The other day, someone wrote a bad review of one of my books. Not the first time. Won't be the last. I saw it because I have a tweetdeck column devoted to searching for my name. Because I'm brand conscious, okay? Not because I'm vain and insecure! Jeez!
So, okay, this lady tweets the bad review of The Half-Life of Planets. No big deal.
But then the retweets start piling up. This seems to be a little bit odd for a review of a four-year-old book that's out of print. (but soon coming back as an ebook!)
As of this writing, a day and change after the original review was posted, the tweet with the link to the review has been retweeted forty-six times.
I'll bet this looks awesome on Twitter analytics. But here's the thing. I looked at the accounts retweeting the review. And they're all the same: indie authors tweeting nothing but hashtag-stuffed tweets with links.
Not one of the accounts that has retweeted Susan Helene Gottfried's review of The Half Life of Planets has a single interaction when you click on "Tweets and replies." Nobody's replying to their tweets, and they are not replying to anybody's tweets.
This, I suspect, is because the authors whose names are on these accounts are paying someone real money to "maintain their social media presence" or "build their brand" or "engage in effective book promotion" or some shit.
But here's the thing. All these accounts are so similar that they are clearly being maintained by the same entity. I haven't investigated all the followers, but I would not be at all surprised if these sock puppet accounts are all being followed only by other sock puppet accounts.
What this means for too-trusting indie authors is that they are giving someone their money to do absolutely nothing for them. So you've got an account you don't maintain that broadcasts your tweets to other lights-are-on-but-nobody's-home accounts who automatically retweet your tweets, and if you look at the twitter analytics, it probably looks like your content is reaching a lot of people. (Leaving aside the question of whether all the retweets are coming from accounts that touch any part of your audience: the review of my young adult novel was retweeted by accounts purporting to represent authors of adult erotic spanking fiction,(which is evidently a thing) for example.) But you are actually paying someone money for nothing.
Whoever is getting your social media cash is essentially taking your money to have bots talk to other bots, and whatever part of your twitter feed consists of actual stuff you wrote that you hope will reach other people is just being retweeted by bots followed by bots in some kind of Twitter inception thing.
The downside of the awesome independent publishing boom is that it has been a boon not only for writers, but also for unscrupulous assholes trying to prey on people's dreams by taking their money and giving them nothing in return.
If your name is attached to an account that tweeted yesterday's review of The Half-Life of Planets, I'd like to suggest that you end your agreement with whatever huckster is taking your cash right away.