So, there are a couple of fake review/fake promo/negative reviews fusses doing the twitter/blogosphere rounds right now, you can read about one here and a bit more about that one here and about a totally different one here.
And the thing is, I didn’t know people did this. I truly didn’t realise there were people spending time, valuable, life-filled time, making up personas and giving them names and accounts so they could praise their own work, push their own work, or have a go at other people who didn’t like their work. HOW DO THEY FIND THE TIME?!
With the book writing and the theatre making stuff I do several jobs, often at once, but all the same, how does any real person, living a life in the real world, actually find the time to handle several accounts at once and have conversations with themselves about their own brilliance? Or, conversely, to have a go at reviewers for not liking their work?
I like good reviews as much as the next writer. Of course I do. I need them. My work needs them to sell books, that’s just how it is. In the past month, following advice from a couple of bestselling friends, I’ve even asked people who said they loved my last books if they’d fancy writing an Amazon review saying the same. In a discussion about the Amazon reviews thing, the bestselling friends said they sometimes ask people to put online what they’ve said in the flesh or on facebook/twitter, and that apparently it helps. The more positive reviews, the more buyers …
It hadn’t occurred to me to do this because I don’t read Amazon reviews to decide whether or not to buy a book, I rely almost exclusively on word of mouth or occasional print reviews (occasional because I hardly ever buy papers any more, though I read several online) to push me to buy. So it hadn’t, until very recently, occurred to me to suggest people might want to take their pleasure in my writing to Amazon.*
I know we have to push our own work, I know my publisher’s publicist is probably looking after half a dozen other authors when she’s looking after me, I know all of that. So I do understand the impetus that might drive someone to create fake identities to praise themselves, the knowledge that a book has a very brief moment in time when it can climb those charts, be heard about, get the fuss it deserves (as we all believe about our own work) and yet … I truly don’t get why anyone would want to waste that time WHEN THEY COULD BE WRITING.
I’d love my work to be read by hundreds of thousands (or millions!) too. Of course I would, we all would. I had a bittersweet moment last week when, on twitter, a few people were discussing how hugely important my novel Singling out the Couples is to them, and I kind of wished that twitter had been around when they book came out, so I could have RTed their pleasure in it.
But would I lie to get my work read by millions? No.
And would I spend time inventing another self to do that promo work when I could be inventing any number of new characters and giving them lives worth reading? No.
I’d rather be writing.
And in case you’re now confused about which writing blogs to trust, here’s a couple I rate highly :
Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
* ooh, posting this has led to very interesting twitter conversation with Sophie Hannah, who thinks asking people to share their positivity in the book (as a review) is also dodgy. I guess it might be, in that without the asking those reviews may never have been on the page, though they were in the ether, but I think it’s a very different matter to creating entirely fake reviews, positive or negative. One comes from a genuine impetus, the other is entirely self-created. What then, of re-tweeting good reviews, or sharing them on facebook? Is it ALL fakery, in that none of it would exist if we didn’t share/push/inform, or are we allowed some self-promotion before we turn everyone off completely? Juicy, innit?
Re your discussion on twitter, I think it’s fair enough for a writer to ask readers to confirm in reviews what they think of their books. After all, you still run the risk that the reader says “tough” and from a reader-only point of view, I’d rather hear about books this way than through the blatant publicity we are often fed (I’m not pointing at 50 Shades, but I am..)
I’ve never in my life posted an insincere Amazon review. Nor have I ever reviewed my own books under a false name and I wouldn’t dream of doing either. I’d also NEVER ask someone to review a book of mine. THat’s why most of my books have about three reviews!! But I’d rather that than false ones of any kind.
I’ve never posted an amazon review at all …
Probably stupidly naive of me, but I truly didn’t appreciate that they seem to make that much of a difference. I sometimes think I’m hopelessly naive about how it all works, or perhaps intentionally so – I love to think it’s not all about the promotions or the press or the fuss. That it’s actually about books and reading. And of course, I know it’s not. I know that even away from the internet, just back in good old-fashioned shops, publishers pay for promotions, that the 2-for-1 deals/shop windows/centre tables/summer sale dumpbins are paid for by publishers more often than not, especially in the big chains. But I can’t see any author turning down those kinds of promotions, despite the fact that the general public rarely know they’re paid for and not merely a sign of a book being so good the shop staff can’t help but put it in the window/on the table …