Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Fake Book Reviews: What We Can Learn

The phrase of the day is “Fake Book Reviews.” We’ve heard the horror stories about authors who discover people have left bad reviews because of grudges or out of a misplaced fear of competition. Fake book reviews can do lasting damage to book sales and worse to the psyche of the author who is the victim. But maybe we can take something positive away from the unpleasant reality of fake reviews.

You may be familiar with this recent story—debut author slams other debut authors with fake reviews on Goodreads.

She got caught and apologized, citing mental health issues as (in part) the cause of her behavior. You can read more here.

I have nothing but love for her—though her actions are reprehensible—because my name does not appear in the Eligible column when it comes to throwing stones. No, I have never written fake reviews, but I’ve made my share of mistakes, missteps, and miscellaneous. I know you are all shocked.

Authoring a book and then marketing can be a soul-numbing, confidence-busting, nerve-jangling enterprise. Even the best of us feels the pressure to be noticed, to succeed, to sell, sell, sell. Every author walks a line between despair and bravado and most of us manage to deal—some of us drink, but that goes with the writing territory and anyway I never drink more than I can see and it’s all in the reflexes…but enough about me.

Let me be clear—a mental health issue is in no way an excuse, but it is a reason. At some point, before she made the horrible decision to create fake accounts and write fake reviews—before she lost her way—there must have been a moment when someone could have intervened.

This author’s story highlights how much we all need friends—people who can see the signs and can steer us away from the edge—talk us down when we are about to do something monumentally stupid. Maybe no one could have done this for her, but I wonder if anyone tried. At least, I hope someone is there for her now.

She is responsible for her own behavior, and she has paid a price. Her book deal and her agent are gone along with her reputation. Maybe, for her, this is the rock bottom you hear about—the place you have to get to before you can begin to heal. I hope she can pick up the pieces and move on.

The thing to remember about writing is that, yes, we may be in competition for awards and book deals and stuff like that, but ultimately the fact that people buy your book does not keep them from buying mine. In fact, it’s entirely possible that readers’ love for your dystopian tale of dinosaur romance will complement their love for my epic retelling of Hamlet set in the Jurassic Age.

It’s the cooperation and collaboration among and between authors that make us something special. It’s our superpower when it comes to marketing.

And that’s where we find opportunities to gain experience and grow. It’s easy to tear someone down, but it’s even easier—and much more productive for all–to build someone up.

Here are a few ways we can do that:

  • A local group of authors in a nearby town regularly get together for book signings. Yes, it’s at a bar but there’s no reason we can’t mix business with…well, you know.
  • A group of writers in the same genre produces a collaborative weekly blog aimed at romance readers.
  • Many national and regional organizations offer writing retreats, online events including write-ins, and other support groups. I’m thinking Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, all the NanoWriMo groups, and many more.
  • Websites like StoryOrigin and BookFunnel provide collaborative opportunities such as newsletter swaps in which I host you in my newsletter and you host me in yours.
  • Even I do my little part by offering a spot on my site for free author promo for authors in specific genres.

We are so strong when we work together.

Bottom line: We are in this together and nobody gets out alive.

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