I wanted to wait a few hours before I made my feelings known about the recent New York Times article that has the publishing world in an uproar. Apparently, there are some authors who have the gall to subvert publishing. I'm not talking about the authors like myself who have chosen to go to the readers through the back door and take on the publishing hats themselves. No, that's not what I mean, even though there are some who feel strongly in the negative about that. Authors--mainly those of the traditionally-pubbed variety--have been quick to decry the authors involved in the article, as well as denouncing their methods, their sales tactics. (For example, see here and here)
For this self-pubbed author, one who takes his work seriously, yes. Yes, I denounce it. I denounce it wholeheartedly.
This isn't rocket science, folks. The methods mentioned in the article are dishonest, unethical, are downright shady, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs a freaking clue. One author with whom I have mutual friends has seen his Twitter account suspended after he outed another author for using sock puppets in order to spur sales; a sock puppet mainly goes onto the Amazon forums and has conversations with others about their work in an attempt to get more people interested... they also leave glowing reviews for their puppetmaster's book. And the scary thing is that the sock puppet is usually the author themselves.
Let that one sink in for a second.
There are honest ways to let readers know how good--or how bad--your work is; I know one author who will post one-star reviews on his Facebook page, and has no shame about doing so. There are many outlets who will review your work, and will give you an honest review for free: here, here, here, here, and here, just for starters. Buying reviews, no matter how much it costs you as an author, cheapens your work. There's the old adage that selling your ebook for less than three bucks cheapens the work; let me go on record as saying that buying a review cheapens it even further.
This is publishing. Nothing comes easy. Publishing isn't a get rich quick scheme. There are self-pubbed and traditionally-pubbed authors who bust their respective asses to put out the best product they can, and then authors like the ones mentioned in the article as well as others unmentioned who stoop to devious levels makes a bad name for all authors. The article makes a reader wonder which ones they can trust, which ones to give their hard-earned dollars.
I know of readers who will look warily at a book if it has nothing but five-star ratings. What if those five-star reviews were earned honestly? Look at my books: Rogue Agent has eight five-star reviews, and no others. Does that mean I bought my reviews for that title? Double Agent has seven reviews, six of which were five-star. Did I buy those? I will tell you unequivocally that I did not. I worked hard, I busted my ass. I'd feel dishonest if I did anything to mislead the readers. That's not the way I was brought up. I like my job a little too much, and I'm scared that any perceived dishonesty would ruin whatever semblance of credibility I have in the publishing world, ruining my career in the process.
Of course, there will be the naysayers who'll take one look at my reviews, see the glowing five-star rankings and think that I've bought them. Or read my post and call me defensive. That's natural human response nowadays.
Sorry to disappoint you. I have better things to spend my money on--like food. But that's besides the point. I can't help it if the people who wrote those reviews liked my work enough to leave a review. Those that didn't like my work didn't leave a review, and I can't answer for them. Simply put, caveat emptor.
Folks, there are some people out there that are just dishonest. That's not exactly breaking news. The world is full of dishonesty. But there are still people--especially honest authors--out there who are playing by the rules, and they're the ones who'll hurt because of the depraved indifference of few.
I hope you'll support the ones that are honest.