So, this weekend we learned that out in Book Land exist these people– aka opportunists, aka “human vultures” — who will gladly make a buck selling good reviews of e-books even though they haven’t really read them. We learned that they can make fat bank in the process, which means we also learned that they are rolling around in the fatty grease of a robust client base. Lots of authors have plainly paid for a glowing review, which casts the entire review system (which is already of dubious value in terms of their effectiveness with readers) into a big question-mark-shaped hole. And we can all be sure that, deserved or no, this is going to reflect more prominently on self-published authors above all others, right?
(For the record, I have never once paid for a review good or bad. I’ve paid for sex from a Czech hobo, I’ve paid to have various implements removed from various orifices, I’ve paid to have those who have left me bad reviews killed in the streets like the gutless curs that they are, but I have never once paid for a review. Thank you to those who have left reviews regardless of my not giving them a big bucket of money.)
Here’s the thing: this is scummy behavior. We know that. We can all see it. There’s no integrity there. No dignity or honor or any of those other words. (Okay, admittedly, my first response was, We can pay for good reviews?! and then I started whipping out my debit card, but cooler brain cells prevailed.) More I thought about it, more it got under my skin. I was suddenly mad at both the guy who sold these reviews and the many clients of this type of service (reportedly including schlocky self-pub uber-guru John Locke with his e-book HOW TO SELL A FRAJILLION E-BOOKS AND ALSO A SMALL PORTION OF YOUR SOUL).
And then I calmed down. Because, really, who gives a shit? Assholes are assholes. They’ll always be out there. I’m not saying you can’t do something. You tweet a little snark, you point people toward the hypocrisy (“Please everybody note the scumminess of this thing”), you maybe write a blog post or contact Amazon to see what they’re going to do about it. But what you also start to see are the torches and pitchforks coming out. You start to see people leaving bad reviews in response or otherwise piling on. This happens with lots of bad author behaviors — remember that Greek Seaman self-pub author? Her meltdown was easily eclipsed by the authors who came out of the woodwork to condemn her and run her out of Publishing Town on a rail. I’m not saying she didn’t bring that kind of response upon herself. She did.
But hey, remember LendInk? The piracy witch-hunt that turned out to be no such thing?
What I’m saying is, bad author behavior in response to bad author behavior is…
…wait for it, waaaaait for it…
…still bad author behavior.
Trust me. I’ve done it. I’m not proud. But I’ve been there with a rusty pitchfork in my hand, braying for some kind of Internet Justice to be poured upon the heads of the offenders like hot tarry pitch.
But what the hell good does that do?
Here is what I’m suggesting:
Let it go.
Dwell on it for a little bit. Talk about it and continue the conversation when it’s productive. But then put it in a drawer. Lock the drawer. And get back to work.
Because all this stuff serves as a distraction and doesn’t do much to change your fate for good or bad. Whether John Locke did or did not pay for reviews matters little to my actual life. It doesn’t change the reviews I’ve gotten (or not gotten). It doesn’t change what’s in the pages of my books. It doesn’t adjust my deadlines (“Oh, you’re forming a lynch mob against that guy who sold positive e-book reviews? Here, let me move your deadline back a week, soldier”). I’m not saying we don’t have a right to be incensed. Nor should we ignore problems when they affect us or otherwise poison things about our industry.
But we should be careful not to respond to bad voodoo with more bad voodoo. Just because we see another child on the playground acting like a little ass we don’t get to do the same.
Because then the terrorists win. Or something.