Sad Story of a Con Artist Writer
A self-published writer cares more about making money than anything else that should matter to a writer—like finding a legitimate audience, delivering a book that people are glad to have spent money on, and earning your street cred by honest work. So, he hires a fake review writing (aka false advertising) company to write something like a billion reviews of his book for Amazon, so it looks like a billion different people have read and loved it, rather than one sad guy who never read the book but is willing to lie to make money.
|If you've got an e-reader,|
I've got a deal for you...
Eventually, though, this author is caught in the act, and he's raked through the news media coals. (Which is what he deserves.) The fake review writing company he hired is also caught in the act, and soon shuts its doors for good. (I hope.) The rest of us are left debating, as usual, what this means to those of us who actually care about writing good books and earning our followers legitimately.
What I Have to Say About All This Mess
|Here's the culprit, John Locke|
You can say what you want to about how unfair the book business is. You'd be right; it's patently unfair. Many writers never make a living off their writing. Good writers may make money for a while and then, all of a sudden, they fall off the success wagon and can't get back on. Great books don't get accepted by publishers because they don't fit a clear sales category, so no one knows how to sell it. (By the way, I think that's a legitimate concern, though it's also reasonable to say that people can't know they want a new kind of book unless you show it to them.)
You can say what you want about traditional publishers being evil gatekeepers who won't buy your work unless you're the keymaster (thanks, Ghostbusters, for the pop culture allusion). You can refer to authors who write for traditional publishers as fools, house slaves, or whatever else you want. You can refer to authors who self-publish as hacks and accuse them of weakening the whole book market with their lousy, unedited writing. You can say the whole system is a mess, and you'd be right. It is. I don't know what the whole answer is to the mess.
But the one thing I can say is that it is unethical and immoral to use the world of writing for your con games. Yes, I know it happens. Yes, it happens in all endeavors that involve money. Yes, buyer beware. But still... You don't get to call yourself a writer when what you really are is a scam artist. Not with me. I won't put up with that. It's one thing for all the writers out there to work their asses (butts, if you prefer) off to make a following for themselves. It's one thing to tweet, Facebook, blog, and otherwise brag and advertise your work. That may make you obnoxious sometimes, but it doesn't make you dishonest.
It's the dishonesty that's unacceptable. If you sell a million books by buying a lot of them for the reviewers you've hired, you haven't really sold a million books. You've created a false appearance of selling that much. If you sell books based on hundreds of phony reviews you've bought, and consumers buy your books on the basis of those phony reviews, you haven't sold books. You have stolen money from unsuspecting people. You are a thief. Call yourself a thief and write a how-to book titled, How I Conned Amazon and Millions of People into Buying My Crappy Book: And You Can Too!
The bottom line is this: I know this kind of thing happens all the time. But I'm angry anyway. When some jackass (con artist or idiot, if you prefer) decides to pull a scam on readers, it hurts all the innocent people in the writing community, because it makes readers more suspicious and less willing to try the work of a stranger. It's hard enough to get your name out there and to sell your work, isn't it? John Locke and people like him have just made it a hundred times harder for all of us. To borrow from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, we ought to tar and feather the creeps and run them out of town on a rail.
To read more about what people were saying about John Locke before he got caught:
LA Times article questioning the value of Locke's achievements back in 2011
Novel Publicity's interview with John Locke, so you can read his personal blah-blah-blah
To read more about what people are saying now that Locke and his review company have been exposed:
Porter Anderson excoriates Locke, with lots of backup material
NY Times crucifies the jerk who ran the phony review business
To read someone else's ideas on writing a bestseller, because John Locke isn't the only person who has talked about this (I know you're surprised):
A review of Hit Lit by James Hall (I haven't read it, can't endorse it, but it's out there)
What do you think? If you have ideas for solutions to problems like this, I'd love to hear about it. This is one of the things that concerns me about the loss of book stores and the glut of self-published writing on Amazon. Consumers have to work so much harder to find good books. Will they eventually stop trying?
Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.