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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Sock Puppets: No Strings Attached


by  
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...


I’d rather sell to ten readers and have them keep coming back to read the other books in my series, than sell to a hundred readers who will dump my book in the virtual trash can and never read anything else with my name attached to it. In other words, I’m hoping to build a long-term readership. I want people to trust me, so that they know exactly what they’re getting when they choose to download one of my books.

Coming Soon!
Put quite simply: I’d rather spend the effort to make my work worth five-stars, rather than to make five-stars for my work.








   





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