Authors’ phoney book reviews threaten publishing, says Rankin

Sep 4, 2012

Ian Rankin and Lee Child among authors vowing never to write fake reviews of their own work

FAKE book reviews posted on Amazon and other websites by “fraudulent” authors seeking to boost their own reputations threaten the health of the online books trade, according to a group of 49 writers, including Ian Rankin and Lee Child.

As books are increasingly purchased and recommended online, “the health of this ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers,” says the authors in a joint letter to The Daily Telegraph. “Some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are damaging to publishing at large.”

The letter follows the revelation that the British crime writer R.J. Ellory used pseudonyms to pen glowing online reviews about his work.

Ellory’s extensive reviewing habits came to light when he was forced to issue a statement apologising for his behaviour. In one typically immodest review, he had enthused: "RJ Ellory is one of the most talented authors of today. His ability to craft the English language is breath-taking.”

He also used pseudonyms to dish out damning reviews to his rivals. Last month he gave Scottish rival Stuart MacBride one star for his book Dark Blood and wrote: "This is the second of [his] books I have read, and, to tell you the truth, I can't be bothered anymore."

MacBride is one of the 49 writers whose letter has been published by the Telegraph. The signatories commit never to use such fraudulent tactics themselves, and urge readers to “take possession” of the reviewing process.

“Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving, can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhand tactics will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance.”

Meanwhile, the 47-year-old Birmingham-based Ellory has “gone to ground” under a deluge of criticism, according to the Telegraph, and the Crime Writers Association (CWA), on whose board he once served, has launched a review into his conduct.

Sign up for our daily newsletter