Just a quick note

Posted by on August 17th, 2012

My attention was drawn to a post on Facebook today, which reads as follows:

“So, it looks like a guy named Steve Mosby is so insecure about his own book sales that he is deliberately and covertly going to Smashwords and using troll tactics to squash the sales of fellow Brit author Stephen Leather. Let Mosby know your views on his dirty tactics by visiting his page at: https://www.facebook.com/theleftroom?ref=ts

There’s a screenshot of it here.

Given it’s likely this rubbish will crop up again at some point, let’s make a few things clear.

The accusation above is utter bullshit. Unlike some people, I don’t even bother giving myself good reviews covertly, never mind bad reviews to others. If I was going to do the latter, I’d do so under my own name, and I would likely do so here. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that my objections to Leather centre on his marketing techniques and – in terms of some of the comments he’s made subsequent to Harrogate – his personality. I have no opinion on his writing. I went onto Smashwords today, for what may be the first time ever, curious to see what was behind this accusation. I see that Leather has a small handful of reviews (four and five star), so presumably very few people there have an opinion on his writing either. Since Mr Drake (above) doesn’t clarify what on earth he’s fucking talking about, it is both difficult and unnecessary to respond in greater depth.

Frankly, I  couldn’t care less if Leather’s the bestselling writer in the history of the world. This keeps coming up: people – including Leather himself – suggesting that the motive of his critics must be jealousy of his sales. (Although they mean envy). Firstly, this is what happens when all you have intellectually is a hammer: everything looks like a nail. If all you care about is sales, then you assume that’s all anyone else cares about as well. Secondly – and this is nobody’s business but my own – I do okay, actually. If you don’t know me, you’ll just have to take my word for this: insecure, I am not.

Unless you send a friend request, I’m afraid you can’t let me know your views on my “dirty tactics” by visiting my Facebook page. It’s set to private. However, it’s possible you might find your way here. If so, the comment thread below this post is open, so feel free to present your fascinating opinions on my “dirty tactics” there. Please be aware that without corroborating evidence (of which there is none, because the above statement is a lie), you will be soundly and viciously mocked. At a bare minimum.

**UPDATE – 19 August 2012**

Okay, I sent a message on Facebook to Jake Drake, explaining that his post was defamatory and untrue, and inviting him to reply either by return of message or in the comments below to attempt to justify and provide evidence for his accusations. Needless to say, I didn’t receive a reply. My understanding is that, instead of doing so, he posted my message on his Facebook page, along with a similar message from Jeremy Duns.

Since then, it has emerged that Jake also writes erotica under the pseudonym “Whiskey McNaughton”. His favourite subgenre of erotica is “family relationships, if you know what I mean”, which – yes – is exactly what you imagine it to be. His Amazon page is here, but basically he writes explicit pornography about men having sex with their own daughters.

(It goes without saying that you should exercise caution clicking on these links. All are technically SFW – Amazon, Goodreads, etc – but if incest is a trigger for you then please, please be careful).

Many of Whiskey’s stories have a five-star review from the same reviewer. Of one of his stories, this reviewer writes:

“This author seems to like stories involving older men and younger women barely old enough to enjoy sexually. I think Whiskey either fantasizes a lot on this topic or he gets a lot of side action from girls he knows. I hope it’s the latter and wish I was one of them, though i might be just a bit too old for him. Love this story.”

All of which is – fairly obviously – stick-your-fingers-down-your-fucking-throat stuff. I would hesitate to suggest that’s Jake himself there, but he certainly does review the Whiskey McNaughton books under his own name, for example “Night Swims With Daddy”, which you can see here.

Now, there is a legitimate discussion to be had about the acceptability or otherwise of this kind of horrendous fucking shite, but that’s for another day. For now, let’s just note that, under his McNaughton twitter identity, Drake posts that he’s just finished editing one of Stephen Leather’s stories for him. So there’s the connection. That’s likely the only relevant evidence you’re ever going to see in connection with the original accusation.

You may recall, from Jeremy Duns’s original investigation, that the writer Steve Roach advised against crossing Stephen Leather because of his “powerful friends”. And now we begin to meet them.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 17th, 2012 at 5:08 pm and is filed under General, Jacob Drake, Jake Drake, Rant, Stephen Leather, Whiskey McNaughton. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


61 Responses to “Just a quick note”

  1. John Self Says:

    “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Nuff said.

  2. stevemosby Says:

    Totally. And there’s nothing I can do about people who believe anything they read. But it seems likely this will keep happening, and so it’s handy to have a post I can refer to in the event that I need to.

  3. Susi Says:

    I’d still like to know where this Drake dude got his info from… Why do people blindly believe without evidence? Wouldn’t your first reaction to such a claim be to go and look? Of course when you do look, there is no evidence. Mad.

  4. Sarah Higgins Says:

    I’ve got to the point where I assume anything like this is written by Stephen Leather. It may not be, but that’s now the assumption. Sock-puppetry at its finest.

  5. stevemosby Says:

    As far as I can tell, Drake is a real person who has written some books. I’d never heard of him until today, so I have no idea if he’s friends with Leather, a fan, or what – although the comment thread below his post is obviously full of people who are fans at the least. I’ve no idea where he got his information from. I’d say it would be interesting for him to explain, except that it probably wouldn’t.

  6. Caitlin Sagan Says:

    How very, very strange and utterly sad. I admit I initially thought he must have been a Leather Sockpuppet too, but clearly he’s not and I’m not sure which option is sadder.

  7. Allan watson Says:

    I have it on good authority (Stephen Leather) that we are all Stephen Leather’s sockpuppets, some us just don’t know it yet. I just wish he’d hurry up and write something about my sockpuppet having fish and chips for tea followed by sex with a good looking horse. Damn, look what he’s made me write. And still no sign of those fish and chips. Or the horse.

  8. Jeremy Duns Says:

    Thanks for writing this, Steve. As the screenshot shows, he has made much the same allegation about me. I echo every word you wrote: I don’t do this, haven’t done it, never will do it. I sent a message to Mr Drake on Facebook telling him this, asking for his evidence for it, and asking him to retract it and apologize on his wall publicly if he didn’t have any evidence (which, as it’s untrue, he can’t). No reply yet.

  9. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    Alas, I’m not on Facebook (or perhaps not alas) but I’m sure I’m well enough known not to be mistaken for a sockpuppet, and I vouch for Steve (Mosby, I mean, lest anyone wonder). He’s an honest man and anyone who spreads lies about him can deal with me.

  10. stevemosby Says:

    Ramsey – kind words indeed. Thank you very much.

  11. Ricky Says:

    The only person who strikes me as being insecure is Leather.

  12. stevemosby Says:

    Just to add an update:

    I messaged Jake Drake on Facebook – fairly politely, given the circumstances and my general temperament – inviting him to explain his allegations, comment here, provide evidence, etc. My understanding is that, rather than responding, he decided to post my message, and Jeremy’s, on his Facebook wall. Make of that what you will.

  13. John Mosby Says:

    It would appear he’s (as expected) removed the comments asking him to explain himself…. presumably not explaining himself further?

    Fortunately, I screen-grabbed the thread, just in case, should it be needed…

  14. stevemosby Says:

    It comes as no surprise to discover that Drake is friendly enough with Stephen Leather to have edited at least one of his short stories. It comes as slightly more of a surprise to discover Drake also writes erotica under the name Whiskey McNaughton, and that his favourite sub genre is “family relationships”. That is what you think it is, yes. http://www.amazon.com/Whiskey-McNaughton/e/B006W4IL5E

    To paraphrase Voltaire: “I have only ever made one prayer – ‘Oh, Lord, please make my enemies ridiculous.’ God has granted it.”

  15. stevemosby Says:

    He also likes reviewing his own work: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12417069-night-swims-with-daddy (Possible trigger warning for incest).

  16. John Mosby Says:

    So, just to clarify, you’re being lectured about low self-esteem by a guy who makes spurious, clearly false allegations about your conduct (refusing to back them up in ANY way at all when challenged), who believes that everyone should be *legally-obliged* to have guns, who likes writing about incest and who also says (in third-person) that his “…only problem in writing is not having enough time to write to completion all the stories he gets in his head…”

    I wait in anticipation to see if one of his internal voices is that of a good lawyer.

  17. stevemosby Says:

    That’s about the size of it, yes, although I think he’s confusing “stories” with “descriptions of men having sex with their own daughters”.

  18. Adele Says:

    The guy sounds like a disgusting creep frankly.

  19. Simon Bestwick Says:

    What Adele said. And Leather doesn’t sound much better.

  20. matthew mcbride Says:

    I find it interesting that my tweet earlier today (to you, re: Stephen Leather) spawned Stephen Leather blocking me, which was fine, I wasn’t following him, he was following me, and really, who gives a fuck? But apparently I was hacked pretty bad earlier and now several of my email are being bombarded with, um, weird and sexually explicit spam — both sending and receiving.


  21. Ali Says:

    Some people like Drake, Whiskey or whatever his name is, by thier association, and perceived ‘friendship / support’ with Mr Leather, perhaps validate that adage, ‘birds of a feather, flock together”. Love the Voltaire quote, and my high regard for Ramsey Campbell, the writer and person, just shot up another few thousand notches. I think the creepy world of Drake & Leather’s sockpuppetry, should also be viewed as sick-puppetry, I wonder why Amazon allows eBooks with references to incest, pedophilia on its pages, we live in curious times – great post, about some unpleasant tactics, deployed by people with dubious literary credentials – awful stuff, I will be writing to Amazon UK’s CEO, formally about (1) deception by some e-book authors and about why they host novels that have incest / pedophilia angles, disturbing titles, and graphic imagery – I cannot comment about the contents, as the synopsis and ‘readers’ comments / reviews I find repulsive and disturbing, and would not dare download even a sample, such is the alarm I felt seeing them, on the links provided.

    Best Regards



  22. Laura Says:

    The fact you have to provide trigger warnings regarding this person’s writing, really speaks for itself as to the relative merits of your work and his, Steve Mosby.

  23. Tin Larrick Says:

    Allan watson Says:
    August 17th, 2012 at 6:42 pm
    “I have it on good authority (Stephen Leather) that we are all Stephen Leather’s sockpuppets, some us just don’t know it yet.”

    Genius – what an ace sci-fi story this would make!

    One of the five-star Amazon reviews is entitled ‘Great Parody’ – maybe it’s all done in the name of irony?! (he said, tongue stuck to inside of cheek)

  24. Matt Leach Says:

    Anyone who writes something called ‘Santa Enters by The Back Door’ and tries to pass it off as credible fiction deserves to be repeatedly punched in face until they bleed from their eyes. Thanks.

  25. John Mosby Says:

    While, in my humble opinion, Mr Drake/Whisky appears to have the taste, tact and standard of basic communication skills that would see him thrown out of Mos Eisley on its worst day, I suspect Amazon’s response will be that they are legally unable to ban material with an incest theme.

    I think I’m right that TECHNICALLY depicting illegal acts isn’t the benchmark for banning or prosecution, otherwise Amazon would need to ban books concerning rape, murder, assault and terrorism. There has to be proof that a book enables, instructs, already caused or is likely to encourage a person to commit such criminal acts… and while that might be possible in some cases, it’s a very blurry line to prove legally and one that’s been debated within fiction for years.

    However this is a different argument/subject entirely.

    Let Mr Drake write what ever sordid, badly punctuated tomes he wants… he just needs to understand that right to expression doesn’t stretch to shouting even worse fiction at real people.

  26. Cath Bore Says:

    I second your supporters’ comments on here, Steve. The situation is getting more ridiculous as time goes on. Thanks for highlighting all this

  27. Gordon Harries Says:

    Steve– if there’s anything we can do, you know many on this thread will have your back.

  28. David Hewson Says:

    KDP’s terms and conditions state explicitly that pornography is not allowed. At least one of Drake/Whiskey’s books has been withdrawn from Amazon (but remains on Barnes & Noble) which would seem to indicate Amazon may act if someone complaints, but not before.

    I posted some questions on Drake’s FB page which naturally got deleted. I have however posted the same questions on his Amazon page which seems harder for him to interfere with (without taking it down altogether).

    You can find them here. I’m afraid the page generated errors for me which is why the same message appears three times.


    If ‘Whiskey’s output isn’t pornography I don’t know what is. The very idea that someone like this should libel Steve and Jeremy with a bunch of lies he’s got from… well where???? beggars belief.

  29. Keith Rawson Says:

    I’m going to be utterly American about this guy’: Fuck ’em in the ear. By the way, this [xxxxxxxx] is getting exactly what he wanted by posting these accusations: Attention for his own swill by defaming a vastly superior storyteller.

  30. David Hewson Says:

    Ps. Are Whiskey McNaughton and Jacob M Drake the same person?

    Here’s Drake’s page on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4156487.Jacob_M_Drake

    Here’s Whiskey’s on Amazon US.

    Unless they’re identical twins….

  31. Jeremy Duns Says:

    I don’t want to spend any more time on this than I already have done, but just wanted to address something John said above, because I think it’s important. John wrote:

    ‘I think I’m right that TECHNICALLY depicting illegal acts isn’t the benchmark for banning or prosecution, otherwise Amazon would need to ban books concerning rape, murder, assault and terrorism. There has to be proof that a book enables, instructs, already caused or is likely to encourage a person to commit such criminal acts… and while that might be possible in some cases, it’s a very blurry line to prove legally and one that’s been debated within fiction for years.’

    The thing is, Amazon isn’t just selling this sort of thing, it is *publishing* it, and of course profiting from it as well. And as David Hewson pointed out earlier today on Twitter, Amazon claim to have guidelines for what they will and will not publish. Here they are:


    You’ll see that one of them is ‘We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.’ And yes, of course, you can argue that line all you want, but frankly I think most people would accept that a book titled (excuse me) ‘Bad Girl Ready to Fuck!’ with the following cover art and synopsis is self-evidently pornography:


    I’m struggling to see how anyone can read the following synopis and feel it falls within Amazon’s own guidelines:


    And so on. There are many examples, not just by this writer. The problem is that Amazon’s guidelines – and those of Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and others – are obvious nonsense. They simply don’t check. They don’t do what publishers throughout time have done, which is the first step: read the material you publish. Instead, they have a policy if publishing any material, pretty much. There’s a delay while they supposedly check that it doesn’t contain pornography, plagiarism, incitement, break laws, etc, per their guidelines, but it’s clear that this is some sort of scanty mechanized scan done via software. No human has read the books before they are published, or they would simply discard ‘Bad Girl Ready to Fuck!’ as breaking the guidelines without even reading beyond the title.

    I listened to the recording of the Harrogate panel again, and it’s clear that Stephen Leather boasted about, and recommended, several practices.

    1. He said he outsources editing of his self-published books to a group of fans – he said he usually sends out around 100 PDFs. He admitted that the feedback he got from this was mainly proofreading and factual errors, not usually any structural editing – but added he doesn’t get that from his editor at Hodder, either.

    2. He said he has set up several fake identities (sockpuppets) and uses them to create ‘buzz’ about his books: ‘I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself… I think everyone does. Everyone does. Or I have friends who are sockpuppets, who might be real, but they might pick a fight with me.’

    3. As seen in the last bit of that quote, he also said he uses others to help him build up this buzz. ‘What you’re trying to do is create a buzz. And it’s very hard, one person, surrounded by a hundred thousand other writers, to create a buzz. I mean, that’s one of the things that publishers do. They create a buzz. One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right.’

    I think it may be that Leather’s ‘network’ includes his fan-editors and these others who also help him build his ‘buzz’. Jake Drake seems to fit into both categories: he has said on Twitter that he edited one of Leather’s short stories, and also that he uploaded that story to Smashwords for him. (He has a business doing this, in fact.) But he also gave that same story a five-star review under his own name, which he linked to from his Twitter account.

    So I am guessing that either on Facebook or via email, Leather has his network, and he communicates with them. And I am guessing that if you are in this network, you all help each other out, giving nice reviews to others in the network, tweeting and Facebooking links, perhaps giving poor reviews to rivals… pretty much what Mr Drake falsely accused Steve and I of, in fact.

    I think this all clearly raises more issues than the price of ebooks, which was the original focus of reports about the panel. Amazon and other bookstores seem to me to be behaving utterly irresponsibly, in publishing pretty much anything sight unseen. If someone else then finds that a book they have published is illegal or racist or plagiarized or whatever, and kicks up enough fuss, Amazon and others might then unpublish it. This doesn’t seem to me an ethical way of doing things, putting it mildly. Imagine if all publishers were to adopt that model. And Amazon and other online booksellers are also clearly turning a blind eye to all this sockpuppetry, feuding, review circles, and so on. This is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg.

    In the meantime, Stephen Leather continues to use sockpuppets, continues to boast about it, continues to threaten me with legal action, abuses people on social media, refuses to justify his actions in any way, and Hodder and Amazon both continue to publish him, blithely hoping nobody makes too much of a fuss and raking in the money. I think it’s a rather shoddy situation, all told.

  32. stevemosby Says:

    Keith – Thank you, and I appreciate the sentiments. I’ve just blanked that one word out, as I don’t want to open either of us up to a libel charge. Hope you don’t mind.

    Everyone – thank you, as well. All very much appreciated.

    John – I don’t really want to have that conversation right now. My views on freedom of speech are to the left of left, and nobody is suggesting prosecuting Naughton/Drake. David is correct, however, that KDP has conditions in its terms and agreements. Plus, Amazon can remove whatever it wants, regardless of whether there’s a coherent and exhaustive intellectual framework underpinning the decision.

  33. John Mosby Says:

    Steve – that was actually my point, that the subject-matter of Drake’s work elsewhere(however unpleasant) really is a totally different issue than the main one at hand – his groundless accusations.

  34. Paul D. Brazill Says:

    It’s surely a put up job.

    The bloke that writes the nonce books is a just creepy nobody hoping for a bit of attention by sticking his nose up SL’s bung hole.It’ll fizzle out.

    SL seems to be a very, very insecure man,though, to associate himself with someone who writes stuff that dodgy, just becuase the bloke kisses his whatstit.

  35. stevemosby Says:

    Just to avoid confusion, David and Jeremy’s posts took a while to appear, but are now in place at time of posting.

  36. Luca Veste Says:

    I think Jeremy’s comment has pretty much summed up the situation thus far.

    It took just over 24 hours to find out this Jacob Drake/Whiskey McNaughton character engages in sockpuppetry (rates and reviews his own books on Goodreads), writes books under a pseudonym which breach the Amazon KDP guidelines, and is linked to Stephen Leather via the editing of SL’s stories.

    Nice company you’re keeping there Mr Leather.

  37. Jeremy Duns Says:

    Paul, it’s obviously a put-up job, but I don’t think Drake has simply turned up to make a name for himself: he’s clearly part of Leather’s self-confessed ‘network’, and I think is loyal to him for that reason (as Steve Roach also is, despite being attacked by Leather online for over a year). Drake tweeted on his Whiskey McNaughton Twitter account in March: ‘New Inspector Zhang story coming to Smashwords soon. Just edited it for Stephen Leather.’ And he’s favourable reviewed several of Leather’s books long before any of this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A15IZCSZMM0S00?ie=UTF8&display=public&page=1&sort_by=MostRecentReview

    I think Leather identified him as a new recruit for his gang after this blogpost last year, which you can see Leather replied to:


    I suspect a lot of self-published authors are delighted and flattered that a major bestselling author has personally contacted them in this way – and the idea of helping them out, with some back-scratching thrown in for their own books – often proves too good to be true. Just a hunch.

  38. Paul D. Brazill Says:

    JD, you’re right. I think that’s his gig. Like all bully’s he wants to be approved of. Maybe he thinks he’s a fake? The need for approval goes deep.

    As for other writers basking in his, ahem, glow, I’m sure many do.

    There’ a writer I ‘know’ who is promoting a charity book with SL’s thumbs up. A good cause and a book well worth looking at. I think his support could damage her good work.

    Well, at least I know that the Green Lantern power ring is the five star deal …

  39. Steven Poore Says:

    If Amazon et al will only act when people make complaints against these alleged authors, then perhaps it’s time to complain. Likewise with Hodder – Leather and his unpleasant circle of friends are going to be giving that publisher a very bad name.

    Once again all credit to Steve, Jeremy, Luca and David for pulling all this together.

  40. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    From Mr McNaughton’s Amazon page:

    “Of course, husband, father and grandfather are among those accomplishments, too.”

    I know this shouldn’t make me feel queasy, and so I won’t.

  41. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    “And he’s favourably reviewed several of Leather’s books long before any of this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A15IZCSZMM0S00?ie=UTF8&display=public&page=1&sort_by=MostRecentReview

    Not to mention one of Mr McNaughton’s!

  42. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    See also the 14 August 2011 post here:


  43. stevemosby Says:

    Ramsey – that’s a fairly egregious example of self-reviewing.

    “I know the last eBook I reviewed was of the erotica genre, but it was submitted to me and it was so well written I had to review it here. This one is no different and like the last in that it is well-written and done in a style that evinces the passions that many feel and have to reveal or burst asunder…”

    The direct link is here: http://mypetviewsoneverything.blogspot.se/2011/08/rousing-family-situation.html

  44. stevemosby Says:

    Sort of in reply to John upthread, but also a general note about this stuff…

    It’s true that the nature of this material is not wholly relevant to the lies Mr Drake was spreading about myself and Jeremy. (Beyond the extent to which it reflects on his character). However, the fact that he self-reviews his own work, and is friends with Stephen Leather, is relevant. To show that, it is necessary to reveal the nature of that material as fair warning to people who might click on the links. Those people are obviously likely to have their own opinions on the subject matter and how it reflects on Drake’s character. So it goes.

    For the record, I don’t think it should be illegal to write or read this sort of stuff (although that’s the complex debate I don’t want to have here right now). Whether Amazon should publish it is largely a matter for them, insofar as they both write and enforce their terms and conditions. Do I personally think it’s seedy and grim? Yes, I do. Given that I have to mention the nature of it, and that this is my blog, will I give my personal opinion on it? Yes, I will.

  45. Kirstie Says:

    I want to add my support and say how disgusted I am at the ridiculous, unnecessary and asinine bullying that is being aimed at you (and Jeremy). Apart from the fact the whole ‘sock puppetry’ would have pretty much been forgotten by now had supporters of Mr Leather not commenced this campaign of harassment, but does he and his gang really think you, Jeremy and the rest of us are stupid and not realise what’s happening?

    Regardless of the whole reasoning behind it all, what is really hitting me is this campaign and how nasty and sordid it all is. The viciousness and bigotry is depicting a level of malevolence that is truly worrying. One that none of us wants to see, let alone expects.

    My final note is that, as you know, your books do not need a ‘buzz’, ‘sock puppetry’ or sycophantic reviews – they stand alone as they are, which perhaps spawned that need to attack you out of envy.

  46. David Hewson Says:

    Smashwords appears to be this charmer’s primary mode of distribution. Unless I’m mistaken and the below condition applies ONLY to images Whiskey is clearly in breach of their own rules too which state….

    • if you publish erotica content, neither the book cover nor the book interior may contain graphic images of nudity (either photographic or illustrated) or persons involved in sex acts, and does not include children or underage minors engaged in sexual acts or situations, witnessing such situations, considering sexual acts, or thinking about sexual acts.

  47. stevemosby Says:

    That would seem to be the case, although it’s perhaps a bit tricky as I think this is mainly incest porn that involves grown women. At least one mentions the women having “always had feelings”, or some such … god, I can’t believe it’s got to the point where I’m typing this shit.

    Eagle-eyed readers (who aren’t easily offended) may notice similarities between the product descriptions of this and this. The names of the protagonists especially. You begin to wonder how many of the people at http://www.crescentsunsebooks.com/index.html are actually him.

  48. Jeremy Duns Says:

    Yes, I think there are a few separate issues here. I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech and don’t believe in censorship, generally speaking, but firstly there are laws. So I don’t believe freedom of speech extends to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or other sites being able to sell work that contravenes laws: incites hatred on grounds of race, gender, religion or sexuality, promotes child abuse, steals copyrighted work and so on. These companies all have to follow the law the same way my publisher Simon & Schuster does.

    One question here – and it’s just one, as this has raised several issues, I think – is what mechanisms do Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other sites have to ensure that they don’t publish material that breaks the law? In the case of Simon & Schuster, for example, my next book was read by an in-house lawyer to check whether it contravened the Official Secrets Act. (It doesn’t!) And, obviously, my editor has read the book and it is the publisher’s responsibility as well as mine that it doesn’t break any laws. One of my concerns here is that these online publishers don’t have adequate mechanisms: they clearly don’t even read the books they publish, which is surely a minimum requirement to check if it breaks any laws. Amazon’s policy clearly states it won’t publish pornography, but it self-evidently does. So this makes its other policy guidelines look suspect. It wasn’t long ago Amazon were selling a guide to paedophilia, and then removed it after an outcry.

    So this isn’t, for me, anything to do with ‘Ban porn now!’ It’s that Amazon claims it has guidelines that it clearly doesn’t adhrere to, and some of those guidelines involve illegal material.

    Stephen Leather, Jake Drake and others should of course take responsibility for their own actions, which are I think despicable: false accusations, threats, bullying, use of fake identities to fraudulently promote their work and others’, and so on. But all of this behaviour is possible because Amazon and other sites don’t do anything to stop it. They could insist that only customers with verified accounts linked to credit cards could post reviews and use their forums. They could and I think most definitely should read every single thing they publish, and check they don’t break any laws.

    I think we’ve gone beyond the ‘price of a cup of tea’ debate. A very unpleasant culture has built up, and I think it should be challenged.

  49. stevemosby Says:

    Jeremy –

    Yes, I agree with that. The whole ebook situation moves so quickly that it’s difficult to make predictions – absurd to make hostages to fortune – but I can imagine that in the future Amazon might begin not to accept self-published books quite so easily as it does right now.

    At the moment, it’s useful for building its platform and promoting its brand. But I imagine, given the general state of self-publishing sales, it’s a (contextually) small amount of money overall for basically doing nothing. Once Amazon starts having to do something for that small amount of money, things will have to change. Leaving aside the pornography angle, there have already been cases of authors self-publishing books written by other people. (Because, well, that’s a trivially easy thing to do). And that’s only the people who have been caught.

    There is no reason to believe that behaviour won’t happen more and more, because the more self-published books are submitted the more expensive it gets to check. I’d guess that, in the long term, the back-end of Amazon runs the risk of effectively turning into a highly effective server for pirated books. And once the cost of policing, deleting, prosecuting, defending, etc all that becomes greater than the profit from allowing indiscriminate self-publishing, I imagine they’ll do something about it.

  50. John Mosby Says:

    The real issue is, of course, about reputations.

    Steve’s reputation, as backed up by endless peers, professionals and those who know him well, is there for all to see and appreciate and isn’t really in doubt for those who matter or bother to research.

    However: will Stephen Leather’s ‘reputation’ will be damaged by being in any way associated with a guy who commits libel and writes incest-porn… or will the guy who commits libel and writes ‘incest-porn’ have HIS reputation damaged by being in any way associated with Stephen Leather?

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