Controversial opinion time – sock puppets

Who doesn’t read Joe Konrath’s blog? If I ever need a dose of authorly indignation, he delivers every time. I do love him for that. So much righteous fury, as if he’s the lone warrior with a sword made of words standing in front of every indie author in the world, fighting the good fight against the evil of traditional publishing.

For various reasons, I am very much on his side there. I don’t say it in real life, but nothing short of a multi-million dollar advance and some blunt force trauma to the head would make me sign on with a New York publisher.

Anyway.

His latest rant on a code of ethics for authors made me fume. In case you’ve been out of the loop of publishing, there’s this thing where authors use fake accounts to post glowing reviews of their work and trash other authors. It’s called sockpuppetry, for obvious reasons, and the feeling running around the place seems to be that it’s NASTY and BAD and people who do it need to be burned at the stake. There’s this site called No Sock Puppets Here Please where they’re asking authors to sign a pledge that they’ll never do it, pinkie swear and all.

I’m not signing this crap, whether as myself or as Shay Kassa, because it’s (a) insulting and (b) stupid.

For the record, I haven’t reviewed the books listed under my own name using the Shay Kassa name, because that would be a terrible idea and could get me outed. There’s a big wall called ‘holy-shit-people-might-find-out-I-write-porn’ between the two, and it shall remain forever more. I’ve reviewed my Shay Kassa stories on Goodreads as Shay Kassa, because I find the idea of an author reviewing their own work and not giving it five stars hilarious. (I haven’t trashed any other authors, unless you count bad book reviews on Goodreads.)

But even if I wasn’t worried about my pen name and real name being connected, I am a moral person, by and large. I don’t need to be told that misleading readers about my books and attacking other people is an ethically dubious thing. This pledge is essentially that: it’s insulting my sense of honor by suggesting that I need to sign a declaration in order to act honorably. No, I don’t buy the crap that it’s important for authors who are on the fence about it to see that it’s wrong by weight of numbers. I don’t do group morality.

Authors can justify it any way they want but it’s being an asshole by extension, and if they didn’t learn that that kind of behavior is wrong when they were young, then there are bigger problems around than fake reviews.

Now – it’s also stupid.

Think about it for a minute. The vast majority know it’s not on the level. Those who won’t do it don’t need a declaration. As for the others – what the hell is stopping them from signing the pledge, then doing it anyway and rationalizing it after the fact? If they’re found out, they’ll face a backlash that likely won’t be affected by them having signed the pledge. It’s pointless.

I guess this kinda hits close to home because Shay Kassa could be considered a sock puppet account. It’s me, but not me at the same time. I don’t consider this a sock puppet, though, because I’ve been careful to keep that aforementioned wall in place at all times.

The reviews are a problem, though. I like to leave reviews of books on Goodreads because I’m a reader as well as a writer. I’m not supposed to do this, according to the Shadowy Author Marketing Grand High Council(TM), because a good review implies favoritism and a bad review implies that I’m trashing a competitor to get ahead. I’ve yet to figure out how exactly that works – it’s not like a bad review on one book is going to catapult sales in someone else’s direction – but there you have it.

To all this I say: to hell with it, I do what I want.

//shay

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