The so-called “Sock Puppet” scandal has exposed the one of the biggest threats to the legitimacy of e-publishing — the temptation to create fake user profiles in order to post positive reviews for your own book… or to pay others to do it for you.
According to Paid Content, the problem is much bigger than you might think. It’s not just a handful of unscrupulous vampire erotica publishers who are hopping on the fraud train — even successful authors like Stephen Leather have admitted to creating “sock puppet” accounts to review their own books.
While the UK thriller author defends his actions, claiming that he was just adopting a pen name. “It was just a way of talking to readers,” Leather explains. However, he reportedly used his sock puppet account to not only bolster his own sales, but to post fake 1-star reviews on a rival authors book… pretty sleazy.
Leather is by no means the only notable author who’s been outed; he just wan’t smart enough to keep his bad behavior on the down-low. In fact, some of ePub’s biggest success stories like John Locke have been implicated in the paid-for-reviews scandal.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo each have a set of guidelines that prohibit these type of shenanigans, but can the truly prevent fake reviews? Or paid reviews?
I don’t see how e-book sellers like Amazon can stamp out the problem entirely. More than likely, Amazon and B&N will need to have to start handing out bigger penalties for those found guilty of sock puppeteering.