This post, by Stant Litore, originally appeared on the New Wave Authors blog on 8/31/12.
Since The New York Times revealed that million-book-seller John Locke scammed the system to get his sales (afterward, he also had the balls and utter lack of conscience to turn around and write a fake guidebook for other writers), there has been outcry across the Internet. Most eloquently from horror writer Lee Goldberg, who summed up the issue as follows in a customer review of Locke’s How I Sold a Million Ebooks:
There is a key piece of advice crucial to his success that he left out of this book: pay readers to leave fake reviews. In an interview with Locke in today’s New York Times, he admitted that he paid for 300 reviewers to heap praise on his books, a sleazy promotional technique that seems to have worked for him. Locke admits to buying reviews because "Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful, but it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience." I have some advice for Locke on a more honest and ethical approach he might want to try: Actually write good books. That’s how to build an audience. You do not gain readers, or recognition, by swindling readers into buying your books with fake praise. It’s unethical and shows a startling lack of respect for your reader.
Scifi writer Rob Kroese adds in a recent blog post that because of the way Amazon’s algorithms use reviews and ratings to determine which books end up going out in promotional emails to potential readers, Locke’s duplicity with reviews shot his book sky-high in sales.
Besides everything that Lee and Rob have said so eloquently, what is also truly appalling about this is that it’s a betrayal — ultimately, a personal betrayal — of the author/reader relationship.
Look, books aren’t just a product.
Yes, you sell them, you promote them, you consume them, yes, but they are not a hairbrush or a car or a vacuum cleaner. They are stories. They change your soul, they show you new ways to grow, they allow you to meet imaginary people and be affected by what happens in their imaginary lives. You will laugh with these people, yearn with them, weep with them.