Saturday, 8 September 2012

Authors tempted to fake reviews and pimp their bios

There's been quite a hoo-hah recently about authors faking reviews at Amazon and on-line forums. Little has been said as yet, at least publicly, but I predict that the talk will sooner or later turn to the same kind of fakery and pimping going on at the on-line encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

In an article entitled The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy in the New York Times, the author John Locke admitted that he'd bought 300 fake reviews, even getting the reviewers to purchase the books directly from Amazon so that their reviews would show up as verified purchases. Elsewhere, it's noted that such reviewers received only half of their fee from the agency involved if they felt that they could not deliver a five star review. Ironically, this unethical and debatably fraudulent big secret is something that John Locke left out of his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

The Telegraph and other newspapers also ran the story of author R.J. Ellory who was caught out using sock puppets (pseudonymous on-line personas) to create fake reviews lauding his own work and criticizing rivals. Some commentators suggest that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There has also been some comment in the social media about authors editing their biographies and articles about their books at the Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia using pseudonymous accounts (like "JoeBloggs") and supposedly anonymous IP accounts (like "123.234.345.6"). Well, for authors who cannot stick to impartial and verifiable facts and are tempted to pimp their own bio, here's Wikipedia's simple guide to possible conflict of interest.

This is one of the reasons that Wikipedia prefers independent, secondary "reliable sources" to primary or self-published sources.

However, when author Philip Roth wanted to change inaccuracies in a Wikipedia article about his book The Human Stain, he was told that his own word was not a reliable source, and he had to resort to publishing an open letter to Wikipedia in order to have the matter rectified. At Wikipedia, common sense should ultimately prevail, and indeed this is thankfully enshrined in Wikipedia's own policy, if at times it takes a rather convoluted or testing route to get there.

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

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