If you had asked me on Friday what a sock puppet was I would have told you something you made with your children during the school holidays. I would have also stressed the importance of losing the damn things straight after you made it so you don't have to waste hours watching the mindless ramblings of preschoolers.
My fellow writers have spent the weekend re-educating me. A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. Or using misleading online identities. In a complete panic my first thought went to horror stories of pedophiles pretending to be ten year olds, con men trying to get you to buy fake shares in a gold mine, online dating sites were men pretend they have hair.
Why else would someone go to the time and trouble to create a different identity?
I'm a writer with four unpublished novels under the bed. The list of things I wouldn't do to gain that all important publishing contract is pretty small. But even I felt the cringe of embarrassment when I found out that authors have been creating false identities to...fake reviews. Cringe worthy but I sort of get it. I actually felt sorry for crime novelist RJ Ellory who faked his own book reviews. Would he have got on the Richard and Judy book list if he hadn't given them a little nudge?
And according to http://www.businessinsider.com/this-guy-made-28000-a-month-writing-fake-book-reviews-online-2012-8
'It turns out all those fake-sounding reviews on Amazon.com probably are. Bing Liu, a data-mining expert tells the New York Times that about one in three online reviews are fake.
The reason: there's a lot of money in fake reviews, according to an excellent exposé by the New York Times's David Streitfield.
Take the case of Todd Rutherford, for example.
Rutherford used to write press release for authors hoping to get professional reviewers to read their books.
Eventually, Rutherford realised he could cut out the middleman. So he started charging money to write reviews. He would charge $99 for one review, $499 for 20 and $999 for 50. He eventually published 4,531 reviews and at one point pulled in 28,000 per month.
The business worked because it worked for Rutherford's clients. Authors who get a bunch of reviews on Amazon tend to sell more books than those who don't.'
Buying reviews? I sort of get it if reviews sells books.
What I can't understand is those amongst us who fake an identify to give nasty or hurtful reviews?
In a study it showed that reviews do affect sales on Amazon. A writer analysed sales immediately after a one-star review was posted – they went down. When a five-star review became the most recent, sales increased. The reason? We don't read reviews, we skim them looking for reasons to buy, or not buy, the book.
However, to me unless it is a personal vendetta against someone you know personally and there is a long history of bad blood, I can't understand how this disgusting practice is gaining momentum? Some writers have been exposed as ‘sock-puppeteering’ – creating false accounts to write rave reviews of their own work. This is dishonest enough but it gets really nasty when those sock puppets write one-star reviews of rival authors.