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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Sock Puppets - WTF!

Sock Puppets

What the heck are sock puppets, right? Well, have you ever run across an article or other document online that was obvious self-promotion? Oh, the ‘writer’ might have had a different name, but the intent was obvious, as was the bias. Those people who pose as an objective third person to promote their own sites and products are called ‘sock puppets’. They are obvious mouthpieces that serve only to promote their own interests. There are three types of sock puppets out there.

1.      The Gusher – These people will say stuff like ‘it is perfect’, the ‘best I’ve ever seen/read/used’, and ‘I’ll never use anything else’. Obvious promotion in this one. These people don’t even bother to hide the obsequious tone in their voice. The only thing that’s hidden here is the author’s true name.

2.      The Researcher – These people pretend to have done their homework. They’ll say things like ‘after extensive research’ or ‘after trying many similar products’ or ‘after comparing the quality’. Don’t be fooled by a good vocabulary and a fancy turn of phrase. They no more did research than the man in the moon.

3.      The Journalist – Objectivity is the cause of the day with this type. They will give seemingly objective and unbiased comments that are anything but. They will say things like, ‘despite the price’, or ‘though there were some flaws, overall the product was excellent’. They never point out any real flaws and always end up endorsing the product above all others.

It is not hard to spot a sock puppet. Watch the way they endorse the products, the language used, and the overly enthusiastic approach. While self-promotion is not taboo, there are much better and more transparent ways of going about it. Honestly, how good can the product be if you have to pretend to be someone else to endorse it?

Elizabeth’s Bio:
Liz just a simple lady tries to convey some of what it is like to date online through dating websites. For any further information on online dating you can email her at: liznelson17 “@ “gmail.com.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

When reviews count for nothing.

An article by Cindy McDonald


When Louise emailed me the topic of discussion for this blog as “sock puppets” I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about! 

Sock puppets? Sock puppets? 

Did she mean the puppets that my kindergarten teacher used to make out of her husband’s old worn-out tube socks to help her tell the class a nap-time story? I was most fond of Shari Lewis’ little sock, Lamb Chop—she was an adorable sock puppet—her little curly ears and long lashes and cutesy little lamb voice. Hmmm…somehow I was having a difficult time believing that the sock puppets from my childhood were what Ms. Wise was referring to…and with a little digging, a little Googling, I soon discovered that I was right. Nope, Louise was not interested in a blog about Lamb Chop—maybe some other time.

Please note: This lamb is a stand-in.
The original Lamb Chop isn't available for promo shots. 

Hokay, call me naive or uninformed but I didn’t realize that authors creating anonymous profiles on such sites as amazon and goodreads to write glowing reviews about their book was a problem. However as I read the forums, it soon became apparent that I was uninformed…naïve. 

But is it really a problem? 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Do “Sock Puppets” Have No Shame?

An article by MK McClintock

Apparently I’m further behind in the lingo that I had originally thought, because when someone first mentioned sock puppets to me, I immediately thought about the silly diversion that adults use for kids when nothing else seems to work. I couldn’t have been further off from what the person had meant, so I did a little checking around online for the term (as used in the writing world) and came across these definitions in the online Urban Dictionary:

1. Sock Puppet
An account made on an internet message board, by a person who already has an account, for the purpose of posting more-or-less anonymously.

2. Sock Puppet
1: A fake personality, usually a 'friend' or 'sister,' created by a drama queen/king for the sake of defending him/herself against others in an online forum.

These definitions may lack eloquence, but both are straight to the point. The influx of books on the market, especially those by self-published authors have made it difficult for readers to weed out the genuinely good books from the bad. Readers go online to read reviews in order to help determine if they’d like to read a book. They’re thrilled to see a book with only five-star ratings and with a click, they buy it. They wait anxiously as it loads onto their eReader or arrives in the mail. Two chapters in and they’re wondering if they purchased the right book. One third of the way through and they’re thinking they wasted their money. Halfway through they’re angry because they feel deceived . . . and if they make it further than that, they’re probably going to go online and write a scathing one-star review telling the world how much they disliked the book and how they can’t believe they wasted good money and how everyone who gave it five-stars was lying. Sound familiar?

This is a concern which has arisen often lately and from what I’ve observed, it ends up leading to disgraceful communications between authors and readers. It brings out the worst in the online community and etiquette is thrown out the window in order for the respective parties to defend their ratings.

So, what should be a place for readers to read genuinely honest and fair reviews, has become a place where deceit makes book-buying a walking-on-eggshells experience. Readers don’t want to get stuck with a rotten book – so who are they supposed to trust?

Luckily, not everyone is a so-called “sock puppet” and honest reviews can be found, but unfortunately readers may have to dig a little. I have my own little rule of thumb for reviews. First, I bypass the five star reviews and head straight for the one-stars and work my way up. Unfortunately this can take a little time and mine is precious, so I only do this for books that truly interest me. If a book has only four and five star reviews, I read these carefully to determine if the reviews are written by legitimate readers (one can often tell my looking at that reviewers other reviews). Another good rule of thumb – I never purchase a book where the author has gone online to comment on every mediocre or poor review they receive.

So what  do you do when you’ve been duped by a “sock puppet”? Should you take that as your cue to write one of those one-star reviews defaming the book in every possible way? I believe there’s a fair and civilized way to go about it. If a reader is determined to make a point, why not try first to contact the author directly and mention that you feel these “sock puppet” reviews have been posted and before you write your own review revealing it, would the author like the chance to remove those reviews?

This is where you should screech to a halt! What if the reviews are genuine? How can a reader be certain? Ouch – this one is tough. Gut instinct? Super brain powers? It’s a tough call, but many readers make it every day.

So readers, there’s a civilized way to leave a comment, good or bad, and it doesn’t hurt to be professional online, no matter how personal the comment is.

Authors – This doesn’t mean you should never comment on a review, but other than to say “Thank You” to a kind blogger who read and posted a genuine review for you, it’s best to leave the comments to the readers. If you want to review your own book, let the readers know what you’re doing and identify yourself. It will go a long way with trust.

“Sock Puppets” – You’re out there, but readers are catching on and they’re watching for you. Your next book could be the one they don’t buy.

It’s not worth it.

McClintock is an entrepreneur, baker, photographer, tour host, reviewer, and multi-genre author. She was born on the west coast, but after less than eight years she left with her family to the Rocky Mountains. After more adventures around the country, business college, and culinary school, McClintock found a place to call home in Montana.
Over the years McClintock traveled the country and visited magnificent Scotland. She dreams of a time when life was simpler, the land rougher, and the journey more rewarding. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, McClintock will always call Montana home.

Gallagher’s Pride Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/4VE6VFSf1LA

Friday, 22 June 2012

Forum boards, reviews and badly behaving authors …

Becca C Smith

It’s funny because I didn’t even know about sock puppeting until I started reading some of the Amazon Forums and literally in the title of the board it said “NO SELF-PROMOTION.” I had no intention of self-promoting; in fact, I find it awkward to self-promote. I know I’m supposed to, but I’ve never been the kind of person to say, “hey, read my book! It’s awesome.” 

When I went through the boards, I realized how many writers have absolutely no problem telling the world how amazing they are. Even if they are using fake names, it’s so obvious that it’s the author or at least one of their friends. It’s usually when they go into loglines and details that give it away. 

The really great puppeteers recommend a bunch of other books first, then later after they’ve developed a rapport with the board members pitch their book. At that point, at least they had the courtesy to connect with the other contributors to the board.

But when an author or one of their advocates blatantly spams the boards with their book advertisements, that’s when I understand why someone would add “NO SELF-PROMOTION,” to the title. It completely took away from the discussion that people were trying to have. It’s disruptive and forced and actually makes me not want to read their book. Do people really think that just randomly going on to message boards and recommending their own book will actually bring in sales? Does it? I can’t imagine that it does. If anything, it would turn people off.

The other kind of sock puppeting that I find hard to stomach is when authors respond to bad reviews.  Either they respond as themselves or as “an angry fan.” It always sounds sad and pathetic. If I had any advice to authors it’s simply: Never respond to a bad review. Yes, bad reviews are hard to read, but they are actually a good thing. 

I had a bad review that ended up being great for sales. The reviewer said how much they hated my book Riser because it felt like reading a cross between Twilight and Percy Jackson. To that particular person that was a bad thing, to me, it was exactly what I was going for when I wrote the book so it was a great compliment to me. And it was very helpful to potential buyers. They would know that if they hated both those books they’d probably dislike mine, but to the people who loved those books chances are they’d really enjoy my book.

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life. 

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Welcome to the dark side of chick lit...

Being a misanthropist is Valerie Anthrope’s defence.

She is a cut-throat business woman and happy being alone. She answers to no-one. She has no time for romantic trivialities, and definitely no time for Ellen who nominates herself as her fairy godmother.
But what of Ellen’s playboy nephew? The one who Ellen coerces into buying insurance from Valerie’s brokerage? The one who is full of himself and smitten with Valerie’s cool demeanour. His cocky know-it-all manner, posse of female admirers and playboy reputation are more than enough to put Valerie off – or is it enough to keep her interested? After all, being in a relationship with a playboy means there’s no burden of commitment.

Or is there?

The Fall of the Misanthrope is available for Kindle NOW

Chapter One 
The Fall of the Misanthrope
I bitch, therefore I am

Thursday, 14 June 2012

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO YOU ~ 7 steps to awaken to your heart, become a Heart Conscious Woman and love your life!

A shout out to all women who feel depressed, stuck, lonely, stressed, anxious, unfulfilled and
disillusioned in life. Make the choice to be free from all that holds you back from your happiness. You can thrive. You just have to want to.

UK Author, Marie Alesbury is delighted to announce the release of her new book -  “A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO YOU ~ 7 steps to awaken to your heart, become a Heart Conscious Woman and love your life!”
Available at Amazon worldwide now:

A Beginner's Guide to You details the life-transforming 7 step process that gently guides and supports women in freeing themselves from feeling depressed, stuck, unfulfilled, disillusioned and unworthy of love so that they may finally realize their true essence and the shining and sparkly potential of their future.

Alarmingly, in the UK alone, 30% of women are treated for a mental health problem (Better or Worse: A longitudinal study of the mental health of adults in Great Britain, National Statistics, 2003). Depression is much more common in women than in men with 1 in 4 women requiring treatment for depression and anxiety compared to 1 in 10 men. Sadly, the statistics speak for themselves.

The information, skills, strategies and exercises detailed in the book are a result of more than 10 years of research, expertise and personal experience. Marie explains that her inspiring book "shares all the knowledge and skills that are just too valuable to keep to myself. Women will gain a true and fresh perspective on who they truly are and who they really are not! This book offers them their stepping stone back to their heart and guides them along a path of well-deserved self-nurturing to restore peace in their heart and love in their life".

For some of her twenties, Marie Alesbury's life was ruled by feelings of depression, unworthiness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and panic attacks. However, hitting rock bottom at 31 was the most important pivotal moment of her life. She had a choice to sink or swim and she chose to live her life instead of being a victim of it. She now lives a beautiful and blessed life in the middle of the Ellisfield countryside with her husband, Rob, daughter, Evie and their doggy, Noodle.

Marie Alesbury left her job as a Senior Therapeutic Radiographer in the NHS once Evie came along to concentrate on her family. Her heartfelt intention and mission is to help other women who find themselves in the same predicament she was in her twenties. She trained to be a Reiki practitioner in 2005 and found that the majority of her clients all seemed to be dealing with similar issues. She now wishes to reach out to a wider audience and touch the hearts of as many people as possible. 

Marie prides herself on her ability to have transformed a life full of heart ache and adversity into a magical and joyful one. Now all she wants is for others to know what she knows so that they can love their life too.

You can visit Marie Alesbury on her website, Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Sock Puppets: No Strings Attached

Keira Michelle Telford

In 1873, a British puppeteer called John Carpenter created the largest sock puppet the world had ever seen. It measured 18.7 inches long, and required both hands to operate. It was ... oh, wait. I think I might’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick with this guest post ... o.O

Let’s try again ...

Sockpuppet [sok-puhp-it]
An online identity used for the purposes of deception.

Part One of the Silver Series
In this case, we’re talking about authors who pose as unbiased third parties to post glowing reviews of their own work. In the UK, we might call that ‘bigging themselves up’. What I learned recently, is that there are also sub-categories of sock puppetry.

A Strawman Sockpuppet, for example, would be an author posing as someone else for the express purpose of attacking negative reviewers. There are also Meatpuppets, who have been recruited by the original Sockpuppet to support the false claims that have already been made by the Sockpuppet against others.

I never knew this. I never knew that sock puppetry had become so endemic in the indie publishing world. But then, I’m still fairly new to this. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me to fake a different identity in order to promote myself on forums, or to post glowing reviews of my own work. I mean, it’s fraud. Isn’t it? We’re talking about authors making false representations of themselves and conning readers into buying their work. That’s no different than a shop owner deliberately misrepresenting a product in their store just to get a sale.
Part Two of the Silver Series

It’s a dodgy business. If you sell a five-star rated product that fails to live up to the hype, your buyers are going to feel ripped off. In terms of the book market, the author’s name will be on a permanent blacklist for that reader, and the reader will undoubtedly share their negative experience with others. Given that, why would any self-respecting author want to risk it? Here’s my take on it all:

We’re all stuck in a never-ending auditions round of Indies’ Got Talent. And in every talent show, there are the contestants who insist on embarrassing themselves on stage. You know the ones. They’re the contestants you pity when they walk on stage dressed in clothing that’s meant to be ‘sexy’ and proceed to wail a Britney Spears song off-key while attempting to shake their booty at the audience. They’re desperate, and they’re trying to get noticed.

Part Three of the Silver Series
Unfortunately, they’re getting noticed for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps even more unfortunately, they don’t seem to care. I guess, for the Sockpuppets, it’s all about sales. The fake reviews keep bringing in downloads, so they’ve got no reason to stop. At least, not in the short term. I do question what their long-term plans are, though. By the time their current titles have run their course, their brand (their name) will be trashed.

So I’m left wondering: what’s the point? As someone who’s had a book out since last November, and only has a grand total of 5 reviews on the .com site, I know how hard it is to come by the panty-dropping five-star reviews that all indie authors are drooling over. It sucks to have a book sitting on a (virtual) shelf with no reviews for months on end. People are buying it, but nobody’s vouching for it. It’s hellishly frustrating, and I can see how very tempting it could be to take a short cut. But...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Reader reviews or high profile reviews from ‘professional critics,’ which do you prefer?

How do you feel about ‘Sock Puppet Reviews?’
article by Deidre Havrelock

Of course, I’ve dreamed about getting those coveted high profile reviews like the ones found in The New York Times. What writer doesn’t dream about a glowing report filled with fancy adjectives, telling us our book was “nothing short of spectacular,” “a monument to literary genius,” “spellbinding and flawless,” “compulsively readable,”  “jaw-droppingly brazen.” A great review from a professional critic is marketing gold and an ego booster. But a bad review…eeek! (Let’s not go there.)

But really, when it comes to reviews what matters most to me are the ordinary readers—readers who know and like my particular genre. And I think most authors would agree. After all, if a romance reader doesn’t get my sci-fi dystopian adventure, then really who cares? I can’t go around worrying that I’ve missed a potential market. Make sci-fi readers happy and they’ll tell more sci-fi readers about the great book. (Throw a little romance in, though, and you might make everyone happy.) Ultimately, I think most readers know what they like and they know when a book works. So even if I receive a review (of my creepy spiritual journeySaving Mary) that goes, “Gr8t to red…liked it lots!” I go to bed with a smile on my face because what I really hear is, “Mesmerizing journey …unequivocally fabulous.”

As far as ‘sock puppets’ go, I first had to take a few moments to figure out what the heck the term meant. I mean, apparently a sock puppet is no longer a quirky character made from your brother’s white sport sock. It’s an insidious little thing, a mask of mis-representation that authors place on Amazon in order to stimulate sales. It’s a desperate act of a starving author (or a quirky one, I’m not sure).

When I was first invited to write this post regarding reviews and sock puppets (after I figured out what a sock puppet was) I thought I was being asked to write my own sock-puppet review for Amazon. 

My initial response was, “I can’t do that!” (It’s soooo wrong!) But as I poured through the bloggers and writers discussing the term and its definition, I realized that some people considered even a review by your mother as hideously unscrupulous—“Well, of course your mother is going to praise your book…sock puppet!!” 

Personally, I don’t care if your mother writes a review for your book on Amazon—she has a right to. And I certainly don’t care if your best friend since grade two writes you a glowing review, praising your literary genius. I also couldn't care less if the guy you gave a kidney to last summer decides to post a spectacular assessment of your work on Amazon. They all have the right to do that…and, eventually, as authors gain more readers (and reviewers) everything will work out (and readers will see that Mom really was right).

However, I have to vehemently oppose the devious act of authors giving their own reviews. Authors CANNOT give their own reviews…reviews MUST come from other people who aren’t socks! Such as mine … A SOCK PUPPET REVIEW

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

You're never too old to write. Meet Reginald Gray with his latest book:

The gunman turned to the injured bus driver, pointed the gun, and pulled the trigger for the third time. 

A murder during a robbery on a double-deck bus on the outskirts of an English rural town leaves the local police baffled as to motive. Further related deaths makes the apprehension of the killer a top priority for Detective Inspector Harty but the lack of clues makes this a difficult case to solve.

Any doubt that the robbers would actually use their guns dissolved at that moment and the young man promptly sat down again. The shot had brought screams from most of the women, and looks of horror and disbelief from all the passengers on the lower deck. Handbags and wallets were quickly opened to reveal their contents to the second gunman who grabbed anything worthwhile and stuffed it into his pockets. The bus driver tried to take advantage of the distraction and made a move for the buttons to close the doors and so make it difficult for the bandits to leave the bus. A second shot from the gunman beside him hit him in the hand before he could reach the buttons causing him excruciating pain.

The gunman demanded that the driver hand over his takings plus everything in his pockets. The second man continued to relieve the passengers of everything they had.

After a few moments the two robbers from the upper deck ran down the stairs and out of the exit door. They rapidly made their way to a car parked a short distance in front of the bus. One of them opened the nearside passenger and rear doors then jumped in to the rear seat slamming the door behind him and opening slightly the offside door. The other man opened the driver's door, leaned in and turned a key already in the ignition and started the engine. He then joined the man in the rear seat leaving the driver's door open. The robber on the lower deck of the bus, who had been taking the passengers valuables, threw the last of the handbags on to the floor of the bus, ran to the car, climbed into the driving seat and started to rev the engine, ready to go.

The gunman who had already shot twice turned to the injured bus driver, pointed the gun at the startled man's head and pulled the trigger for the third time. The driver slumped forward on to the steering wheel where he stayed motionless. The gunman turned, ran down the steps and to the front passenger seat of the waiting car. As the passenger door slammed shut the driver put the engine into gear and the car quickly disappeared from sight down the side streets.

Born 1930 in East Outer London, and happily married for over 60 years. Reginald is now in his 80s, but not ready to be written off yet! He has a background in management accounting, company budgets and computer management/programming, and took early retirement in 1992.

He has always enjoyed reading, and in his retirement he enjoys writing  and welcomes this opportunity to share his stories far and wide in the hope they give the same enjoyment to everyone who reads them.

Death on Route 37 is also available for Kindle at: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Wanna win a prize?

This is a one day only BOOK PUSH for June 6th 2012. Yup, four authors DETERMINED to bring their books to the world AND to see them climb high in Amazon’s Ranks.  We have a Zombie-ish apocalypse with a splash of romance, a romantic suspense with a dash of humour, a Thriller with a huge helping of action and a Ya Paranormal with a mystery blended in.

 Something for everyone!

And you, my friends, can help. How? Easy peasy. Not only can you help, you can WIN BIG while you’re at it.
Here’s the run down. Purchase any ONE (1) of the books, and send your receipt to us and you’ll be entered in for a grand prize of $50.00 in Amazon Gift Cards! PLUS if you purchase all FOUR (4) books, not only will you have 4 entries, you’ll also be in for an additional SECRET DRAW.

Now, we can’t tell you what the draw is, because that would ruin the whole SECRET thing. But we will give you a hint. IT’S FABULOUS!

Okay, you want another hint? Hmm. How about DOUBLING THE GIFT CARDS?! Oh, right. Secret’s out.

What are you waiting for?
More stuff?
Well, if you insist.

 Four randomly drawn entrants will win back their purchases. FREE BOOKS. Crickey!

Send all purchase receipts to shannonjmayer@yahoo.ca Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on June 8th at http://shannonmayer.blogspot.com

For additional information regarding this contest contact shannonjmayer@yahoo.ca

Friday, 1 June 2012

Are you a puppeteer? AKA Sock Puppet.

They walk among us.

Not the actual socks with stick-on eyes we made as kids (usually Dad’s old socks with a hole) but in REAL HUMAN FORM. Otherwise known as:

 Frustrated Authors.

They make up a fictitious name and an Amazon account, give themselves five-stars and write “OMG!! Fantastic book. Just could not put it down. Can’t wait for the next book/movie.”

Because of these frustrated writers, five-star reviews have become suspicious, and readers are no longer impressed. And who can blame them?

People read reviews to make a judgement to see if they want to buy, and if they do buy and enjoy your book, probably you have got away with it. But what if they hated it? It’s possible. As many people hate Twilight as they love Bella and her fanged friends. And do you know what readers do? They feel cheated. They head back to write their own review and some even CHECK THE PREVIOUS REVIEWER’S CREDENTIALS. If the five-star reviewers have no history you can bet these readers will assume you have written the appraisal yourself.

You might even be talked about in the forums so much so that your review is replied to with destructive results. They might even tag your book with “sock puppet”, “ fictitious review”, “do not buy”.

I’ve seen it happen.

But who are these Frustrated Authors?

They are usually first-timers impatient for success, and they are fixated on NOW. They aren’t looking to the future and seeing the problems they are heaping onto themselves and other writers. They don’t understand that it isn’t the first book that brings in the readers it’s the second, or in some cases, the third. Of course, having a book that is typo-free with an excellent story helps sales.

As an indie writer myself I know how hard it is to get seen when there are so many other books out there. The trick is to build an Author Platform BEFORE you publish. It isn’t too late if you have published already, but build NOW. That means connecting with PEOPLE.

LISTEN to what they have to say, interact. Google book reviewers/bloggers and ask them if you can gift them a copy of your book. Don’t expect an excellent review in exchange; a good review is the icing and a light fluffy sponge. A bad review is a rather stale cake (better than nothing). And if you get a bad review DON’T respond negatively.

It’s a slow process. The cogs turn verrry slowly in Writer Land, and if you try to speed up the progression, you’re going to get trapped in the spokes.

Article by Louise Wise