Hi there. I am still suspended from Twitter. Thank you for all the very kind comments and questions about it. It seems my account was mistakenly marked as spam. Twitter reactivated it while I was asleep and 17 minutes later, while I was still asleep, it was suspended again for the same reason. So I guess there may be automated complaints about my account being spam. It may simply be a virus of some sort, and unrelated to Stephen Leather. I've seen a couple of people speculate it may be because I engaged with some Julian Assange supporters, and that somehow they have conspired to sabotage me in this way. I doubt that one, though: if so, half of Twitter would be suspended. Anyway, I am trying to sort it out.
I can still read Twitter, and there have
been a lot of very kind comments. I see a few people have referred to me as a tireless
campaigner against unethical practices and
that sort of thing. That's very kind, but actually I'm not: I am really
very tired of all this. And I'd much rather simply write books.
this is my profession, it affects me and readers and writers in general,
and I think it's silly to try to pretend that none of this crap is
happening – the culture and environment has significantly changed in the
last few years as a result of the internet, and I do think a lot of
these issues should be addressed. This morning I read this very
depressing article in the New York Times about paid book reviews on Amazon and
elsewhere. Head-spinning. But I wonder if it might not be an idea that discovered (or admitted!) fraud
disqualified authors from membership of writers' organizations. I also
think it's shocking that Amazon didn't even bother to comment on this
article, and I am guessing won't, and no doubt bestselling author John
Locke will simply shamelessly carry on and not apologize for deceiving
Something that annoys me whenever the subject of fake
reviews comes up is people saying they are never influenced by reviews,
or that they can tell fake ones very easily. Firstly, people are
clearly influenced by reviews, which is why John Locke paid huge sums of
money to buy them. A cheap ebook with a cool cover won't sell if there
are no reviews, as it's a white elephant. But if there are 50 of them,
it appears that the book is something being read and discussed by
others, and so a viable prospect. Locke also cleverly realized that a
lot of five-star reviews from unverified accounts would be seen through
by some, so specifically requested the reviews he paid for came from verified Amazon accounts and that he didn't mind if
a few were poor reviews. This clearly worked. I suspect if I did the
same, and bought a ton of reviews for my latest novel, it would help it
sell more copies. But I'm not going to do that, because, you know, it's fraudulent.
I have also recently heard from authors who were riding high on the Amazon Kindle charts only to find that, almost overnight, they received dozens of one-star reviews from accounts that had previously reviewed nothing, or perhaps an electrical appliance, and that this had an effect on their sales. They dropped out of the charts, where they were very visible, and their sales slumped even more. I have also heard from authors about private web forums and Facebook groups where authors, some of them extremely successful, hang out, and that they trade positive reviews and also post negative reviews to sabotage authors who they dislike or whose success they feel threatens theirs. I guess we're looking at the tip of the iceberg here.
Stephen Leather hasn't been as subtle as John Locke, but it's
clear that not all his reviews are legitimate. His new short story
(featuring me as his killer, I gather) already has 11 five-star reviews
on Amazon. Most of these appear to be from genuine, real people, many of
whom have reviewed a lot of other books by Leather. And that's fine, of
course. He has fans.
But it's also clear that some of his reviews are
from people in the 'network' he described at Harrogate. Jacob W Drake,
aka Whiskey McNaughton, recently publicly accused me and another writer of attempting to sabotage Leather's work on Smashwords with lower book ratings and 'troll tactics'. That's totally untrue, but it didn't take
long for it to come out that Drake reviews his own books (it's a separate issue that a book with that description is for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere, considering most of these sites have policies of not publishing pornography). But Drake has also publicly boasted that he has edited several of Stephen Leather's books, and he uploaded at least one to Smashwords for him. He has also given several
of Leather's books five-star reviews on Amazon. So I think it's clear
that Drake is part of the 'network' that Leather boasted he has. After both Leather and Locke's admissions that they
fraudulently deceive readers in this way, I find it very difficult to
trust them on other matters.
I don't have any solutions. And I don't
have the time to go into all this, either. And yes, it does sometimes feel
like this cartoon. But please don't say 'Oh, well I
have never heard of Stephen Leather, so who cares?' He's a bestselling author, has been since the 80s, is published by Hodder and Stoughton as well as Amazon Encore - but anyway this is not about the exact number of
copies he has sold compared to Agatha Christie (although he has outsold her worldwide in ebooks) or his precise level of fame. Please don't try to draw a
false equivalence between a writer who has admitted to fraud, bullies
people online with evil jokes and racist abuse, and boasts about paying
to manipulate his own Wikipedia entry, with concerned writers and readers who are trying to
point out that all that is shoddy and crap and wrong, should be accounted for properly, and
should stop. Please don't say this is all a car crash, or getting silly
now, or it takes two to tango, or aren't we equally to blame for talking about this while these frauds just carry on merrily deceving people. Especially if you are more famous than Leather. Get off the pot. Speak out:
share, retweet, blog.
Take a stand.