Alas, these folks are even easier to explain. They’re nutty. Three times I’ve received emails or comments insisting that Plague Year was penned by someone else, namely the person contacting me, and that I stole the book before he or she could publish it. Unfortunately, other writers tell me such accusations aren’t uncommon, nor are personal threats. Welcome to my FBI file.
Slightly less bizarre but more fun, let me introduce you to the Owner Of Katie The Dog. Not long after my sequel Plague War hit stores, I received an email with two .jpg attachments. Hmmm. All right. Let’s read it...
A woman had felt compelled to say she liked the concept behind Plague Year,
but (insert sneer), “it was written in a grocery-store thriller style.”
Aha HA ha ha! First of all, the cover has an ominous red tagline that shouts The Next Breath You Take Will Kill You. Plus the title letters are on fire. If you’re looking for a cozy literary novel, this ain’t it. Second, having my books racked in grocery stores and big box outlets like Wal-Mart and Costco is my goal! That’s what I’m striving for!
Yet she was so offended she’d spent $7.99 on this trash, she added that she’d fed Plague Year to her dog and snapped pictures of Katie eating it.
Wow. That’s wrong, isn’t it? I mean, that takes effort.
I had no intention of opening her .jpgs. Remember, I’d barely published my second novel. Being in stores still felt new and daunting. But my writer friends insisted I see what Katie had done. One accomplished old vet said, “You know you’ve arrived when you’re making people that crazy.”
Conventional wisdom holds that authors and editors should remain above the fray. You’re supposed to ignore bad reviews, especially those that are off-topic or smell like fruit. I know writers who engage their haters in the comment fields on Amazon, but the reason to avoid such arguments was best put to me like this: Never wrestle with a pig. The pig enjoys it, and you get covered in sh*t.
Which leads us to the most craven of them all.
The Dread Saboteur
Since February, my novella “The Frozen Sky” has sold 20,000 copies on Kindle and Nook. That’s not a huge number, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s also gotten a lot of nice reviews, which is gratifying.
Unfortunately, “Sky” has also seen some attacks.
As the e-revolution evolves, the pages of successful books are experiencing not-so-subtle assaults by bitter would-be successes who post scathing low-starred reviews with as many dummy accounts as possible, then use the same dummy accounts to post five-star raves of their own novels in an attempt to draw traffic from the high-selling books.
Can the system be gamed so easily? My guess is no, not in the long run. Ultimately the Dread Saboteur’s work needs to stand on its own. If it's garbage, it's garbage. Cardboard plots, wet dream characters, bad dialogue, and the inability to spell or use punctuation are common pitfalls.
Horse puckey reviews won't carry a flawed story beyond a few extra sales — and if those readers feel duped, well, let the bad karma begin! The fake five-star raves will be overwhelmed by genuinely unhappy reviews.
There are more archetypes and goofy anecdotes I could share, but we’re out of time.
Here’s a final thought. Things are changing fast in publishing, but I hope it will always be true that it's the fans who carry the day.
The loonies and the saboteurs want everyone to wear their demon-colored lenses. Don't let it happen. If you like a book, bang out a quick ranking-and-review. That positive feedback may be enough to see your favorite author through his next encounter with a Nutcake From The Eighth Dimension.
Readers can find free excerpts, advance news, contests, and more on Jeff’s web site at http://www.jverse.co
What about you, scriveners? Have you got any review horror stories to add to Jeff’s list?