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I am sure all that will be said about RJ Ellory’s shocking admission recently has been said.

For those who may not know, Mr Ellory admitted to giving his own book 5 star reviews and rubbishing the works of rival writers with 1 star on Amazon

My post today is not a rehash of the anger and shock that many in the world of literature have aired on both conventional and social media in recent days but rather, to give advice on how Amazon and other online stores with review functionality, can salvage and ensure authenticity of reviews in the future

And it’s not that difficult. Here are some opening gambits of mine:

Reviewer Authenticity
In my opinion, posting a review is a privilege, not a right. It is a public act of potential influence and can have ramifications for the career of the author and the business of the publisher, agent etc. There’s an argument for online anonymity which on balance I believe lets us express opinions which may cause hardship to ourselves in the real world but in the case of online reviews of literary fiction, Amazon and it’s ilk should ensure the same personal authentication as it does when purchasing goods online

Fake IDs
I write under a pen name, Martin J Frankson but I make no secret of my real name, Marjorie Fudge, sorry Patrick Martin. There should be a means of allowing people to use fake names only if they are hyperlinked to an online directory which gives their real name. If I dislike a novel and feel strongly enough to post a negative review, I like to think there wouldn’t be a knock on my door at 3am the following morning by burley gentlemen in masks. If I am posting a diatribe on a political forum against terrorists who live in my area (which my family has been victim) then yes, I will use a moniker for my own safety. For a works of fiction which is within the realm of gentle folk, I see no reason to hide my identity.

Ethics
Most, if not all professions have codes of ethics. I believe there should be a code of best practice drawn up for writers which defines what should and should not be allowed in relation to online behaviour.

Perhaps published authors should not be allowed to review anyone’s work as it can be argued that’s it’s a conflict of commercial interest.

Post a good review for a writer in the same publisher stable, one stands open to gilding the lily. Posting a bad review of a rival, well its obvious.

Reviews are really for the readership, by the readership and only the readership.

Personally, this does not diminish RJ Ellory’s standing as a writer in my eyes but unfortunately it diminishes him as person.

If he is genuinely sorry about it however, then in my opinion, let’s move on from it.

At the very least, this has brought the issue of authenticity of online reviews into the fray of public debate.

As for me, I only review books I like and feel evangelical about but as for Amazon, I don’t think I’ll bother until they start tightening their ship’s loose timbers.

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