“These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended online, and the health of this exciting new ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers,” the authors, who included Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Val McDermid, Susan Hill and Helen FitzGerald, wrote. “But some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large.... We unreservedly condemn this behaviour, and commit never to use such tactics.” They added, “The only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process.... Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving, can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance.”
Ellory is just the latest subject in a string of review scandals to hit the literary world. Two years ago, historian and writer Orlando Figes was similarly accused of vaunting his own books and skewering rivals’ works on Amazon. More recently, another bestselling thriller writer, Stephen Leather, has admitted to using pseudonyms online, even holding online conversations with himself, to build excitement about his novels. And hardly a week has passed since The New York Times ran “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy,” which told the tale of literary entrepreneur Todd Rutherford, who raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars selling fake reviews through his business, GettingBookReviews.com, which we blogged on last week.