Posted By Stephen England on June 20, 2012
During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.—George Orwell
There is nothing easy about telling the truth. Nothing fun. Our nature shrinks from confrontation, from honesty. In our culture, where popularity seems to be the ultimate prize, nothing is more unpopular than taking a stand.
I’ve been independently published since December of 2009. My foray into e-publishing began last summer with the launch of Pandora’s Grave. It’s been quite a year. There are a lot of good, honorable authors in the independent community, and I’m proud to call them my friends.
Sadly, this last year has also been an eye-opening experience in the lengths that some will go to make a dollar. I’ve seen authors set up shill accounts to review their own books and relentlessly swap reviews with each other, apparently without any regard for their own integrity.
It is understandable why many authors are hesitant to speak out regarding these practices. Anyone who can muster a flurry of 5-star sockpuppets to review their own books can just as easily use those accounts to bury your book in negative reviews if you dare expose them. That’s a fear I can relate to, yet it does not explain what follows.
When frauds are exposed by readers, people with nothing to lose from telling the truth—authors often not only fail to support their endeavor, they rise up to defend the frauds, no matter how strong the evidence. Why? How are we helped by this exercise in group think—this herd mentality?
Yet, when readers judge all indies by the standard of those we have defended. . .we complain violently that it’s “unfair”, and that they should be able to tell the difference between the good and the bad! The irony is appalling, the dishonesty epidemic. You can’t have this both ways—until authors stop drinking the “indies unite” kool-aid, it’s a bit much to expect readers to tell us apart.
A couple months ago, I was alerted to a group of reviewers congregating in the Badly Behaving Authors thread on Amazon’s discussion forums—a place I had long ago forsaken due to. . .well, “badly behaving authors”. Judging by the description I was given of these reviewers, they were bloodthirsty vigilantes conducting a witch hunt against independent authors. Painted fifty shades darker than Lucifer himself, I really expected to smell brimstone from the moment of log-in.
So, I lurked. And watched. Vigilantes? Considering that their modus operandi is to collect evidence and present it to Amazon, that label is grossly inappropriate. Witch hunt? Take a deep breath and look hard at the evidence. Or better yet—try to make claims on that thread without presenting evidence and watch how fast you get shouted down. It’s not a witch hunt. Are they cynical? Yeah, I’d say they are, just a tad bit—and with good reason. Watching people try to game the system tends to do that—can you blame them? they’re not “anti-author”, they’re simply “pro-reader”. And if you’re not “pro-reader”, then I’d like to ask you one simple question. . .what you think you’re doing writing a book?
It’s time to stop pretending that every indie author is a saint. Time to stop forming a shield wall around the very people giving the community a bad reputation. And it’s well past time to stop pretending that the people giving of their time to expose the problem are the enemy.
And yet, even as I write this, I know there will be many who will not stop, many who will continue to decry the “witch hunt”, as they see it.
I ask myself once again “Why?” and this time I fear I know the answer. In the words of the apostle, “And men loved darkness rather than light. Because their deeds were evil.”
It’s time to take a stand for the integrity of our industry, or rather what’s left of it.
Regards, The Rogue Writer