Sunday, September 09, 2012

Writers Behaving Badly

There have been many complaints about scathing1-star reviews posted on amazon. Some reviewers show an obvious lack of knowledge about the book, and/or a personal agenda designed to hurt the author’s reputation. It’s small wonder then that many readers believe amazon reviews aren’t honest or helpful.

Based on reviews I’ve read, I’d say the level of competency runs the whole gamut, as I’ve seen some really good reviews, along with the not-so-great ones. As a caveat, I need to say that I also post reviews on amazon, so I understand if you think I’m biased. I’ve also received 1 and 2-star reviews, but they weren’t hateful, so I let it go and moved on.

The online world is still like the old wild west, when people were trying to build lives on foreign ground. Back then, a few morons thought the new frontier entitled them to get away with bad behavior. The same thing applies to life in cyber space. It’s simple to create a fake identity and say what you want (up to a point) without anyone knowing who you really are, or so you think.

Reviewers with agendas develop a pattern and observant people pick up on that pattern. They also tend to discover that person’s real identity. This is exactly what happened to a British author who stooped to some pretty low tactics by giving himself great reviews while trashing fellow authors.

What’s different about this incident, though is that the culprit, author R.J. Ellroy, was already an award-winning, bestselling crime author. Ellroy apparently used a number of fake identities to give himself glowing reviews while he gave Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride, among others, 1-star reviews. He was outed by another British crime novelist and has now apologized, but Ellroy’s also facing a lot of wrath from readers everywhere and the condemnation of writers such as Ian Rankin, Lee Child and Val McDermid.

Why someone who already’s garnered awards and is able to make a living through his work felt compelled to act this way is baffling, but the sad thing is he’s only one of many lesser known authors who are behaving the same way.

I still believe that amazon is a good place to post reviews. It’s easy and reaches a lot of people who purchase a great deal of books there. I’m doing my best, along with others, to keep the bar from sinking into the sewer but honestly, sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. To read the whole article about Ellroy, go to

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