An award-winning, Richard & Judy-promoted author slagging off another successful author’s work using a pseudonym is despicable.
RJ Ellory will no doubt come to regret his posts as Jelly Bean and Nicodemus Jones on Amazon UK and US, attacking Mark Billingham’s novels. Billingham says he “doesn’t give a shit” if people hate his work—quite right too—but he describes these assaults on his reputation as “cowardly”.
Quite an authorial Twitterstorm is brewing today, all thanks to the investigative work of another author, Jeremy Duns (@jeremyduns). Duns has tweeted, “it takes a special sort of shit to go onto Amazon UK and write a 1-star review of another writer’s work under a fake identity”.
I agree completely. I suspect, however, that special does not equate to rare and that there are sadly likely to be a modest but not tiny number of unscrupulous authors penning anonymous bile against their perceived competitors even as I type this.
The nature of some authors, red in ink and claw, is dishonest and cruel. We are a diverse tribe, after all—but hopefully this, only the latest exposure in a series, will disincentivise some writers from behaving unethically if reason and a sense of fair play have to date been absent from their minds.
Be positive in your self-promotions, generous and kind in your reviews, open and honest. Good readers want to follow authors they can respect for their professionalism and personal decency.
I’m still waiting for a response to a private and courteous email I sent to another Amazon author, asking him to remove a claimed USP (unique selling point) from his new book’s description, given that it’s my USP dating back to a book I launched in February. His is not the first book about chickens to offer interaction with the author via a website and social networks—mine was, and by definition of having been the first, always will be.
I’ve rightly made much use of this ‘first-ever’ status in marketing Chickens As Pets and all I’ve asked for is a tweak to his description, so as not to mislead readers into thinking his book is the first to offer something when it isn’t. I’ve wished him him every success and don’t see our books as competing, his being an ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ guide while mine is more a friendly, gentle one-to-one especially suited to those new to keeping chickens or toying with the idea.
There’s been no response yet—three days later—and his book’s description on Amazon remains unchanged. I’m hopeful he will respond soon, though, and that the issue is resolved but it does make me more aware, along with the Ellory scandal, of the brave new publishing era’s potential to encourage everything from poor research and bad writing to more conflict, ineptitude and desperation in the quest to differentiate ourselves from others and to get noticed.
Simple mistakes and acrimonious spats are sure to become common everyday occurrences as the market for books gets more aggressive, prices drop, competition becomes more intense within genres and professionals sell alongside amateurs with egotists on both sides of the writing line.
We live and write in fretful but interesting times. I have no idea what awaits me when WOOF!, my first novel, comes out next week. Perhaps nothing at all—nobody interested, no-one liking, move along, nothing worth reading—or maybe I’ll be running from one shitstorm to the next, or something wonderful will happen I can’t predict (but I can dream). All any author can do I guess is to be honest and work as hard as you can on providing readers with work you’re proud to bring to market.
That’s my approach anyway.