Sunday, May 15, 2005

I know a lot of writers, and in private, after a few cocktails, they all admit the same thing:

They watch their Amazon listings.

It's a maddening thing to watch your Amazon Sales Rank go up and down and down and down, sometimes on an hourly basis.

Even more ulcer-inducing is when a thoughtful reader decides to bash your book with a hatred so intense I can't help but wonder if I'd done something horrible to them in a previous life, such as murdered their spouse or interrupted them while they were watching Jerry Springer.

Oddly enough, many of these readers didn't even buy my book---they checked it out at the library. The experience was obviously so traumatic that they took up the noble cause of protecting potential buyers from wasting their hard-earned money by posting these warnings on Amazon, because we all know that once we see a bad Amazon review, there's NO WAY we'd ever order THAT book, no sir.

But, in deference to these guardians of moral outrage, I too have once posted a bad Amazon review.

After waiting 13 years for the sequel to Silence of the Lambs (which I loved), I was one of those crazy folks in line at 7AM the day that Hannibal was released. And I didn't like it. I really didn't like it. So I posted a negative Amazon review. And as you all well know, my negative review immediately stopped everyone from buying Hannibal, and the book only sold about a dozen copies all around the world thanks to my bitter rant, and Thomas Harris is now living a pauper's existence, unable to find work.

Since then I've continued to review books, but I only review the ones that I like. I figure life is too short to be negative.

Since then I've also gotten reviews that made my review of Hannibal seem quaint by comparison.

Karma is a bitch.

But bad reviews don't bother me at all. Everyone has an opinion, and all opinions are valid. Bad press is better than no press at all, and I'm happy to be read, even if the reader hated every word.

So I would like to publicly thank everyone who has reviewed me, both good and bad, and hope that you'll continue to do so to see if I get better or worse with each successive book.

PS - Don't buy Hannibal, it sucks.


Stacey Cochran said...

The only people who bad reviews really hurt are writers who are just starting out.

In the Hannibal case, that book had so much momentum that an earthquake couldn't have stopped it from being a bestseller, let alone some review from Amazon.

But now a writer in my position, who is _just_ beginning to get the breaks for the first time in ten years. Man, you get two or three angry people who blast you out'a the water, and it's crazy, but it starts a feeding frenzy, and it seems like everyone wants to get a punch in on you because they sense blood in the water.

This totally happened with my book The Kiribati Test at Amazon. One reviewer who completely lied and had never read the book wrote complete slander (it's not even a review) and about twenty people bought what he said and clicked that his review was helpful.

The sad irony is that that book is filled with an inspiring introduction meant to encourage writers who haven't broken through to write their own books, to never give in to the negative thought that you can't succeed, to believe in yourself no matter what, and to keep writing....

Talk about a case of getting screwed, when your intentions are nothing but the best.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

I have a complete aversion to giving bad reviews as well. Mostly because I'm super sensitive as a fellow writer of the impact that kind of feedback can have. It's not just the impact however, the fact is, while I might not like a particular book (or movie/music/etc.) there will be people out there that LOVE IT! Who am I to sway a potential buyer simply because I have a poor opinion and differing personal preferences.

When I can say something positive about my experience with the book I love to share that with others. I still think it's important to voice reviews as a personal experience: "The fact that I enjoyed it doesn't mean you will but since you're interested this is why I loved it so much and if you like these things you'll probably like this."

Then again, I'm one of those people who really don't take in negative reviews when I consider purchasing. As a consumer I buy what I want to buy. When it comes to books I read the good and the bad. The books I love find a place on my shelf, the ones I don't end up in the book exchange bag. All books have something to offer a writer, even if it's a big list of what not to do.

M.L. said...

I read once that writing a bad review of a book is kind of like using a sledgehammer to destroy an ice cream cone. Sounds about right.