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the Dreams of the Damned

I write dark fiction and I'm something of a dreamer

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Fake Reviews: My Thoughts on the RJ Ellory Scandal

So fake reviews are the hot topic of the day after million selling crime writer RJ Ellory issued an apology for posting fake reviews on Amazon in an attempt to increase his sales.

Under an alias, Jelly Bean, Ellory not only described his book "A Quiet Belief In Angels" as a "modern masterpiece" but he also took the time to take out his competition and bastardise the work of other writers in a series of negative reviews.


As a writer published in the small presses, reviews in general and Amazon reviews in particular are essential for me in attracting new readers. Without the marketing budget of a major publisher behind me or any significant monies generated independently for marketing or mass distribution, I rely on word of mouth as the most effective way of getting people to buy my books.

I'm not naïve enough to believe that faking positive reviews or similar behaviour isn't commonplace amongst some authors but nonetheless I think posting fabricated reviews about your books and hammering the writing of others is thoroughly despicable.

This isn't entrepreneurial, or mischievous, this is fraudulently misleading people to part with their money to buy something from you.

What Ellory risks, and the subsequent furore his actions generate, is damage to the credibility of Amazon posted reviews – something that will hurt the small presses and the self published more than it will hurt larger publishers or million selling writers.

Every good review I have on both Amazon and similar sites such as Goodreads is the genuine opinion of someone who has read that book. I've earned those positive thoughts. But how do you know that? After the outing of RJ Ellory, why should you trust in the authenticity of any of these recommendations?

I don't want to be hypocritical here. Plenty of writers I respect manipulate the Amazon system. They network and review each others books or 'like' or 'tag' these books to help search engine results – but most people will chose not to post a review if they don't enjoy the book in the first place. Very few people would put their name and reputation to something they did not like. This is markedly different to glorifying your own work or assaulting someone else's.

Networking is massively important for writers as a way of both developing their writing skills and also getting word out there about their books. To think that an unscrupulous few are deliberately throwing people under buses to further themselves is sickening, but unfortunately the way of the world. What makes this worse is that RJ Ellory was once a board member of The Crime Writer's Association, an organisation that exists to support its members – not to attack them.

I'll be interested to see if Amazon reacts to the media storm regarding fake reviews. It's in their interests to get reviews on their site in the first place to help sales but if consumers lose faith in the process and vote with their wallets then Amazon would need to consider tightening up how the review system works. After all, it's much harder to buy a book under a fake identity on Amazon than it is to post a review of that same book because of the need for an authenticated online payment.

Having said that, should it be down to Amazon and such sites to have to police us?

RJ Ellory clearly isn't a bad writer. A few fake reviews don't get ten books published or over a million books sold. In 2010 he also won the Crime Novel of the Year award.

Two years later and he's headline news for a different reason, his reputation flushed down the crapper.

In short, as writers, we need to manage our own conduct. Fake reviews help none of us.


Find out more about Lee and his writing at www.leemather.org.uk

Or follow Lee on Twitter

"Bloody Parchment", featuring Lee's story, "Masks", is available now from Amazon.

"Fading Light", featuring Lee's story, "Wrath", is available now from Angelic Knight Press.

"First Kiss, Last Breath" is available from October 8th from Lyrical Press.

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Good review, Lee.

Your demeanor is very level-headed considering the nature of the post. I can't write about it or lose my cool. It takes a long time to pool several good replies from readers. Here is a writer giving another a true compliment; I read your story 'Wrath,' and it was disturbing. I'd even like to trade interviews in the near future. I'll send you an E-mail after I've finished moving next week.

thanks, Jake. I enjoyed Rurik's Frozen Bones too. I haven't finished the entire antho yet but I've enjoyed what I've read so far. Trading interviews would be good. Drop me a line when convenient.

This just baffles me. I am literally like - huh?? All I can think is a person who does this has a huge ego and low self esteem all at the same time, which makes for a dangerous combination and one that leads to bad choices. As an author I want to hear from readers on the real-deal - it can only make me think and improve as I move forward on the next book - right?

I totally read reviews before I buy a book. And I actually appreciate the mixed reviews I get at times as we are all different and our books speak in different ways to people. I just appreciate the fact readers take such time to write in depth reviews. The good mixed in with the bad - it means I affected someone. I love hearing how some LOVED this or that about my book and others are bothered by the same thing.

And this guy has it all wrong on bashing other authors. Our playing field is NOT competitive. We really are all in it together. I mean, heck, if someone is going to read "that" guys book over there then they may like mine too. It's not like we have a monopoly on the reader audience. We can align and prosper.


Nice to hear from you, Donna. It's a good point about learning from mixed reviews. Feedback on areas you might improve is often more valuable than receiving gushing praise

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