Writer R J Ellory has apologised for a "lapse of judgment" after admitting using fake identities to write about his own work on Amazon.
According to a Telegraph report, Ellory has admitted giving his own work five-star reviews while awarding poor reviews and low ratings to rivals, after writer Jeremy Duns exposed the activity on Twitter.
Ellory, author of novels including A Quiet Belief in Angels and A Simple Act of Violence (both Orion), said in a statement: "The recent reviews—both positive and negative—that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone. I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgement that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to apologise to my readers and the writing community."
Duns said on Twitter of the sock-puppetry phenomenon: "I've suspected it's rife for years. But think it needs exposing whenever possible." Writer Don Winslow Tweeted: "We simply cannot have authors trashing other authors on Amazon or anywhere. Writing is too hard and the business of writing is even harder."
Orion declined to comment.
Meanwhile the Crime Writers Association has issued a statement criticising the existence of sock-puppetry, and saying it plans to set up a code of ethics for its members to cover the topic.
On its website, the CWA states: "Like others in publishing, we became aware recently of the practice of authors assuming fake identities on blogs, Twitter or Amazon to promote their own work, and in some cases, allegedly give bad reviews to that of other writers. The CWA feels this practice is unfair to authors and also to the readers who are so supportive of the crime genre. It does not fit with our ethos of supporting all published crime authors and promoting the crime genre. At present we don't know how widespread the practice is. However we will be taking steps to set up a membership code of ethics, and considering if other steps may be necessary from us as an authors' organisation."
The move comes after thriller writer Stephen Leather admitted at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival that he used 'sock-puppet' reviews.
It has also emerged that e-book bestseller John Locke has used paid-for reviews.