That’s not what socks are for…

I’ve been out and about a lot of late, doing exciting secret stuff like going to Tesco to buy the first Brussels sprouts of autumn. So I was late to the whole sockpuppet debacle when it broke on Friday night.

Obviously, it’s disturbing to think that the internet is rife with rampant socks, bigging up their puppeteer’s own books while heaping scorn and one-star derision on other authors, but I like to think that what we’re seeing at the moment isn’t the tip of some massive malevolent iceberg, but just a few isolated cases. And I hope, very much, not to be disabused of that. For years those of us in the crime-writing community have banged on about how lovely and supportive we all are of each other, so of course what’s happened looks like a vast betrayal of trust. What’s worse is that it’s not just the targeted authors who suffer from these kinds of practices, but – and probably more importantly – the readers do too.

The whole point of a good review – and by good, I mean well thought out, not necessarily positive – is to help people make an informed decision about whether they’re going to give a book a chance or not. Sockpuppetry undermines that.

Let’s face it, I’m no stranger to one-star reviews on Amazon. As anyone who’s been to see me at an author event knows, I’ve got a habit of reading out the really vitriolic ones, because they’re the ones that have tipped over the edge of constructive criticism into bug-eating insanity, and sometimes bug-eating insanity can be very, very funny. Unintentionally, of course. And do you know what? I’m a big boy now – I have my own beard and everything – a one-star review isn’t going to send me rushing to the bottom of a bottle regardless of whether it comes from a genuine reader, a troll, or even an item of hosiery with a hand inside it.

Yes, what’s happened has been disappointing and a lot of people have been very angry on my and Mark’s behalf, but RJ Ellory has apologised for his actions and as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to accept that apology and draw a line under the whole affair. It’s time to move on.

There’s an open letter doing the rounds at the moment condemning the practice of making socks do unethical things and a lot of very good writers are signatories to that. I’m on there too, because I think it’s a dangerous practice to get into. Not only will you get hairy palms, you’re also betraying the people who write, publish, sell, and read books. Plus, it’s very, very naughty. Don’t do it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stick some googly eyes on a couple of Argyll socks and go give those jars of Marmite for sale on Amazon some really nasty one-star reviews…