This move has been provoked, at least in part, by revelations that prominent UK thriller writer R.J. “Roger” Ellory has--under pseudonyms--contributed some deliberately deceptive book reviews to Amazon. He is not the only author to have engaged in such deceptions, nor perhaps the most prolific; but his actions seem finally to have focused public attention on these sorts of abuses.
Here is the updated version of the CWA’s statement:
The Crime Writers’ Association has been supporting crime writers and championing the genre for nearly 60 years now. We are very proud of this record and of our Dagger awards, which are judged with the highest standards of integrity.Meanwhile, dozens of crime writers and critics from around the world--including Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Andrew Taylor, and Laura Wilson--have come together to condemn the abuse of online review fakery and call for its end. Their message, which you can read here, has apparently already been delivered in letter form to Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. It condemns sock puppetry and commits the signatories to “never to use such tactics.” Other authors, readers, agents, and reviewers are invited to add their names to the letter here.
Like others in publishing, we became aware recently of the practice of authors assuming fake identities on blogs, Twitter or Amazon to promote their own work, and in some cases, allegedly give bad reviews to that of other writers.
The CWA feels this practice is unfair to authors and also to the readers who are so supportive of the crime genre. It does not fit with our ethos of supporting all published crime authors and promoting the crime genre. At present we don’t know how widespread the practice is. However we will be taking steps to set up a membership code of ethics, and considering if other steps may be necessary from us as an authors’ organisation.
The CWA has been trying to plot a course of action in an unprecedented situation regarding false and sometimes malicious reviews posted on Amazon. As a constitutional organisation we have to follow our own rules and procedures. We are under a lot of pressure to make knee-jerk decisions and we don’t feel this would be right as a membership organisation without a full investigation of the facts.
However, we are fully aware of the situation and keen to find a course that helps preserve the integrity of crime writing, and the traditional supportiveness of the genre. One of our members, R.J. Ellory, has made a public statement admitting he is one of those to have done this, he has formally apologized to the two authors about whom he wrote a negative review, and has offered to resign. The CWA intends to consult with the Society of Authors and to look at each situation on an individual basis. The only information available to date has been that reported on Twitter and in the newspapers, and we will be investigating this whole issue more broadly.
We’re happy to answer any queries over our position on the matter so do get in touch.
(Hat tip to It’s a Crime! [... or a Mystery])
READ MORE: “The Furor Over ‘Sock Puppet’ Amazon Book Reviews,” by Carolyn Kellogg (Los Angeles Times); “Real Blame for Fake Reviews: Amazon, et al.,” by Seeley James; “Sock Puppetry and Fake Reviews: Publish and Be Damned,” by Alison Flood (The Guardian); “What Does the Sock-puppet Scandal Mean for Online Reviewing?” by Claire Armitstead (The Guardian).