My Reddit Experiment and the Troll Who Ended It

In case you’re not one of my usual readers, I recently self-published a book and I’m looking for ways to promote my work and spread the word. A couple of friends suggested I check out and put up a few posts there to try and garner more interest. I’d never used reddit before, but I had heard stories such as the guy who got a screenwriting gig from reddit, so I thought it could be worth a try. After all, my book is a solely electronic experience and reddit is easily one of the largest online communities out there.

So I gave it a shot, starting out with an AMA (Ask Me Anything) detailing my recent life.

Looks so innocent, doesn’t it?

It was a fun experiment, but ultimately a failure from a book promotion standpoint as people were far more interested in picking the brain of a former nuclear missile officer than they were in talking about anything I’d written. Still, my blog got 25% of its page views for the year… in one day. So I figured I should give it another try.

My next time around, I decided to post specifically about the book. I posted an announcement in the zombie forum, put my book cover in their pics section, and asked a question in the writing sub-reddit. This is where my troll was lurking.

I asked if my self-published book looked professionally done or if there were any aspects that screamed, “Amateur!” and the answers started trickling in. I won’t give you a link to this post, and (hopefully) you can’t find it, because I’ve since deleted it.

Allow me to explain why.

One commenter praised my blurb, saying it seemed to keep in tone with the book. Another said the cover looked professional, but the fact that I have only five-star reviews on amazon made him suspicious. This latter point is what the troll jumped on. She/he immediately threw out accusations that I’d written all the reviews myself, even going so far as to create multiple reddit accounts to have a conversation with myself online. The troll then submitted their own accusations to the “worst of” reddit under the title “User schannepj submits own post to r/bestof, uses same shell account [“Brian”] to post fake amazon reviews of his book and sell it on r/writing.” Luckily, a moderator quashed this flagrant lie of a post.

In the light of recent sock puppetry scandals, I’d like to take a moment to address my glowing amazon reviews. INFECTED has only been out for two weeks, hardly enough time for the independent reviewers and bloggers I’ve contacted to have a chance to weigh in. As of right now, most of the reviews are written by friends, but of their own volition. I never asked anyone to post five-star reviews. And I certainly never wrote any reviews for myself.

Even after I explained this, the troll did not relent. One of the friends who suggested the reddit campaign even tried coming to my aid:

I’ll self-identify as one of the author’s friends, and FWIW, I’ll vouch that Brian is a very real perosn(SIC) and a very ardent promoter of James’ work. James debuted his book to our group by passing an iPad around a circle with a bottle of Jamison(SIC) in the middle. It’s no surprise that the participants of that drinking game wrote several of the rave reviews you see the very next day.

I’m gritting my teeth and trying to be polite here because, even though you insulted my friend, there are some truthful observations in your comment–even if you misinterpreted the information. You seem concerned with preserving the credibility of self-publishing. What would you have a fledgling author do? Ask his friends NOT to help?

The troll stopped claiming sock puppetry, but did not apologize. Instead, she/he shrugged it off with an, “[It’s] all the same to me because it has the same end result: game the system.”

Okay, so let’s drop the whole troll issue for a moment and discuss the core issue here: Is it wrong for friends to post online reviews without some sort of “I know the author” caveat upfront? Should I have said, “If you know me, please don’t review my book”? I don’t think so, I think I should tell everyone I meet to review the book, but I’d certainly love to hear some other opinions. These are only my *first* reviews and I hope to see many more from people I don’t know, like this one on Goodreads. It’s an interesting scandal-filled world out there, where reviews are of the utmost importance, and self-published authors will do anything to succeed.

I know my integrity’s intact, and I stand by my product. I’ll just be staying off reddit for a while. But the troll did bring up a good point, albeit in a roundabout and vindictive way: I need more reviews.

So… calling all reviewers–anyone care to give me an honest read?

14 thoughts on “My Reddit Experiment and the Troll Who Ended It

  1. Reddit is a pain in the butt. They seem to be a whole lot of people who don’t want you to post anything but funny pictures. If you don’t post the way they want you to you get reported and then they stop allowing you to post. It is strange. The point of reddit was to post thing you read. I did that. I posted a bunch of humor blogs and other great article from the net. I got blocked.

  2. Hmm, if I recall, however, doesn’t the Times sometimes ask authors to do reviews of other author’s work? And interviews? For that matter, anytime an author blurbs for another author (which is, let’s face it, ALL THE TIME, and oftentimes they are close friends) isn’t that the same thing?

    It’s blurbs, sometimes blurbs are from friends (Stephen King is friends with many authors, and doesn’t put that ahead in his blurb) and sometimes from fellow professionals who share the same agent or editor, so I think your troll got all worked up over nothing… And the comment section is for ALL Amazon users, there is no disclosure called for (caveat emperor)… that’s my take.

  3. I’m convinced that the majority of people who actually take the time to comment on posts on reddit, other than funny one-liners or quips, are sad, lonely individuals who bash other people on the internet to make themselves feel better. I honestly wouldn’t take what the person said to heart. It’s quite obvious to me that your friends would be the first to jump at the chance to a) read your book and b) post a positive review if they liked it. I only went through it once but it was well-written, funny, and a great idea for an a new take on adult reading. Three cheers from PA!

  4. It’s my opinion that family and friends can often be your worst critics. They will often times not take you seriously because you are “just their little brother.” I hope you don’t let this discourage you. I have always been a fan of your writing even when its not my preferred genre.

    • There’s ups and downs, but mainly it was cathartic just to get this post out there. And I think there’s still something to be learned from it.

      Remember when you asked why I was up at 3am last night? This was why.

  5. Yes, if course your friends should be able to review your work and honestly post their thoughts on Amazon (or some other comparable website). I don’t see any reason for them to have to disclose that they are your friend. If it’s an honest review, the connection between the author and the reviewer is really irrelevant.

    For me, one review (bad or good) is not enough to sway me. If I see that a book has had only great reviews, but only 20 people reviewed it, then I’m apt to think that maybe all the reviews have been from friends or family. Even in that case, it won’t offend me. I think a good buyer will take that into consideration when deciding whether to read the book or not.

    I’ve read some awful books in my time. I may have been swayed to pick up the book because of the great reviews, but if it did not live up to my expectations, that is solely my doing. Choosing books is a risk; that’s one of the great things about them. (Sorry for my long winded reply, but I hate trolls, so this post really spoke to me).

  6. Now you got me curious if the Brian you talk about is my brother. I remember reading choose your own ending books growing up with him all the time. I have been wanting to get your book, but don’t have a Kindle. I do have the app for my iPhone though. It’s so hard to effectively navigate the web today. Its unbelievable to see how rapidly it grows and changes. Its scary how democratic it is.

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