Bestselling, award-winning crime author R.J. Ellory has been caught faking Amazon reviews for both his own books and the books of his competitors.
Ellory was caught writing the fake Amazon reviews by fellow author Jeremy Duns, according to ABC News. Such an act is dubbed "sock-puppeting," or writing anonymous online reviews praising one's own work.
"Ellory writes 5-star reviews of his own work on Amazon. Long, purple tributes to his own magnificent genius," Duns tweeted. "RJ Ellory also writes shoddy, sh----y sniping reviews of others authors' work on Amazon, under an assumed identity."
Adding, "Prasing [sic] yourself is pathetic. Attacking other writers like this? I have no time for it, and have no time for anyone who defends it."
Ellory posted one of the fake Amazon reviews under the pseudonym "Nicodemus Jones," writing: "I don't need to really say anything about the plot of this book. All I will say is that there are paragraphs and chapters that just stopped me dead in my tracks. Some of it was chilling, some of it raced along, some of it was poetic and langorous and had to be read twice and three times to really appreciate the depth of the prose...it really is a magnificent book. Ignore all dissentors and naysayers, this book is not trying to be anything other than a great story, brilliantly told. Just buy it, read it, and make up your own mind. Whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul."
"Nicodemus Jones" also wrote a negative review about Stuart MacBride's "Dark Blood." It was in this review that Duns caught onto Ellory's fraudulent reviews. He noticed that one particular Nicodemus Jones thread had postings by user "RJ Ellory," according to the Guardian.
Ellory issued a statement to the Guardian, offering his apologies for sock-puppeting.
"The recent reviews – both positive and negative – that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone. I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgment that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to [apologize] to my readers and the writing community."
Ellory, who won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award in 2010 for "A Simple Act of Violence," is not the only author guilty of writing fake reviews.
Orlando Figes, a leading historian, admitted to writing anonymous Amazon reviews celebrating his own work and condemning the work of his competitors in 2010, according the BBC. He was sued by two historians and ordered to pay damages.
One of the United Kingdom's most successful thriller writers, Stephen Leather, also admitted to sock-puppeting and claimed the practice is commonplace.
“I’ll go on to several forums … and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters," Leather disclosed at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, according to the Telelgraph. "You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself … I have friends who are sockpuppets … One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right."
John Locke, a successful self-publisher and author of "How I Sold One Million E-Books In Five Months," admitted to buying five-star reviews to boost his Amazon visibility, The New York Times reports.
The Telegraph's Jake Kerridge questioned if the Ellory scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Already other publishing practices are coming under scrutiny. Do too many crime writers provide quotes for the jackets of their friends’ books?" he asked, adding, "Most of the crime writers I know are genial, friendly souls (Ellory has long been regarded by many in the community as atypically self-aggrandising and chippy), so perhaps not. But since Amazon is unlikely to discontinue its practice of allowing pseudonymous reviews, the industry needs to get to work on regaining readers’ trust."
Authors have already publicly condemned Ellory for abusing online anonymity by "misusing these channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large." Notable authors who have signed the petition against sock-puppeting include Karin Slaughter, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo and Val McDermid.