoped he was damaging sales. Another tweeted my home address and posted screenshots of my Facebook page on Twitter. Of course you don't see yourself as being part of a mob, people in mobs never do.

W. Dean said...

The problem you don’t see, I guess, is that you can rationalize anything in the same way. Stealing doesn’t cause harm in many cases—probably in most cases.

If I was to sell your books under a pen name, for example, you wouldn’t be harmed by it. You couldn’t even really claim loss of income if I used different covers, titles, and author’s name. Perhaps in your next post you can defend that practice.

I do acknowledge, of course, that it would be “shitty” for you and you probably wouldn’t do it to someone else. But surely you wouldn’t push your highfalutin morals on me, would you?

Note too that this is only the tip of the iceberg. I could employ “Konrethics” to prove that a lot of other nastier things are perfectly ethical. As another poster said, let this go Joe.

Randall Wood said...

From “The Telegraph”
By Laura Roberts
8:30AM BST 24 Apr 2010

“Orlando Figes, the award-winning historian, has admitted writing derogatory reviews about his fellow writers' work.
Orlando Figes, a professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, initially hid behind his wife and allowed her to take responsibility for the anonymous comments which were published on a web site.
He even threatened to sue a fellow historian for libel when his name was linked to the online reviews.
In a humiliating turnaround, however, Prof Figes has acknowledged that it was he who described the works of rivals as "pretentious" and "curiously dull".
He now faces legal action from at least two of the authors he wrote about. “

Obviously Joe, someone thinks this qualifies as damages. Maybe you should call the lawyers involved in this case and explain it to them that it’s not. And the Judge. And the Jury. And the massive number of people that are also so ignorant and misinformed.

I don’t think you’ve given this the long hard thought that it deserves. A petition does not equal a mob. These people weren’t outed by a bunch of stalking trolls. They were outed by their own actions. I heard about it like everyone else did, in the mainstream press. They got caught! And no amount of spin is going to change that.

What’s the count now? 200+ comments and you’re still defending this? I still don’t know to what end you’re taking this. I’m beginning to think thou protest too much.

But what do I know, I’m just a pinhead.

Gordon Harries said...

@Stephen: You've made those allegations elsewhere and they've been disproven elsewhere.

You address was not made public on-line and, let's be honest, not one of my peers has infered that you have tatts to obscure your face or included you in a short story or created a dummy account in your name and then used it against you.

Have they?

None of this would have happened, you know, if you'd just been man enougth to publicly admit what you said on stage at THAT panel.




Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"Are we to assume things are wrong because you say so?"

You use that line a lot. Nice tactic but it's not cutting any ice here.

You say posting fake reviews isn't wrong. If it wasn't a naive thing to say you wouldn't need to argue your position.

You can check out some more thoughtful opinions here:

http://www.reviewtrackers.com/oops-businesses-caught-posting-fake-reviews-online/

Try reading before posting. Or maybe you could just fake it?



Joe Konrath said...

Stealing doesn’t cause harm in many cases—probably in most cases.

You'll have to explain that. When something is stolen, the owner loses property that had value attached to it. I'd call that harm.

If I was to sell your books under a pen name, for example, you wouldn’t be harmed by it.

I'm pretty sure that's a copyright violation, and plagiarism, and there are laws against both that would allow me to sue you.

I could employ “Konrethics” to prove that a lot of other nastier things are perfectly ethical.

Okay, do it. You've got me curious.

Joe Konrath said...

Twitter is not "aflame."

Really? I counted lots of people. Maybe your search skills are lacking.

David L. Shutter said...

Mr. Leather

We've seen you stop in twice now.

If you'd like to speak in detail about the events, your thoughts about them and what you think the best course forward is for writers, I think it's safe to say you'd have an attentive audience here.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Google Places have criteria for removing reviews:

"Conflict of interest: Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. For instance, as a business, you should not offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. As a reviewer, you should not accept money or product from a business to write a review about them. Additionally, don’t review a certain way just because an employee of that business asked you to do so. Don’t post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with the place you are reviewing."

http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en-GB&answer=187622


When you start to search this topic on the net (is it wrong to post fake reviews?) you'll find that it definitely is. They are damaging enough that they are even developing algorithms to search them out.

It's Amazon that is behind the curve and maybe this is why Joe Konrath is so out of touch on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"Really? I counted lots of people. Maybe your search skills are lacking."

We already established earlier that you can't count.

But given that your thread seems to be based on a talk with one unnamed person, perhaps it doesn't take many tweets for you to consider Twitter aflame.

Here is a search for your name on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/joe%20Konrath

It appears that Twitter says you are a "major league cock monkey" whatever that is.

Maybe other searches would provide equally informative comments.

J. Fields Jr. said...

Posting fake reviews is misleading. Buying fake reviews is a blatant attempt to scam consumers. Reviews are supposed to be from readers, not the author.

There is supposed to be a sort of trust between those selling something and those buying something.

A money back guarantee is the distributors way of saying sorry, but it's not an excuse for a seller of a product to try and scam as many suckers as possible before anyone catches on.

The problem with this argument is that authors who have been desperate for attention have a unique perspective, in that most of them have thought about doing this. Those with the louder angels on their shoulders did not.

As a reader it makes me angry that i can't trust the reviews I assume are from other readers who like the genres I read...kindred kindlers. I love talking about books and reading what other people think about books.

As an author, I can only shake my head and know that in an alternate universe, it coulda been me.

I hate to see pillars of success come crashing down...or even cracked... because damn, I was using them as goal posts, and now have to adjust my aim.

Joe Konrath said...

He now faces legal action from at least two of the authors he wrote about.

According to Wikipedia, that was a libel case.

Did Ellory engage in libel? If so, that is indeed wrong, and not protected by free speech.

I still don’t know to what end you’re taking this. I’m beginning to think thou protest too much.

But what do I know, I’m just a pinhead.


I don't think you're a pinhead. I think you brought up some interesting points.

I also questioned myself earlier today, wondering why I'm still stuck on this.

Two reasons. First, I think I went about it wrong. I should have immediately came out and said this was a free speech issue, and that the trio being vilified didn't do anything wrong. Instead I got mired in a talk of ethics and degrees, which was interesting, but not the strongest stand I could have taken.

Two, as I mentioned in the comments, I think authors are paranoid and afraid (I've seen evidence of this in the comments) and groups who flaunt their moral superiority really bother me, because it's a slippery slope to witch hunting and hate groups.

Maybe that won't happen. But it's a vibe I'm getting. I could be wrong. I hope I am. But I don't think this will stop with a petition for people to be honest. I believe the next logical step is for that group to use their numbers to try to institute change or regulations.

When people want to inflict their morals on others, and have sufficient numbers and influence to do so, that ain't good. I'd like to nip that in the bud.

That said, I really do need to get some writing done, so I think I'll be laying low for a while.

Joe Konrath said...

If it wasn't a naive thing to say you wouldn't need to argue your position.

Do you read this blog? All I do here is argue my position. ;)

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"That said, I really do need to get some writing done, so I think I'll be laying low for a while."

Best suggestion you've made on this thread.

One thing Joe is right about is that this is an issue that concerns all authors and readers and is probably now concerning Amazon.

I doubt they'll start implementing tough regulatory schemes but they are smart enough to address the issue and make it more difficult for fake reviews to be posted.

Amazon values its customers even if some authors don't value their readers.

David L. Shutter said...

That said, I really do need to get some writing done, so I think I'll be laying low for a while

Go smoke something green and stinky and crack open one of those really expensive beers.

Don't worry. I have a feeling this one will still be cooking when you get back.

J. Fields Jr. said...

@David L. Sutter

Let's all do that then come back and laugh our asses off at the words 'sock puppet' and 'shills'.

Joe Konrath said...

http://www.reviewtrackers.com/oops-businesses-caught-posting-fake-reviews-online

That's interesting. Is it analogous to this current situation? Is Locke buying reviews the same thing as VIP Deals offering rebates to customers who posted positive reviews? And is that different than giving out free books for reviews?

I just bought some exercise bands for my home gym. With them was a voucher--If I review their product on Amazon, they'd send me a free band. I thought it to be a smart idea, and I can't see how that would violate Amazon's TOS.

A good portion of my position is based on if these actions are allowed. If they aren't, then I'd need to rethink, and possibly change, my stance on if the actions are defensible. But I remain firm on my opinions about morality mobs.

Christian K said...

Most amusing thing about this:: I don't see readers upset about "The Three Sock-Puppeteers".

I don't like the tone of the mob. It's paternal and annoying. Let me decide if I need you to be upset for me.

Thanks!

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Gordon Harries @ Stephen: You've made those allegations elsewhere and they've been disproven elsewhere.

Really? Like this vicious twitter from signator Steve Mosby:

Steve Mosby ‏@stevemosby

I suppose Konrath's article at least suggests easily achievable conditions after which I'll be allowed to throw Stephen Leather under a bus.

And this twitter obviously intending financial damage:

Jon Page ‏@PnPBookseller

I will no longer stock RJ Ellory's books or Stephen Leather. If they want to sink to the level they are then I hope they reap what they sow

There are at least dozens more and that ignores posts and tweets by people who have deleted them later. Deleting really isn't worth doing since nothing really disappears on the web.

Deny all you want, Gordon, but the intent of many of the people was to do harm to the people named.

Steven Witmer said...

Joe, would you say that if something is dishonest, it's wrong? Or would you not say that.

He who reads the FTC guidelines said...

My comment appears not to have gone through the last time I posted it, so I'm trying again.

Actually, Joe, sock-puppetry and fake reviews are not allowed.

From 16 C.F.R 255:

Section 255.0(b) says:

[A]n endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.

Likewise, section 255.5 requires:

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed... [T]he advertiser should clearly and conspicuously disclose either the payment or promise of compensation prior to and in exchange for the endorsement.

The examples to section 255.5 make it clear that these requirements extend to, say Amazon:

Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.

Example 8: An online message board designated for discussions of new music download technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange information about new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product. Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board.

Example 9: A young man signs up to be part of a “street team” program in which points are awarded each time a team member talks to his or her friends about a particular advertiser’s products. Team members can then exchange their points for prizes, such as concert tickets or electronics. These incentives would materially affect the weight or credibility of the team member’s endorsements. They should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, and the advertiser should take steps to ensure that these disclosures are being provided.

So, no, the system does not allow sock-puppetry. That is barred by example 8. And no, Konrath, the system does not allow paid review compensation that is not disclosed in the review. That is barred by examples 7 and 9.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, would you say that if something is dishonest, it's wrong?

Gotta be more specific. Sometimes being dishonest is the right thing to do.

Mom, those monkey kabobs were delicious.

No, dear, I don't think you look fat in that dress.

A paisley tie! Thanks, Son. That's exactly what I wanted for my birthday.

Boss, I really learned a lot in that seven hour meeting.

And so on.

The point I'm making about honesty and right and wrong is that Amazon allows certain behavior, even though people may not like that behavior. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it should be censored.

Joe Konrath said...

Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge.

Or else what? What's the punishment?

According to Amazon's terms of service, authors aren't allowed to post their sales figures. Yet I've been doing that for years, and it has been helpful to authors.

I think these waters are getting muddied. For Amazon to crack down on paid reviews or sock puppet reviews, they'd they'd have to prove it. And as I'd mentioned, what constitutes paid for? The Vin program basically pays its reviewers. It does disclose they received the book free.

Is all the hate aimed at Locke because he didn't disclose the reviews were paid for? So if every one of those reviewers said "I was paid to do this review" no one would be upset?

And if Leather posted his barbs and praise under his own name, no one would be upset? Ditto Ellory with reviews?

Seems like a really tiny gap between what is considered right and wrong. A gap so tiny it doesn't warrant all the attention this has gotten.

What is the penalty for not disclosing a pair review? The review is deleted?

Why are all of these rules and questions being asked on my blog, and not on the NSPHP page? Wouldn't they do more good there and help those who signed it make a more informed choice?

So why doesn't someone start a service that offers paid reviews that add the disclosure statement? Would the mob be okay with that?

Joe Konrath said...

Did another blog addendum, since some people seem to keep missing my intent.

P.S. Power said...

Being that I don't care if people want to have hundreds of fake five star reviews, I'd be all for people disclosing their fake one stars.

That would pretty much fix it... Yes.

It won't happen, but...

Anonymous said...

I'm not angry at Leather for his fiction success. More power to him. But I'm still justifiably furious that he left his bar bills at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong unpaid during the 1980's and some of us were shouldered with dealing with him and his effective theft. It was a waste of our collective time and some of us weren't making all that much either and we still paid up.
So I think of him as a dishonest, arrogant, greedy schlub with little regards for his peers, and it has nothing to do with phony reviews.
A former governor of the FCC Board

Anonymous said...

sorry, a typo above, "with little regard for"
FCC gov

adan said...

democracy is a powerful evolving concept -

i think amazon, and others, are working to walk the line between competing values, freedom of speech and a social contract that allows us to live in peace with each other -

loved the last lines,

"Ebooks aren't a zero sum game. I wish you nothing but success." - ditto that ;-)

Archangel said...

Just from the legal aspect, having had my own brush with law school.

I'd say no one can logically defeat at this time the notion that some authors who may believe they have been harmed business-wise from having received negative reviews with mal-intent by certain authors-- have the right to pursue a law suit or not. They do have the right to pursue lawsuits from several angles.

We dont have enough specific data yet to actually say either way whether a law suit or a series of them would be effective, although there is an old saw in the law about lawsuits... when one sues as a plaintiff, one can theoretically tie someone up for so long, they lose the emotional health, their psychological calm, and many of their assets depleted, even if the plaintiff loses. We wont even go into countersuits here.

It's a difficult road to sue or be sued, and there are no guarantees to either side winning, depending on other factors besides evidences... such as skill of lawyers, evenhandedness of judge for admitting evidences, sustaining or blocking certain objections, and temperament of each jury member.

However, and just my .02, the 'chronic' writing of negative reviews may be hard for a defendant to defend, if the behavior could be shown as chronic, targeted to a narrow niche only, and pre-planned.

The possibility of lawsuits is, at the moment, an open question: that persons who have allegedly purposely, allegedly with forethought, attempted to undermine other authors' 'business advantage' (as it is called in the law), perhaps without having read their works ( and other factors that would have to be, as we say, 'discovered' in depositions) and this this 'practice' by a defendant may have damaged others in terms of reputation, good name, business future, ability to work in peace whilst being assailed by defendent, holding out falsehoods as true while knowing they are falsehoods, and other fine points of the law and case precedents, of which there are many. Many.

Deciding such would be up for the courts and a jury to decide. Fraud may be a thin consideration, except for the fact that carefully auditing months of income pre and post the purposeful bad reviews by defendAnt, could be added in evidence to other charges, specifically 'Tortious interferance of business advantage.' There are several other charges that could be brought, all having to do with Business Law, not felony criminal law per se.

Too, as many know, anyone can sue anyone for any reason in the USA and without restraint, whether they have a strong case or not. They need only have a lawyer willing to take the case. And lawyers take cases for many reasons: belief in the ethics involved, wishing to fulfill their oath to defend anyone they wish to the best of their abilities, because they have an axe to grind, because they wish to make a name for themselves, because they see a 'monied' target, because they believe in justice and craft.

Im not a lawyer, as mentioned, just someone who went to law school for a while. One of the first things we learned, incidentally from some of the greatest legal minds: Ethics is often higher than the law.

Just a .02

Thanks,
Archangel

Archangel said...

@simon haynes

Go to amazon site map and find contact us. Send a note to amazon powers that be, asking the review be removed for it is not speaking about y our work, but someone else's.

AMZ takes longer than one might like to get back to you. A fellow author had a review calling out her work, that had nothing to do with her work. We found the email addy to tell AMZ about it, and after about a week, AMZ removed the erroneous review.

In the meantime, many authors regularly engage in the comments by clicking the REPLY tab under that particular 'review' and thereby writing to clarify. You are writing for others to read, as much as to the person who wrote the comment. Being professional often means being courteous... Mr Doohingus, I'm afraid you're quoting from another book, not mine. I know it's easy to get confused when we read more than one book at a time. The fact is MY book contains x, y and z, not p, q, and r. Best to all, SH.

If you need more help, write to me at projectscreener@aol.com and I'll try to help further.

\Thanks,
Archangel

sympathyforthedevil said...

Stephen Leather, I hope you're reading this comment. You are right, it is certainly a witch hunt, and please don't let it upset you (hard, I know). A vicious witch hunt with hate at its heart. Okay, so other people might not like how you sell your books, but you might not like how they treat their wives/kids, but you're not on Twitter slagging them off 24/7, encouraging the world to hate them. Yesterday on Twitter one of the witch finders expressed a desire to push you under a bus. Two others have been going back and forth ridiculing you in cosy in-jokes. Duns has not confined his attention to the issue of 'sock puppetry' (ridiculous pompous word anyway) but has tried to condemn you for...making a tasteless joke about Alzheimers? WTF? What's that got to do with anything? He's also looked for evidence that you took the mickey out of Steve Roach on Facebook and then given Roach the evidence he found!! This is none of his business and nothing to do with socks or puppets - it's a personal witch hunt. What next? Will he look for evidence that you were rude to your Maths teacher when you were at school? He's trying to prove you're an all-round bad person. He and his consorts are filling Twitter with horrible bile and spite, which is much worse than talking up one's own books online as part of a marketing drive. By the way, a lot of writers and publishers agree with me but are too scared to say so.

Please see the poem I have written on the subject earlier in this comments thread. You will like it!

And please see my comment even earlier in this thread about why persecuting sock puppets is worse than sock puppetry.

Oh, and if you want to distract Duns, why not point out to him that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both planning to vote for themselves in the presidential elections. The system allows them to do so, just as online forums allow and invite anonymity.

Joe Konrath, you are saying all the things that need to be said and the mob are treating you with derision, saying things like, 'It's hardly worth responding to such ridiculous arguments' - which is convenient as it then allows them not to respond to any of your substantive points! I've seen horrendous insults aimed at you on Twitter which I don't even want to repeat. I think this is slander and possibly actionable.

Let he that is without sin cast the first stone. Except he can't. He can't even cast the four hundredth stone because all the stones have been used up!! All the stones are gone!! With all this sanctimony sloshing around, we have a serious stone shortage.

These mob members are not without sin/moral compromise: some screw around on their partners, some illegally torrent copyrighted material, some regularly wine & dine the crime critics of major newspapers in the hope of a great review in return. Some sign the stupid NSPHP letter under two names (Martyn Waites and Tania Carver? Same person.) Some loudly shout 'Tosser' at panel members at crime festivals who've done nothing but express their opinions in an open way - since when was that being supportive of fellow authors? Why doesn't that have people calling for other people to be thrown out of the CWA?

God, I could go on for years! But I must go.

Yours sympathetically

A well-wisher and a fellow flawed person

Anonymous said...

First time commenting, although I am an avid fan of your blog, Joe. Keep up the good work.

I'm not going to get involved in this whole discussion about fake reviews, sock puppets, mobs etc.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and this particular matter has a certain "grey area" aspect to it. Meaning, there is no absolute, crystal clear truth and there is no black or white resolution: Some people find this "scandal" atrocious, some don't. Simple as that.

Since I am Greek, living in Greece (thus being subjected to all our wonderful politicians and their views of the world), I want to share a short story with you all.

A few years ago, before the economic crisis paralyzed my country, a minister of the government was accused that he was corrupt (I can't remember the exact accusation for the life of me). Almost every politician here is corrupt, more or less, and all of them walk through grey areas. They are not breaking the law per se, but they are not upstanding citizens either.
The minister responded on the evening news with a phrase that went down in my country's modern political history. And what did he say?

"THAT WHICH IS LEGAL, IS ALSO MORAL".

In other words? No matter what I am doing, since I am not breaking specific laws, my conscience is clear and everything is ok in the world. I can sleep like a baby tonight.

I think that phrase sums up a lot of the stuff being said here and around the web about this whole "fake review" thing.

Best regards to all,
Nikos

Rick Carufel said...

You keep saying "the system" but what your are talking about is Amazon. One of the biggest problems with Amazon is their forums. They are populated with petty, childish trolls who delight in giving one star reviews for books they get free from KDP promotions. Remove the Amazon forums and remove a major part of the problems. This problem with reviews on Amazon is not limited to books either, there are thousands of bogus reviews for thousands of product that are not books. Bogus reviews boost sales so Amazon allows them.

Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"If they aren't, then I'd need to rethink, and possibly change, my stance on if the actions are defensible"

Yeah I think you were misdirected by the idea that if no specific rule forbids something it is not wrong.

But this is a developing area. Not all the wrongs have been written into easy to follow rules.

Some people instinctively know what is wrong. And others need it to be spelled out for them.

As you said, you'd post fake reviews yourself if it wasn't for the fact you might get caught.

Get caught at what? Doing something wrong of course.

I think this explains why you believe Joe Konrath is never "wrong."



Carmen McCormack said...

I have said it before on here and I wills ay ti again. It seems like the only people who are outraged by this practice are authors and publishers. The average reader (in my circles anyway) couldn't give two rats about how the reviews were obtained. At the end of the day, people will make an independant choice about buying a book, and I challenge you to find me an average reader who refused to buy a book simply because of one star reviews, or vice-versa buys one because of 5 star. As for someone commenting that 1 star reveiws make or break sales of a book, I present you Fifty Shades of Grey - there are almost as many 1 star reviews as 5 star and it still remains a best seller. if that isn't a fine example that reviews mean squat, I don't know what does. I think Finnean said it best - if the book is crap, pretty soon people will twig and stop buying. Overall I think wayyyyy too much importance has been put on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Joe, any comment on the question posed by 'Chris' in the previous thread? ie referring to the Konrath/Crouch reviews left by 'John C Nelson Jr' here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1DLPM5P84CSGF/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

Stephen Leather said...

"Mr. Leather

We've seen you stop in twice now.

If you'd like to speak in detail about the events, your thoughts about them and what you think the best course forward is for writers, I think it's safe to say you'd have an attentive audience here."

The problem is that I'm not supposed to say anything. I've chipped in here only because Joe is one of the few people who has been supportive.

I'm just bemused by what has happened. I brought up pen-names (I find it hard to say sock puppets) at a conference last month when I was asked how a new writer can get noticed. I said that when I was promoting (back in 2010-2011) I would try to create a buzz by going on forums, and that sometimes I would go on using a pen name.

In fact I did this twice, once for about a month and once for a week or so. I was doing what most of the forum posters do, opening an account with my own credit card and using a pen-name when asked. My main reason for doing it was to talk without being trolled. At the time whenever a self-published writer appeared on an Amazon forum in the UK they would have all sorts of abuse piled on them. You couldn't have a conversation without a troll coming and and being offensive. What I did was more about chatting to readers about the books they were reading than anything.

I didn't use the accounts to slag off other writers and I didn't post bad reviews on other authors books using those accounts. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong and frankly I still don't.

I had some pretty heavy arguments with (mainly) trolls on Amazon forums but that was using my own name. More often than not the trolls used pen names.

Those same trolls have posted literally dozens of one-star reviews against my books and posted all sorts of nonsense on various forums. This has now spilled over onto Twitter, blogs and newspapers. I have been accused of all sorts of nonsense and have had quotes attributed to me that I never made. When I've asked for corrections I have generally been ignored.

I have to say that I did play around on Twitter but I have always assumed that almost everything on Twitter is nonsense anyway. Half of the tweets I get are from Russian girls trying to sell me stuff I don't need.

It's the hatred and vitriol that I don't understand. I'm always happy to talk about promotion and marketing and am happy to abide by any general rules as to what is acceptable and what isn't. But there are a few of the authors behind this who have turned it into a vendetta. They have heaped personal abuse on me, published my home address on Twitter, taken screenshots of my personal Facebook page on Twitter. They have said horrible, horrible things that have horrified my friends and family.

They have said they want to damage my sales, and I don't why they have to be so vicious. What did I do that was bad? I used a pen name on forums. I had a few robust arguments with people using my own name. I have given a few bad reviews using my own name.

The problem is that I am dealing with a howling mob. Every time I try to defend myself I get shouted down. So for the moment at least it's better I say nothing. This will blow over eventually. The mob will move on. They always do.

Dianna Narciso said...

I just find it very odd that when you have a bad meal at a restaurant, you tell your friends not to eat there in order to hurt the restaurant's sales, instead of to save your friends from spending money on a bad meal. Is this a clue to your true nature? Because it's rather enlightening...

He who reads the FTC guidelines said...

Or else what? What's the punishment

I'm glad you asked, Joe. Some of the original clarifying details got deleted because the first version of this disappeared into the bugaboo of the internet, and you've pointed out some things that perhaps were less than clear.

So let me clarify now.

Those aren't Amazon's terms of service that I quoted up there. Those are the FTC guidelines on endorsements. FTC=Federal Trade Commission; they're quoted from the CFR (Code of Federal Regulation). The FTC is the government agency that is tasked with overseeing commerce in the United States.

These regulations were promulgated pursuant to section 45 of the FTC Act, which authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to determine what constitutes an unfair or deceptive trade and/or business practice.

In the event that the FTC determines that someone is in violation of 15 USC s. 45, they have the following options:

1. They can set up an administrative hearing, and after the hearing, order the person to desist from the prohibited conduct.

2. They can start a civil proceeding against the person, where they can fine them $10,000 per violation.

So the penalty for Locke's behavior, should the FTC choose to enforce its guidelines, is potentially $30,000,000.

As I'm sure you might point out, the FTC might choose not to enforce the Act, and the Act creates no private right of action. Nonetheless, I think that the regulations on endorsements coupled with the FTC Act make it perfectly clear that the conduct you're discussing is, in fact, not allowed in this country, and that the penalty for engaging in it is potentially much larger than having the review deleted.

So when you say that this conduct is allowed... Actually, you're wrong. It isn't.

According to Amazon's terms of service, authors aren't allowed to post their sales figures. Yet I've been doing that for years, and it has been helpful to authors.

These aren't Amazon's terms of service, and I'm sorry for the confusion.

My point is that you've claimed that if this behavior wasn't allowed, your response would be different.

This behavior is not allowed. It is commercial speech, and so subject to greater scrutiny than other forms of speech. And the FTC has explicitly said that it cannot be done.

Whether that will be enforced is another matter, but the conduct you are referencing is actually not legal in the United States.

So why doesn't someone start a service that offers paid reviews that add the disclosure statement? Would the mob be okay with that?

Since I'm just one person, and not a mob, I can't answer that. I haven't signed one of the statements, and I wouldn't. I don't consider myself part of the witch hunt and can't speak for them.

But disclosure would certainly mollify me.

You want to pay for reviews? Go ahead. I wouldn't do that, but everyone else has the right to do that--so long as those reviews that are purchased state that the reviewer was paid by the author.

I see no problem with that.

billie said...

I personally wouldn't buy reviews either, nor would I ever leave a 1-star review with the intention of harming another author's sales. As a rule, if I read a book that is in fact a 1 or 2-star read in my opinion, I simply don't rate or review it. There are too many great books to rate and review, and I prefer to put my energy into doing that.

That said - I think getting a 1-star review on Amazon is a sign of legitimacy. Once a book gets outside the author's "inner circle" of readers, which includes friends, family, and devoted fans, it's inevitable that the book will reach readers who for whatever reason don't like it.

No, it isn't fun to read the 1-stars about one's own books. But to me getting those reviews means my book is reaching a larger audience. I certainly welcome and celebrate that fact.

Most 1-star reviews seem to be written by readers who find some personal, subjective thing they really really dislike about a book - as opposed to a balanced "English major" critique. Every now and then you see a truly well-written one star review - I have one on the UK Amazon page for my novel claire-obscure. I don't really agree with it, but I like the way it's written, and in the end it's one of my favorite reviews b/c I appreciate its cleverness.

1-stars are allowed, so authors have to deal with them. There are always going to be people who bend the rules and those who break them. I wouldn't do what it's being said these guys did, but there are way too many more important issues in the world that I choose to give my energy to - this simply isn't one of them, for me.

Ellen said...

Hi, Joe. This post confuses me. I don't understand your righteous indignation over the righteous indignation of your peers. People work hard, play by the rules and write their tender hearts out. Is it wrong to be furious when some scumbag comes along and cuts to the front of the line by cheating and lying and gaming the system?

You acknowledge that you think it's a shitty thing to do. So it seems to me that what you're condemning here is the fact that some people are more emotional in their response. Splitting hairs, no?

AJ Sikes (aka Mitchell Brand) said...

I held off on writing my first 2-star review because I felt as you do, that low reviews were shitty and, ultimately, hurtful. Then I got over the anger I felt at having been ripped off by a clever marketing system run by a clever (and traditional) publisher. So, I wrote my review.

The intention of that review, which I made clear as crystal at the beginning, was to bash the hell out of the publisher and their editors, if they had any, for putting the book to print in the condition it was in.

Was my bad review an attempt to hurt sales? Yes. Was it an attempt to hurt the author? No. Not at all.

That's where I think you're missing the point of this mess. You seem to conflate one-star reviews with hurting only authors. Maybe because all the vitriol is being directed at three authors rather than the larger industries surrounding them.

Sure, in some cases, even most I'll venture, one-star reviews are shitty things written by people who feel shitty because they spent their money on what they perceive to be a shitty product. Maybe they lack the wherewithal to write a detailed critique, to point out where the writing fell flat, where the storyline detoured into a morass that killed any sense of compelling tension. Maybe they didn't recognize the dozen typos and grammar errors because they make those same errors themselves.

Whatever. The book I spent $15+shipping on wasn't worth more than 2 stars, even though when I opened the cover, I did so with the hope that I'd have a hell of a good read on my hands.

Anonymous said...

The stench of all this could have been so easily avoided. It's going back to those things we "learned in Kindergarten" (or at least did once upon a time. But that's another matter). Two lessons (via Robert Fulghum):

- Play fair.
- Don't hit people.

The whole raison d'etre of any review system is that it is "fair." If it isn't, if it's rigged, it ceases to exist in any meaningful form. It has no reason for existence. It should be euthanized.

And leaving negative reviews about rivals is "hitting people." Worse, it's hitting them from behind and running away and hiding.

One more lesson: justifying bad behavior is always unseemly.

Steven Witmer said...

Joe, do I really have to be more specific? Your examples are all about saving the feelings of a loved one, or in the case of the boss example, self preservation. What does that have to do with this?

"Mom, those monkey kabobs were delicious.

No, dear, I don't think you look fat in that dress.

A paisley tie! Thanks, Son. That's exactly what I wanted for my birthday.

Boss, I really learned a lot in that seven hour meeting."

I don't think you mean what you're saying, when you say that the system allows it, so it must be okay.

It's within the system for banks to use our money irresponsibly and then lose it, and then get bailed out by our tax dollars. Does that make it okay? It's within the system!

I think a lot of this would go away if the people involved would just own up. Hey, Locke was just trying to get ahead! I get it. I really do. Leather was, um, doing some other things.

No matter how you slice it, they were trying to mislead people. I don't think you or anyone else can argue that. Is it understandable? Absolutely. Who doesn't want to get ahead?

Is the backlash a little silly, considering all the problems in publishing right now?

Absolutely. Look at the current mindset shift--people are starting to believe that it's on the CONSUMER to filter through garbage to find good books. Craziness!

But c'mon. Stop the witch hunt, but why defend this behavior?

jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jtplayer said...

This blog has officially jumped the shark.

Anonymous said...

Steven Witmer: But c'mon. Stop the witch hunt, but why defend this behavior?

It's the attempt to defend that rankles with me. I can understand a new self-pubbing author wanting to give themselves a boost by salting their reviews with a few five-stars; or an author doing the same to offset some low-star reviews they believe are unfair or malicious. I think many do it because they see others doing it and believe they have to follow suit in order to level the playing field.

I can't condone any of this. It can't be condoned. But I understand it, and can accept it, up to a point. What I can't accept is a bear going into the woods for a crap with all the other bears, then coming out and telling me that it didn't stink. That's when I start rolling my eyes.

Also, I don't think 'witch hunt' is the right term. I read the 'No more sock puppets' letter and it's no more than a call for action. It names names, but these people had been very publicly outed before the letter was published - it's not like they let a cat out of the bag. Joe keeps going on about how it's wrong to pick on them, but constantly repeats their names. He's doing no more or less than what the letter authors did in broadcasting what these individuals have done - he's not denying the facts of what they did, he's just trying to tell us that lying for gain is not wrong.

Steve said...

I recently listened to an interesting segment of the WNYC show Radiolab about whether our sense of morality is learned or innate. The intro on the show's website includes an apropos line:

"Even toddlers know there is a right and wrong beyond the rules in a classroom."

This is backed up by a study highlighted in the program. In a nutshell, kids instinctively know that it's not O.K. to hit someone even if the teacher doesn't tell them not to. Here's a link: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/aug/13/kiddie-morality/

As Steven Witmer points out above, you seem to be saying that rules define morality. I don't think that's true. Would you say that smoking pot is immoral? It's illegal. Tricking readers with bogus reviews and trying to anonymously sabotage fellow writers is (arguably) legal and not prohibited. And so therefore it's not wrong?

You are an iconoclastic guy, Joe. You are a rebel. So do you really want to make the argument that there is no right and wrong beyond rules written by other people?

W. Dean said...

You'll have to explain that. When something is stolen, the owner loses property that had value attached to it. I'd call that harm.

Whether physical or psychological harm is subjective and relative to the person harmed. Causing offence is harm to some people, not to others. Theft doesn’t cause physical harm to anyone and the psychological harm is open to question. What’s the loss of thousand dollars to a billionaire? Not much, if he even notices.

For theft to be always unethical, therefore, it must be always harmful. Clearly it’s not; so ethical status of theft depends on the harm it causes. (Note: the defence that theft causes harm in principle is too weak for the rigid standard of proof you’ve set out.)

But it gets better. Harm is sometimes good—doctors stitching wounds, for example. If I was to steal all your money, it might seem like an obvious case of harm. Yet your newfound poverty might cause you to have an epiphany and undergo some kind of enlightenment (it has happened before). Maybe you decide you’re not only better off without money, but that you’re also a better person without it.

Under that scenario, I’d be doing you a service by robbing you blind! In light of this possibility, can we really say it’s absolutely wrong to rob you blind?

Anyway, that’s what happens when you go down this road. It gets worse from here (or more wonderful, depending on inclinations).

I'm pretty sure that's a copyright violation, and plagiarism, and there are laws against both that would allow me to sue you.

We’re talking ethics, not law. What’s illegal may not be unethical if harm is our principle. Copying your books and selling them under different names does you no psychological or physical harm. Arguably, you’re not even deprived of income. So, on the harm principle of ethics alone, I’m ethically justified in selling your books—even though it’s illegal.

In my view, if the mob was the problem, you should’ve stuck to defending the individuals from the mob. This line will not work. It’s casuistry and it forces people against a wall.

Mike Dennis said...

The first comment to this post (by PA Wilson) says it best, that Locke's purchase of many, many reviews was a key component to his selling a million books, and one component he felt he should leave out of his "How I Sold a Million Books" book.

I know, Joe, there's no way to CONCLUSIVELY prove that all Locke's dazzling reviews led to his startling sales figures, but the month after he bought his first $1000 worth of reviews, he sold 15,000 books. Up till that time, his sales were fairly static. After that time, he was off to the races. So the potential connection can't be ignored simply because there's no ironclad link between reviews and sales.

My point is, I was always sure there was some black op involved with these writers who achieved huge sales in an obscenely short period of time, with no promotion, and tossed it off with a shrug and "Just lucky, I guess."

Nobody, but nobody can sell 40,000 unpromoted books in sixty days because of "luck".

I've looked into this a little deeper and discovered quite a few "reviewers" who have left dozens of five-star reviews in a stunningly short time frame, including one who left 14 five-star reviews on Aug 28, 2012, 8 five-star reviews on Aug 29, 25 five-star reviews on Aug 30, and 27 five-star reviews on Aug 31. Also on those same days, the same reviewer left a total of 34 four-star reviews. Cross-checking revealed many of those reviewed books had very high Amazon rankings.

I know, I know, this doesn't CONCLUSIVELY prove anything, but don't you think it kind of drops a subtle, feathery hint that there MIGHT be a connection between reviews and sales?

W. Dean said...

Joe asks:

So if every one of those reviewers said "I was paid to do this review" no one would be upset?

Can’t speak for the whole world, but I would be fine with disclosure. I’d also defend the practice.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't understand your righteous indignation over the righteous indignation of your peers.

I don't like bullies or mobs who pick on people. Simple as that.

Joe Konrath said...

you and croutch sockpuppeted 165 1-star reviews of SERIAL to try and break the record (on the grounds that all pub is good pub) and now you’re desperately ashamed of yourself and are trying to defend your actions

Wow. When people usually type LOL it is a polite was of saying they found something funny. I am quite literally laughing.

So the accusation is Blake and I opened 165 Amazon accounts to give our story 1 star reviews?

I'm gaming the system by trashing myself?

Oh my god that's the most awesomely stupid thing anyone has ever said on this blog, and people have said plenty.

Thank you for proving how moral superiority and witch hunts devolve into lapses in common sense that are so extreme it prompts actual laughter. You made my day. :)

And to address the actual accusation, though I can't do it with a straight face:

Blake and I have not given ourselves one star reviews.

I gotta believe someone is putting me on with this comment. It has to be a joke. No one could actually, seriously think that.

Joe Konrath said...

So if every one of those reviewers said "I was paid to do this review" no one would be upset?

Can’t speak for the whole world, but I would be fine with disclosure. I’d also defend the practice.


I'd support this as well.

Joe Konrath said...

It appears that Twitter says you are a "major league cock monkey" whatever that is.

And now look at my Twitter feed and count all the names I've called others.

Hint: zero.

Gordon Kessler said...

Mr. Konrath, I agree with nearly everything you say, not that it matters to anyone else but me. Your insightful discussions on your blog have been a huge help to me as well as thousands of writers, and your importance grows daily among us indie authors.

Okay, so I said I agree with nearly everything you say. There’s one point I feel you’ve somehow missed when discussing buying reviews. I’m not against this practice, probably won’t do it myself, but, like you, I won’t bash anyone who does.

Here’s the rub: when a guy buys 300 reviews as an important and integral part of a plan to become a successful indie author, then writes a book about that plan—wow, that’s great! That book becomes an important part (if not the most important part) of any new indie author’s library. Except … that author, a guy I still respect for his trail-blazing spirit, didn’t mention buying the reviews in the book. He tells how most everything he paid for did little good. Really? Come on! Three hundred reviews (for upwards of $6,000), good or bad, especially considering it means 300 Kindle eBook purchases over a week or two’s time, is huge! He was only selling a handful of books a month before that. What did the purchase of so many books alone do for his visibility, compared to only a week or two before?

I’m not saying he was wrong for buying the reviews, but he was wrong for saying he would give us his secret formula if we bought his book, and then leaving out the reviews. He gave us E=MC without the squared. It just doesn’t work. Omission of something obvious and important to Mr. Locke’s plan is a lie, especially when you promote it as How [he] Sold 1,000,000 EBooks in 5 Months.

Peter L. Winkler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gordon Harries said...

I'm just waiting for a bus to throw someone under.

They're unreliable in the UK, you see. You wait all day for one, then 3 come at once.

Joe Konrath said...

As entertaining as all of this is, I really gotta get some writing done. I keep promising myself I'll let it go, and then read some comment and feel compelled to comment, like Pavlov's dogs drooling at a bell.

I'll be back in a week or so, and I'll try to respond to anyone who said anything interesting. But for now I have to work on a book.

Peace all.

(By the way, have a bet with my wife who thinks I won't be able to stay away. Perhaps I can create sock puppets to post on my own blog to fool her? See how devious and dishonest I am?)

Hint: Joking. I'll be back next week.

Anonymous said...

I haven’t commented on Joe’s blog in a very long time, but I’m a longtime follower and have always been inspired by his word.
My first impression of this entire situation is that it’s been overblown and that everyone should step the hell off and take a break.
This has been a perfect example of a mob mentality. A witch hunt. A crusade, if you will. Whose moral compass could withstand such scrutiny? No one is perfect. Certainly not I, though I believe it takes a certain maturity to admit to fallacy. Most people don’t have it within themselves.
Yet, it’s so easy to judge others.
I too paid for Bookrooster to send my book out to reviewers after finding out about the service on Joe’s blog. As an anxious new writer, I could barely wait for someone to post a review, good or bad. So, I thought, why not. Frankly, the reviews I received were of a mixed variety. Both negative and positive in kind. Some made me wonder if the reviewing party had even read the book, having gotten details confused such as the heroine’s name or the title. In the long run, I decided not to use this service again.
Here’s a few endorsements from their website.
 “A must-do option for genre writers. This is where the buzz begins.” – David Scott Hay
“Bookrooster offers thorough, fair reviews that helped my sales. I’ll definitely come back for more.” – Kathryn Shay
"Book Rooster is now my go-to virtual publicist. BR saves me hours of time -- hours that I can put towards my writing -- by getting my work in the hands of readers who are happy to provide honest, insightful reviews. It's a great service at a great price, and I highly recommend it." -- Robyn Bradley
BookRooster helped me find new readers and, I hope, new fans. Excellent service, lightning-fast turnaround from both administration and the reviewers themselves! -- Jennifer Sommersby
Now, I personally find this shocking.
The idea that any writer would be so ‘up in arms’ about the idea that another author might hide behind a pen name to conduct nefarious activities.
Come on people, that’s what we ALL do, right? We become characters, create situations, we develop and feed words into being with our minds, our souls. We are all actors, we are all marketers and promoters and publicists in our own right.
Does this give someone, anyone, the right to hide behind a pen name to slander a peer? Absolutely not. I find this the worse cowardice.
But, I also find cowardice in this mob mentality. We are human, and innately flawed. It’s just how it is. Right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. It is human nature.
Look at yourself in the mirror long and hard. Did you ever lie. Ever cheat, even the slightest bit. Were you mean to someone in grade school, cheat on a test or accidently walk away with a pen from the office and then forget about it? Have you cheated on a spouse, or thought about it without running to confession? Have you littered or, ah hell, let’s be realistic here, I could go on and on, but I hope you get my point.
Republicans verses Democrats. No, I’m not going into politics here, I’m just stating that these two parties have completely different points of view on so many issues and you know, we’ll probably never see eye to eye. We must, however, learn to meet in the middle. That’s how we’ve become the country we are today.
Stand around like a pompous ass and judge or be part of the solution.
Anyway, Joe, thank you for taking a stand against bullies. Kicking someone when their down is pretty dirty pool. Maybe the people who are trashing others on the internet should judge themselves for that sin.

Thank you.
Signed,
In Support (I'd sign with my name, but frankly you people scare the hell out of me.) :}


Anonymous said...

"They're" down and not "their". Sorry.

Peter L. Winkler said...

(Winkler) You keep admitting that what Leather, Locke and Ellory did was unethical.

(Konrath) Where do I admit that?

You've said that what they did was shitty. Is shitty behavior ethical?

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Archangel said...

@simon haynes

Go to amazon site map and find contact us. Send a note to amazon powers that be, asking the review be removed for it is not speaking about y our work, but someone else's.


I can tell you from experience that doesn't necessarily work.

The other day a reviewer left a review on another author's novel which was obviously meant for one of mine. I wouldn't mind or have noticed except that the 5-star review mentions my name in the review title.

I was pretty sure the other author's fans wouldn't appreciate this (and could hardly blame them) so I contacted the other author and Amazon.

Amazon's reply was that the review did not violate their guidelines. A review being in error doesn't make it against the guidelines. Mind you, it never hurts to ask, but don't expect it to be successful.

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Free speech isn't wrong. Fake reviews are part of free speech. Argument over."

One cannot argue that the First Amendment protections of speech provide an affirmative defense of fraud. It doesn't. It's legally untenable. Just try it and you'll be laughed out of any court of law in this country.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Turns out indie authors aren't the only ones guilty of posting fake reviews on Amazon. Seems someone from Macmillan has been doing it, too. There's a story in the Sunday Times (London), but unfortunately it's stuck behind a pay wall and no one else seems to have picked up the story yet.

Second story down. I'm very curious to read this. Maybe some of our UK brethren can fill us in?

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/sitesearch.do?querystring=Macmillan&sectionId=2&p=sto&bl=on&pf=all

Peter L. Winkler said...

"A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

Fraud is commonly understood as dishonesty calculated for advantage. A person who is dishonest may be called a fraud. In the U.S. legal system, fraud is a specific offense with certain features."

"fraud n. the intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right."

Anonymous said...

Joe. Perhaps when you get back you can comment on the reviews found here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1DLPM5P84CSGF/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

Anonymous said...

Joe Konrath keeps making the same mistake.

He says that Fraud involves damages. And then asks everyone to show there was damage in posting fake reviews. Bearing in mind that Joe Konrath still believes there is nothing wrong in posting fake reviews.

But Joe Konrath's claim is not true as a moment's checking would have proved.

You don't have to have profited by fraud or caused someone else to have suffered damages because just the "intent" to commit fraud is an offense. No damages are required for a fraud case to proceed. Just ask the IRS.

Your clever tax avoidance scheme might unravel leaving you with no profit. It might even have cost you money. But guess what? You'll still be prosecuted for fraud.

Joe Konrath is very fond of quoting Wikipedia so I'm surprised he hasn't read their entry.

The first line says:"In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent."

Wikipedia isn't a legal advice bureau but if you Google "Fraud" and search other sites you'll see that no damages or gain are even required to bring a case. Only intent.

It'd take a jury to say whether authors who think posting fake reviews intended to gain by their deceptions. Maybe they were just plain dumb. But it's willful ignorance on Joe's part to keep repeating the same old mantra that posting fake reviews isn't wrong.




Anonymous said...

Joe said:

>I think these waters are getting muddied. For Amazon to crack down on paid reviews or sock puppet reviews, they'd they'd have to prove it.<

You're living in the stone age Joe.

They don't have to prove anything they only have to suspect it. It is their system and they can kick off anyone they want. If someone is bringing the system into disrepute, they will kick them off. Amazon have already kicked many people off for abusing their system and service. Google it.

There are also many high profile cases of Google kicking off multi-million dollar companies for attempts to game their system. Basically they suspend their websites so they don't appear in searches until the gaming matter is resolved.

How do they prove their suspicions? They don't need to. They have software to analyze postings on any online system. They will be able to analyze every aspect of the Amazon system in ways you can only guess at. And they'll quietly close your account. More likely to if you are the schmuck who has been saying that posting fake reviews isn't wrong.

I'm betting that when anyone searches for "posting fake book reviews isn't wrong: Joe Konrath's blog is going to come pretty high on the list.

Next week Joe Konrath argues that murder isn't wrong if the victim is a friendless orphan. I mean where's the damage?





Anonymous said...

Joe said:

"The point I'm making about honesty and right and wrong is that Amazon allows certain behavior, even though people may not like that behavior."

You can't legislate for everything Joe.

Amazon and everyone else hopes that people will do the right thing.

They don't put armed guards and metal detectors at cinemas to prevent people bringing in their own guns to mow down the audience.

However, sometimes this happens. But the fact that there was little to prevent a tragic incident wasn't an invitation to come and carry out murder.

Amazon were hoping that people like you would not post fake reviews. But now they are finding out that people like you don't think that posting fake reviews is wrong.

So maybe they'll have to do something about it without making the system impossible for the rest of us to use.

Bottom line, just because there isn't someone watching your actions 24 hours a day, it's not an invitation to commit a crime.

Hell Joe, wake up and grow a conscience!

Anonymous said...

you and croutch sockpuppeted 165 1-star reviews of SERIAL to try and break the record (on the grounds that all pub is good pub) and now you’re desperately ashamed of yourself and are trying to defend your actions

It was a freakin JOKE, Joe! Having now earned you ire, I'm too ashamed to reveal myself. It's like I came to your house and shat in your carpet (which I didn't; the turd was a joke, a plastic turd).

Good on U for standing by your beliefs on a v. difficult topic.

Archangel said...

JR Tomlin: write back to whomever contacted you from amazon and ask to speak to their supervisor. Or. Write again and roll the dice to get a more informed person. Use language like "misleading" because it is misleading, and an obvious significant error on the poster's part.

And, also, respond in a comment to that review saying your piece to mainly guide others who will read your comment.

Good luck.
and yes, you are right, the sluggishness of response is notable at AMZ as compared to many other mega-companies.

sfgray said...

As is so often the case, Joe, i think you've done just about the best possible job laying out why the current hysteria is ultimately misguided, and i thank you for that. (I also thank you for having the patience to keep explaining your reasoning and your philosophy as you do, because i'm sure it's getting tiring.) The system as it exists is ultimately self-correcting, and so attempts to game the system will always ultimately fail. That seems fairly self-evident, and attempts to reform or correct the system are going to be a lot less effective than just using the system correctly — give positive reviews to the books you like, end of discussion.

The one narrow area where i do agree with a lot of the current vitriol is that i think Locke was dishonest in hyping his promotional secrets while conveniently leaving out his decision to solicit paid reviews. Even if he didn't specifically pay for positive reviews, it was bad form, and it would be a good move on his part if he publicly addressed it. (I don't care if doesn't; i just think he should.)

As for me, i've never left a 1-star review of anything and i don't expect that'll ever change. I can't imagine ever leaving even a 2-star review of a book for the simple reason that if a book only merits 2 stars there's not much chance i'm even going to finish it. I've got way too many hopefully-4-and-5-star books still on my reading list.

jon said...

Anyone know how to get hold of carl graves ive contacted him 4 times and still dont even get a reply to say sorry i am busy. Like is the guy dead or something???

J. R. Tomlin said...

@Archangel Thanks for the suggestion. Actually I am friends with the author whose novel page the erroneous review appeared on. I had sent her a message about it. When she also reported it, she got someone a bit more cooperative in removing it.

When they decide to act, it's usually pretty prompt. The review was removed within a matter of hours.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Here is the definition of fraud from a LEGAL dictionary. Often such terms are used differently in non-legal usage.

A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

People lie to other people all the time. If all deceptions were fraud, it I told my mother I loved her meatloaf it would be fraud. It isn't because it causes no injury (except that I may have to eat it again next week).

Alex cox said...

Find your best books featured product deals, books discounts, books coupons and much more with great savings only on dealaboo.com, discounts on books item is not so much common in the world of online shopping but here on dealaboo.com you can get best books coupons & discounts with great savings.

Archangel said...

@j.r. tomlin, that AMZ responded now, great news. Thanks for letting us all know.

All best,
archangel.

Embrack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Embrack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Embrack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

JOE, my issue is more with Ellroy's neg reviews of others, vs. his positive reviews of his own works.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's something abit "libelous" about negatie reviews meant to undermine competition.

I think the whole anonymous review system has discredited any and all arenas that permit anonymous reviews. I work in an industry where generating fake positive reviews of products and services (NOT on Amazon, but in the retail sector) is commonplace.

I've gotten to the point where I don't trust any star-system review online, be it Amazon or other ecommerce sites.

If Amazon limited book reviews to registered Amazon account holders (with a limit of one review per book), would that help?

People will slam an author on Amazon if they don't like the author personally or don't like their politics or may have taken offense at something the author said in an interview. The review system is ripe for corruption.

Donna White Glaser said...

Amazon isn't the only distributor who's having trouble with their review section. http://carolynjewel.com/wordpress/2012/09/07/barnes-noble-reviews-are-being-gamed/

TK Kenyon said...

Addendum to previous comment:

As always Joe, the best part about this brouhaha is that you're blogging again! I had slowed down on stopping by to see if you had something new up, and now I'm stopping by every day again. Yea!

I agree with you about so much, and you make so much sense.

Yes, this whole no-more-sock-puppets thing sounds like a junior high "I Hate _Insert_Name_Here_" club. It's juvenile and whiny and (at The Kid's school) would get the "Club Member" snots thrown out of school for bullying.

Why aren't people more outraged about the bullying? What the no-sock-puppets people are doing is really despicable. They've singled out 3 people and formed a hate club.

Kudos to you for calling it what it is, and kudos to Barry for re-thinking and coming to a better conclusion.

TK Kenyon


MySpace is still around, right? My Amazon profile. Tweet with me! I tweet links to free e-fiction on the web and happy thoughts! A great place to see what I’m up to, writing-wise. All my reviews on Amazon:



JH Glaze said...

I don't mind the one star reviews any more. I've only had 3 so far and the 4 and 5 stars far outweigh them.

I think it is important for authors to just accept the fact that sooner or later it is going to happen and when it does, unless there is a valid criticism attached to the star, ignore the mosquito, and keep moving forward.


I love your articles Joe. keep them coming.

JH Glaze

Lilian Gafni said...

Perhaps Amazon should eliminate the Star system and leave only the worded review.

A book should be rated only with words not stars. Of course, the reviewer can improvise and shine here with their word proficiency. Otherwise they will all sound alike. The review should explain why they liked the book or not? Were the characters well-developed and credible or not? The plot or action was slow or thrilling? Did the book have a universal message or not? And the reviewer should stress that, despite the flaws it was a good read.

Lilian Gafni

Barbra Annino said...

The publishing industry hasn't exactly been built on honesty. Probably the biggest ACCEPTABLE lie is ghost writing. Most readers still think James Patterson actually writes all those books his name is slapped on.

And let's not forget about the James Frey's of the world. His publisher defended his choice to fictionalize his 'memoir', despite the fact that it cost them a lot of money and he was still offered new contracts.

So, although I think attacking other writers is bad form--be it in reviews, via a public statement, Joe's blog or on Twitter, putting it into perspective is important. It gets pretty cold on top of that high horse otherwise.

alchemyofscrawl said...

There are limitations to freedom of speech - "the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, copyright violation and incitement to commit a crime." So your version of freedom of speech doesn't fly and we shouldn't just let dicks be dicks.

Consumers have a right to be warned whether someone is selling something for free on Wikipedia, defective product, unedited book made on an iPhone, fake eBooks, etc.

Do people abuse the system? Sure. They also run the risk of being tarred and feathered at a later date, hopefully.

I've read a lot of reviews and they've saved me money on purchases. So here's my proposal:

Amazon lets you return eBook purchases. Return your eBooks by these authors. OR read the book and post an honest review. That's what I plan to do.

Because honest people with morals should prevail over hysteria on either side.

Anonymous said...

Konrath sez: "I don't value reviews enough to pay for them, so I wouldn't do this."

But aren't Amazon customer reviews the #1 way to get your book noticed on Amazon? When you KDP a title and it has no reviews, and nobody knows you, how can you ever sell anything? Once you get some good reviews, it has a snowball effect. And I've seen the opposite: a 3-star review can make a hot selling title instantly stop, and a 1-star review can make you sink. And you don't care about them? Then what is there to care about, if you are trying to sell your books on Amazon? I'm confused.

booklover said...

You say that you're not okay with people ganging up and picking on individual writers.

Just realized you have never commented on the Goodreads Bullies. Are you against those people who gang up on writers and attack them on forums, as has been described on the Stop the GR Bullies page? Some bloggers say that people have a right to gang up on any author they like and make fun of their work, and the author as well, in public. Especially when they disapprove of the author's work. They feel a moral superiority over certain "inferior" authors, issue calls to action, and then have a 1-star pummelfest on that author they are attacking. They pick an author and single that author out for scorn and ridicule and humiliation. Do they have a right to do that or are they bullying? Do the authors, in turn, have a right to fight back, to criticize these peoples' reviews (and other writings), too?

Harule Stokes said...

It poisons the well. People can no longer rely on reviews to be accurate, nor rely on the overall average to accurately reflect the quality of work. So yeah, it harms everyone when that happens because we all drink from the same well.

Diane said...

Got my own 1-star review the other day. It was suspect. But it was also quite funny. At first my heart sunk, then I laughed. It felt good to know it didn't bother me, and that even though it did knock the book down a few notches in the ratings during a KDP promotion (it was in the top 10 free Kindle books at the time), I was happy to discover I didn't croak or throw up or even cry and tear out my hair. Then another reviewer left a comment on the 1-star review. And another. They lambasted the 1-star reviewer, who then came back and thought it was me taking them to task for their review. (It wasn't - I have a no-comment policy.) I kinda liked the little bit of action in the reviews for a change, and I loved knowing other reviewers would set it straight if I stayed out of it. Better yet? I learned to stop reading the reviews altogether. I can't say I'll never read another bad review - after all, they might have a point that I wouldn't want to miss. But for now, I'm happy to let the reviewers do their thing. I'm too busy writing to interfere. I think my readers are smart enough to sort out the good from the bad, and the real from the fakes.

Adrian said...

Every one of those millions of reviewers who trashed a book deliberately did it to harm that book's sales. That's the whole point of a one star review. Someone yelling to the world "Don't buy this!"

This is factually incorrect.

Amazon's success is due in large part to a high-quality recommendation system. The software that figures out what to recommend to you relies largely on what you've said you like and dislike in the past. The more data the recommendation system has, the better its recommendations, which leads to more sales for everyone.

If you hate book and, instead of giving it a one-star review, you simply don't rate it, you're withholding data from the system. That is what hurts authors.

Recommendations are not based (solely) on overall ratings. They're based on patterns of what you like compared to what other people like. If you have a history of giving high marks to the type of books I give low marks, then the recommendation system can discover that and know to recommend books to you that I didn't like. In other words, my low-scoring reviews may actually help the author find another reader who will like the books.

J. R. Tomlin said...

@ alchemyofscrawl Amazon lets you return eBook purchases. Return your eBooks by these authors. OR read the book and post an honest review. That's what I plan to do.

Because honest people with morals should prevail over hysteria on either side.


Exactly. I have to disagree with Joe that fake reviews aren't wrong, but there is already, as you point out, a reasonably good system in way to respond. Beside which as "wrong" things go, they are a pretty minor item on my list. There is no need for hysterical attacks by authors on their own.

If you think the reviews were faked or wrong there are a number of things you can and should do: Report the review to Amazon. Return the book. Write your own review.

I.J.Parker said...

The blogs and comment sections are getting way too long. I don't have the time to read all this stuff.

As for the sentiment that all promotion that sells tons of books is by definition right or at least permissible: how much do you sell your soul for, people?

When pushing self-published books apparently anything goes.

The scandal about the named authors has tainted all of us, guilty and innocent alike. And all the various dodges out there to promote, come hell or high water, have tainted the honest reader reviews. Someone above said she doesn't believe 5-star reviews any longer. Well, I have a lot of those, and all are legitimate. I also have fan mail from a lot of readers who never bothered to post a review. It's their privilege. I'm grateful for my reviews. I treasure them for days when nothing seems to work for me. And I will never do anything to adulterate them by faking my reviews, paying for reviews, organizing friends and family to post reviews, or to post tweets, or click likes, or do any of the other sleazy stuff that's going on.

Adrian Staccato said...

Reading this article, I am reminded of A Clockwork Orange. In it, Alex DeLarge is deprived of his right to violence. As a result, when he is released from prison, he has no means of defence against his former victims who've come for revenge. Similarly, if Amazon deprives people the right to inflate their ratings with 5-star reviews, they will have no means of defence against those who maliciously post 1-star reviews. It's a necessary evil.

Robert Jones said...

What I wish people would get over is the need to compete at the cost of others. Sound silly? If someone goes to the trouble of writing a novel, then publishes it as an ebook because they are trying to get away from all the political claptrap of big business, then has their work shot down by fellow authors because they believe they might steal some money out of their sales heap, how the hell is that going to make self publishing any better than going the traditional route?

We can sit around all day trying to justify it by the code of business in the real world, but people who do this are on,y robbing themselves. Where's the dignity in any of this?

Whether I absolutely love, or completely hate, another authors work doesn't mean I have the right to flame it. If it has problems, I would rather offer so e constructive criticism. Does that mean I'm arming the competition by being kind or helpful? I don't think so. If the competition turns out to be a jerk, they'll defeat themselves eventually.

And what if a new author comes along with a brilliant book? Should I sit back in envy and hope they fail? Or should I be glad something new has come along worth reading and aspiring to. We don't know how long it took that person to get good at what they do. Most overnight successes aren't pure luck, but rather the result of years of hard work.

Putting it simply, if ebooks are a result of rebelling from the tyranny of corporate run publishers, are we any better than they are if we start sabotaging one another?

Adrian Staccato said...

My point is: If people have the right to post malicious 1-star reviews, they should also have the right to post fake 5-star reviews. Neither action is honorable, but to infringe upon them would be a violation of freedom of speech.

Kathleen Valentine said...

I also never leave 1-star reviews for the simple reason that if a book is that bad I don't keep reading. I don't review books I don't read and I don't read books not worth the time.

As an author I've received my share of 1 star reviews and I am often surprised at the reasons given. I've had several 1-star reviews on my novellas in which the reviewer was angry because it wasn't a full-length novel -- even though the Product Description says it was a novella and gives a word count.

As a reader browsing for books I read 1-star reviews and if they are of the this-sucks-I-hated-it variety I ignore them. If they give an actual, substantive reason for the low rating, I pay attention. I agree that this is all a tempest in a teapot. There will always be people who try to cheat. Big deal. Get over it. Life goes on.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 266   Newer› Newest»