Sock Puppets: No Strings Attached

by  
Keira Michelle Telford

In 1873, a British puppeteer called John Carpenter
created the largest sock puppet the world had ever seen. It measured 18.7
inches long, and required both hands to operate. It was … oh, wait. I think I
might’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick with this guest post … o.O
Let’s try again …
Sockpuppet [sok-puhp-it]
An online identity used for the purposes of deception.
Part One of the Silver Series
In this case, we’re talking about authors who pose as
unbiased third parties to post glowing reviews of their own work. In the UK, we
might call that ‘bigging themselves up’. What I learned recently, is that there
are also sub-categories of sock puppetry.
A Strawman Sockpuppet, for example, would be an author
posing as someone else for the express purpose of attacking negative reviewers.
There are also Meatpuppets, who have been recruited by the original Sockpuppet
to support the false claims that have already been made by the Sockpuppet
against others.
I never knew this. I never knew that sock puppetry had
become so endemic in the indie publishing world. But then, I’m still fairly new
to this. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me to fake a different identity in
order to promote myself on forums, or to post glowing reviews of my own work. I
mean, it’s fraud. Isn’t it? We’re talking about authors making false
representations of themselves and conning readers into buying their work.
That’s no different than a shop owner deliberately misrepresenting a product in
their store just to get a sale.
Part Two of the Silver Series
It’s a dodgy business. If you sell a five-star rated
product that fails to live up to the hype, your buyers are going to feel ripped
off. In terms of the book market, the author’s name will be on a permanent
blacklist for that reader, and the reader will undoubtedly share their negative
experience with others. Given that, why would any self-respecting author want
to risk it? Here’s my take on it all:
We’re all stuck in a never-ending auditions round of
Indies’ Got Talent. And in every talent show, there are the contestants who
insist on embarrassing themselves on stage. You know the ones. They’re the
contestants you pity when they walk on stage dressed in clothing that’s meant
to be ‘sexy’ and proceed to wail a Britney Spears song off-key while attempting
to shake their booty at the audience. They’re desperate, and they’re trying to
get noticed.
Part Three of the Silver Series
Unfortunately, they’re getting noticed for all the
wrong reasons. Perhaps even more unfortunately, they don’t seem to care. I
guess, for the Sockpuppets, it’s all about sales. The fake reviews keep
bringing in downloads, so they’ve got no reason to stop. At least, not in the
short term. I do question what their long-term plans are, though. By the time
their current titles have run their course, their brand (their name) will be
trashed.
So I’m left wondering: what’s the point? As someone
who’s had a book out since last November, and only has a grand total of 5
reviews on the .com site, I know how hard it is to come by the panty-dropping
five-star reviews that all indie authors are drooling over. It sucks to have a
book sitting on a (virtual) shelf with no reviews for months on end. People are
buying it, but nobody’s vouching for it. It’s hellishly frustrating, and I can
see how very tempting it could be to take a short cut. But…

I’d rather sell to ten readers and have them keep
coming back to read the other books in my series, than sell to a hundred
readers who will dump my book in the virtual trash can and never read anything
else with my name attached to it. In other words, I’m hoping to build a
long-term readership. I want people to trust me, so that they know exactly what
they’re getting when they choose to download one of my books.
Coming Soon!
Put quite simply: I’d rather spend the effort to make
my work worth five-stars, rather than to make five-stars for my work.