Sunday, 13 June 2010

Carry On Up The Amazon

I read with despair in this month’s edition of The Oldie magazine that an author called Orlando Figes awarded himself a glowing online review of one of his books listed on Amazon, along with a five-star rating, whilst simultaneously slamming the books of his fellow writers.

It then turned out that hundreds of other authors were doing the same thing when an electrical breakdown at Amazon towers temporarily revealed the true identities of its book reviewers.  In order to boost their own profiles and sales, authors were systematically spouting negative bile about their fellow authors’ books whilst giving saintly recommendations to their own.

There is scandal afoot in the world of book writing!

What puzzles, nee slightly amuses, me is that Orlando Figes’s identity was revealed because he used the name “Orlando” in his publicly viewable online profile, and the reviews he submitted were for a number of books on history, including his own - which was the one that got the only good review.  If there was ever a time when putting two and two together made five, this is it.

It is disgraceful to think that respectable authors should behave in such a way.  As we say in England: it’s just not cricket.  Actually, we don’t say that, but one’s American readers always seem to get a kick out of the phrase and think English people say it anyway along with things like “Anyone for tennis?” and “Strike a light, Mary Poppins,” which we don’t say either.  But I digress.

Setting aside the scandalous nature of such behaviour from the writing community, this whole sorry affair does raise certain other issues: namely the apparent stupidity of the people doing it.  Like sheep, these authors seemed to follow a pattern of submitting terrible reviews to a large number of books of a similar subject except for one (their own) for which they made spectacular comments.

Electric Writer would like to suggest to his corrupt fellow writers a revised strategy for future reference.  Rather than solely reviewing books, it would be a much more intelligent idea to disguise your identity by reviewing other things as well, such as, say, toys and games.  This alone would suggest that you might be something other than an author, and knock any suspicious individuals or online investigators off the scent who would interpret your review for a Captain Pugwash doll as coming from your average every-day working mother with a newly-born infant.

Once you have built up a good collection of intelligently-written and impartial reviews - and this need not be limited to toys and games; gardening equipment, electrical items and facial care products would all have a role to play in one’s clever plan - you could then go in for the kill and ravage your rivals’ books to your heart’s content.  With so many eclectic reviews attached to your online profile, the book ones would just merge in with everything else and no-one would be any the wiser.

Oh, one last thing: get a friend to write glowing reviews of your own books, don’t do it yourself.  And don’t register at Amazon using your own name, whether it’s publicly viewable or not.  That’s really, really dumb!

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