Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I've done enough ragging on major publishers and other old guard traditional establishment types in this blog so perhaps it's time to take a look at what's going on on the other side of the tracks, so to speak. Today it came to my attention via The New York Times and a great fist-to-the-face blog by my colleague Rob Kroese in his New Wave Authors (of which I'm a contributor) that self-publishing sensation John Locke paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to people who would provide him with 5-Star Amazon reviews. Mr. Locke who has literally written the book on the subject of selling books--e-books in particular--has conveniently kept his secret hidden for quite some time.
Until now that is.
One suspects that one of these "for hire" reviewers probably entered into some kind of blackmail scenario in which he would expose Locke, or else pay up. And perhaps Locke, having consulted with his lawyers, just decided to fess up about the whole mess. Or maybe this is just the conspiracy-minded novelist in me coming out.
Whatever the case, Locke's credibility is now about as worthless as Facebook stock. In turn, Amazon is left with an interesting dilemma on their hands. What to do with phony reviews and even more important, what to do with cheating authors who "game the system" looking to cash in on trickery and not talent.
Writing is a business that takes talent for certain, but it also takes a mammoth amount of blood, sweat, tears, and self-sacrifice. In my case, it has even taken tremendous sacrifice on the part of my ex-wives and children, who even today are sometime a bit melancholy about the price we've all paid for "Vince's fucking career." It has been a struggle, but also a wonderful journey which is only now bearing the fruits of countless hours of labor.
I still recall all those years ago when I would wake up at dawn in order to write before work. I recall writing school and two years full-time intensive study and writing. I recall penning my first big novel in the library and the family so broke we were living on loans and whatever I could make from freelance writing. I recall the happiness we felt when my first big, six-figure contract came through and the near back-breaking sadness we experienced when the publisher was swallowed up by another in a corporate merger leaving me no choice but to start all over again. From scratch.
It cost me more time, more tears, more sweat, and even a second marriage, but I was determined to be a success at an art that takes hard work on top of talent. Now when I hear of swindlers and cheats and gamers, I just want to shake my head, pull in the sails and guide my life away from theirs. The bell tolls for all of us writers when one person decides to cheat. Especially an indie who, until now, was so revered for his efforts.
I'm not sure what's going to happen with John Locke or anyone else who believes they can get ahead by cheating. Writing is a religion, an art, and a life passion, and it must be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity in this, the post-literate world. Anyone or anything that cheapens it should be discarded and forgotten about as quickly and expeditiously as possible.