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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.




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