Christopher Howse has written an article for the Telegraph suggesting that we are all becoming over-exercised by the sock-puppeting row. He suggests that such practices have always abounded, citing Walter Scott as an example. He also seems to say that anyone conned or outraged by them is naive and deluded.
That writers have often been found to have provided fake reviews (sock-puppeting) for their own work is probably not open for debate. Regrettably, I think many have, and continue to do so, though I give my word here that it's not something I shall ever indulge in, no matter how desperate I become to sell my books. But what Mr Howse overlooks in his article is the fact that RJ Ellory was pillorying his competitors' work in fake reviews: he was deliberately sabotaging their business. It wouldn't be tolerated in any other sphere, so why is it okay in writing?
Many readers have commented on the article, and it's heartening to see that the vast majority do not share Mr Howse's opinion. It's also worth remembering, as one commenter points out, that most Kindle books offer a preview, so you can read a sample and make your own mind up rather than place all your trust in the reviews.
This row, I suspect, will rumble on for years. The anonymity of the internet makes it impossible to police review systems, and the willingness of some writers to pay for reviews will always skew results. My personal opinion will hardly come as a surprise to those who follow this blog: yes, sock-puppeting is bad.
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