Book Club



Sockpuppets? Seriously?

In literature, a sockpuppet is when an author creates a false, online personality and uses it to write glowing reviews of his work, or unfavourable reviews of his competitors’ books.  As an author, I find this practice loathsome and repulsive.  As a reader, I’m (as my kids would say) totally grossed out.

Writers have a reputation for being charming eccentrics or fascinating tortured souls.  Fair enough – there’s lots of examples of both kicking around.  But never have we described as liars, cheats and scoundrels … until this sockpuppet nonsense started to creep up.  I won’t say this practice is widespread – thankfully the majority of authors were taught the difference between right and wrong – but it has happened often enough to give the profession a black eye.  Check out this article from The Guardian.

Even John Grisham bought 1,000 copies of his first book “A Time to Kill” in 1989, and gave them away.  Yet, he considers his mistake to be giving away books that are now worth $4,000.  The fact that he falsely inflated his original sales figures doesn’t seem to bother him at all.  Lawyers.

Are we really so desperate to sell a few books that we’re willing to jeopardize our integrity?  Geez, I hope not.  The publishing industry is struggling enough as it is without authors muddying the waters.

Here’s my advice to writers looking to become best-selling authors:  study the craft, work hard and produce a well-written book.  Readers are clever people.  If you’re good at what you do, they’ll find you and give you genuine praise.

My advice to readers:  disregard online book reviews.  An author has about 500 words to hook you (free sample downloads are available for ebooks).  So scan the first couple of pages of a book and decide for yourself whether you like what you’re reading.

Enough of the sockpuppetry.  Let’s raise the bar of our profession a little higher.

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

Read More »
Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

Read More »
Valerie Francis

The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket. The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in

Read More »