Award-winning crime novelist R.J. Ellory apologized to fans and critics for writing positive Amazon reviews of his own books—and slamming those of rivals—after he was exposed by a fellow crime author.
Jeremy Duns, the British author of the Paul Dark spy novels, went to Twitter on Aug. 31 and informed his followers in a multi-tweet rant that Ellory had created false online identities to praise his own novels on Amazon while writing scathing reviews for other authors.
The practice of creating false identities to comment on your own work is more commonly known as sock-puppeting, and according to Duns, Ellory is not the only one to do it; he also exposed author Matt Lynn last month in a similarly-styled Twitter rant with links to reviews and comments as proof.
Duns alleged that Ellory used the pseudonyms “Jelly Bean” and “Nicodemus Jones” to boost hype on his own books as early as 2009. As evidence, he offered a series of reviews from these two pseudonyms, which have since been deleted from Amazon.
Duns posted multiple Amazon forum thread comments from May 2010 that seemed to show Nicodemus Jones was actually Ellory.
“And throughout that thread. ‘Nicodemus’ signs himself Roger, and openly identifies himself as Ellory. He gives details of his books that only an author could,” Duns wrote in two successive tweets.
Duns further explained that Nicodemus Jones revealed things that only an author would know, such as information on audio books, translators and photos about to go on Facebook and even made a “shameless plug” for an award for which he had been nominated.
“Praising yourself is pathetic. Attacking other writers like this? I have no time for it, and have no time for anyone who defends it,” Duns tweeted, although he clarified that the exposure was not meant as a personal attack.
The Crime Writers Association has condemned Ellory’s practices as “unfair to authors and also the readers.” They plan to set up a code of ethics.
Ellory has since admitted to creating fake accounts on Amazon.
“The recent reviews–both positive and negative–that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone,” he said in a statement to the Daily Telegraph. “I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgment that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to apologise to my readers and the writing community.”
This is not the first time that an author has faced scrutiny for Amazon reviews. Bestselling chick-lit author Emily Giffin and her husband received backlash after a Facebook post from Giffin encouraged her fans to berate a negative reviewer on Amazon.
Photo via R.J. Ellory/Twitter