Luke Coulter may have just experienced the most devastating book launch in history. Certainly in Reddit history.
Coulter, a 20-year-old self-published author, made the big mistake of imploring Reddit to purchase his first book -- or at least give it fake five star reviews.
In a 12-panel photographic comic, Coulter claimed that he had been kicked out of his house by his father because he had refused to attend church. He had fallen into a a “fucking desperate” situation, working at a minimum wage job that only barely paid rent.
Would redditors help him out by buying the ebook on Amazon? Or just give the book a fivestar review? Or maybe just give the post him an upvote?
The initial response from Reddit was overwhelmingly supportive. Those early votes propelled the post to the front page, where it began attracting far greater scrutiny from far more people.
Soon, redditors began questioning the ethicality of it all: What right did Coulter have to ask for fake five fake star reviews?
Now Redditors began flooding the thread with hundreds of comments denouncing Coulter for trying to game Amazon and scam Reddit. Some posted excerpts from the book, which they lambasted, and others left excoriating one-star reviews of his book on Amazon (over 70 in total). Some scoured his Twitter feed and Youtube channel to find evidence of a scam.
At least one redditor sent Coulter a death threat (which Coulter provided to the Daily Dot in the form of a screen shot).
Many were convinced that Coulter had made up the whole story -- his father never kicked him out, they claimed.
But Coulter’s father, Tim Coulter, confirmed his son’s story to the Daily Dot. He did ask his son to leave the family house, he said, not just because his son refused to go to church but also because “he stayed home and used the Internet all day.”
Regardless, he said his son is a “good kid” and a “good writer.”
But what about that request for fake reviews, which incensed even the most level-headed commenters on Reddit?
“Asking for the fake five star reviews was a bit of a joke,” Coulter wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “But it was crossing a line and I shouldn't have done it”
Coulter said he “had no idea” the post was going to get so much attention. He just wanted some more book sales, he said. And if he had known the post would become that popular, he “would have been a lot more careful.”
But was the overwhelmingly negative response from Reddit justified?
“Downvotes, a removal of the thread, reporting it to Amazon, and giving it fake bad reviews were all fine ways of expressing their disapproval of my unethical and regrettable request,” Coulter wrote.
But death threats crossed a line, he said.