If you’re a writer or an avid reader, perhaps you saw this recent article about author RJ Ellory creating positive fake reviews for his books as well as negative commentary for other authors in his genre. And maybe, like me, you were overcome with a gamut of emotions.
Self-righteous indignation: “What the hell?! How could he do that?”
Grudging admiration: “I would’ve never had the cajones to try something like that!”
Technological confusion: “How did he figure that scheme out?”
Bitter judgement: “What a jerk! I would never do that!”
And, with that last one, perhaps you also had a moment of shame when the little voice inside your head whispered, “Really? Are you sure about that?”
Those of us who have plunged headlong into this wild world of publishing understand how difficult it is to market our work. We love creating environments, characters, dialogue, and action. We want others to enjoy the people, places, and situations we’ve spent so much time crafting. We understand that in today’s publishing market, we as authors are responsible for a great deal of our own publicity, and so we research and diligently pursue avenues to get the word out about our work. It’s time consuming, sometimes confusing, and often frustrating. We may look at the success of other writers, either in our own genres or in others, and ask ourselves, “Why haven’t I achieved that same level of success? What am I doing wrong? Why can’t my book be a bestseller, too?” And these negative thoughts might lead us into darker territory, landscapes where we may begin to think that cheating–creating false reviews for our books on review sites, and perhaps even posting negative reviews for others out of spite or jealousy–is a good and justifiable option. We’ll increase our sales! We’ll attract more readers! We’ll help out our publishing company and thus aid the other authors in our stable! Soon enough, we’ve turned a shady practice into something admirable–at least in our own minds.
This post isn’t about judgement. Whatever RJ Ellory, and probably others, have done in the past is theirs to wrestle with. I believe in karma, so in my mind, the energy comes back around in some way, shape, or form, either in this world or the next. Hopefully, this author and any others who have gone down the same questionable path have learned whatever lessons they need to learn through these experiences.
Instead, I’d rather focus on integrity. I hear many authors talk about being honest in our writing. This usually means telling a story that truthfully reflects the characters and their experiences. But what could be more important as a human being than living in truth and integrity, which certainly means upholding those same ethical standards as authors? We are human beings, and we will make mistakes. This doesn’t mean, however, that we sacrifice integrity for sales or for good reviews.
For me, it’s easier not to get involved in what I call “the numbers game.” I diligently promote my work in many streams of social media, and I reach out to my readers and audience as much as time allows. I do read reviews of my work because I believe it makes me a better writer, and I try to see any negative comments as areas to improve. But I don’t check my statistics on the seller lists. I don’t have any idea how many copies of books I’ve sold until I receive my royalty statements. For me, this provides peace of mind and a more positive space to continue creating and developing my work. Some would argue that I’m living under a rock, trying to escape reality, or that I’m not using a resource that may help me to pinpoint how to make better sales. For me, however, seeing slow sales motivates me in the wrong way. I become depressed and question my talents. I prefer to continue working hard at both writing and marketing and perhaps someday be pleasantly surprised to see how successful my books have become.
Each writer is different, and we all must approach this publishing game in the ways that work best for us. I hope, though, that we can all remember to maintain our integrity. If you’re feeling alone or desperate, or if your book sales aren’t where you’d like them to be, do something positive for yourself. Reach out to a friend and talk about it. Read a positive review of your work that someone took the time to write. Work on another story that makes you feel excited and motivated. Promote yourself by being upbeat and happy. Remember that a positive attitude garners positive energy coming back to you.
May we all receive the blessing of success!!