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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

When reviews count for nothing.


An article by Cindy McDonald


Confession: 


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…na├»ve. 


But is it really a problem? 


Yes, I understand that it is rather unethical and even dishonest, but really who are they hurting? Are they really boosting their sales with such trickery? Are the readers who take-out the time to read reviews fooled so easily? I think not.

As a matter of fact I’ve read comments in the forums from readers who claim that they are actually turned-off by authors whose book have nothing but five/four star ratings, accompanied by countless rave reviews. In fact those readers find these books…suspicious. Many even claim to “steer clear” of such authors/books.

These authors are actually hurting themselves, or not. Consider this: Are they taking down authors who are earning honest-to-goodness five stars and positive reviews? It’s looking that way.

Sad…don’t you think? C’mon, how many writers out there sit down at their computer and announce: I’m going to take months and months (possibly years) to write a novel that will earn me two star ratings, and poor reviews. Nonsense! We are pouring our heart and souls into our stories striving for those five stars and glorious reviews only to be looked at with arched brows of suspicion, as the question tumbles from the potential reader’s lips…is this author a sock puppet? Yikes!



What’s an author to do? Truth-be-told, there’s not much that we can do. We must hope that our colleagues come to their senses and patiently wait for those stars and reviews to blow their way—like the rest of us. But while you’re waiting for that to happen, you’d better pray that you don’t fall victim to a different kind of sock puppet lurking in cyber space. This sock puppet is ugly and stinky and nasty. This sock puppet mirrors the missing sock from the dryer that lands up alongside the road in a filthy puddle, and it doesn’t give five stars or thrilling reviews. Oh no, this yucky sock wants to undermine the author’s credibility making them look foolish, and their work undesirable and undeserving of any reader’s consideration. They torment an author and are cruel beyond belief.

Case-in-point: I was out to lunch last fall with a dear friend. As we sat in a quaint restaurant, we were discussing the latest books that we had been reading. My friend said that she had purchased a book from Amazon off a very bad group of reviews. She went on to say that the reviews were brutal to the point of claiming that the author should never attempt to write anything ever again. Wow! That’s just plain vicious! My eyes popped, and I asked my friend what she thought of said book. She loved it. She thought the writer was delightful and the story was most engaging. She couldn’t understand why the reviewers would write such awful things about the book or the author. I immediately encouraged my friend to write a positive review, and she assured me that she would.

At the time I was flabbergasted by the situation, but I had no idea that the sock puppets were out there, nor how serious the situation actually is. Many authors are targeted for such abuse—who knows why. My understanding (from the forums) is that Amazon is not very compliant to the removal of derogatory reviews, so if you fall victim to a stinky sock puppet’s remarks—you’re stuck with it, and you must hope that the readers, like my friend, will be forgiving and purchase your work to judge it for themselves. However, I did read that Goodreads does take this problem seriously and is trying to find ways to eliminate these pitiful puppets—both types.

I’m afraid that I am ruined for life. I will never look at a sock puppet in quite the same light—sorry Lamb Chop. The next time one of the kids yells from their bedroom “Hey I’m missing one of my socks from the wash!” The hair on the nape of my neck will stand on end, my spine will stiffen, and I will pray to the review Gods that I have not just unleashed a dirty little puppet into the world.

This brings me to my questions: How much leverage do you give reviews? Do you require good reviews and high star ratings to consider a book? Could you identify a sock puppet whether it is an obnoxious author looking for praise, or a dirty little snipe trying to undermine an author’s career?

Cindy McDonald
Author of The Unbridled Series
www.cindymcwriter.com

Hot CoCo
The Unbridled Series


That’s right, Coco Beardmore is sizzling hot and she’s landed in Mike West’s lap. Problem is Coco’s middle name is chaos! Her driving skills are a real bang-into Mike’s horse trailer. Her sultry seduction will set the room on fire-the kitchen that is.

But what’s worse is her mischievous Thoroughbreds ability to mimic their owner’s habit of screwing things up. It’s enough to send a normally calm and collected Mike West to the very edge.

But Mike’s not the only one having problems with women, his father Eric has bitten off more that he can chew, and he’s about to get spit out by two women: One that he’s in love with, and one that thinks he’s in love with her. Oh yeah, things are hot around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm… and someone’s about to get burned!


About Cindy McDonald

For the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband, raise, train, and race thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables.

During those years Cindy has paid close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the track. She found the situations and life style intriguing. In 2005 she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life that few understand.

Cindy has recently retired from making her living as a professional choreographer and owned and operated a dance school since 1985. She studied at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon University to name a few. She has choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.

Cindy’s Unbridled telescripts has received recommends from three film industry readers and has been a semi-finalist in the Scriptapalooza Contest, and finalist in the Extreme Screenwriting Contest, and now will become a book series. The first telescript to become a book is Deadly.Com which is available NOW on Amazon.com and Kindle as well!
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