Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Best sellers come and go, but bad reviews are forever…

On Monday, July 6th, I saw the start of should have been a great day: my third novel, Little Birdies!, had been published and finally appeared on Amazon. There was still a lot of work yet to do: blogging, the endless self-promotion on Twitter and Facebook, and, most importantly, lining up the critical, make ‘em-or-break ‘em book reviews.

So imagine my surprise when later that day, no fewer than five reviews appeared on the book’s Amazon page. Three editorial reviews, and two customer reviews. Not a book had been sold, not a single copy had been sent out for review. But there they were … five reviews.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that I’d seen them before. A year-and-a-half earlier, I’d submitted an admittedly green manuscript to the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I didn’t do very well, and had the poor reviews – based on a synopsis and the first three chapters of the manuscript - to show for it.

Undaunted, I rolled up my sleeves and dragged the manuscript back into the shop; better than 10,000 words were trimmed from the story, a new opening chapter added, and the manuscript scrupulously re-edited. After waiting 22 months before a traditional publisher finally decided that Little Birdies! "wasn't what they were looking for," I submitted the manuscript to BookSurge, an Amazon-owned, publish-on-demand company, and the book was ready for it’s unveiling.

But there were those damn reviews again.

I started emailing Amazon immediately, as soon as I saw them, requesting that the old reviews be removed. In drips and drabs, the acknowledgments started tricking in: “Yes, we’re sorry, the reviews should come down,” they said, in effect. “We’ve forwarded your request to the right people and they’ll get right on it, blah, blah, blah…”

By Thursday, the offending reviews still in place, I shifted my attention to the publisher, BookSurge, through whom all editorial reviews must be submitted in order to be posted up on the book’s web site. “Contact customer service,” they said.

Fine. I contacted customer service. Everyone was very nice: “Yes, yes, you’re right, those reviews shouldn’t be there, we’re working on it, yak, yak yak…”

Monday, a week later: BookSurge realized that since they hadn’t posted the reviews, they couldn’t remove them. They don’t know who posted them. “We’re trying to find someone over at Amazon who might know something…”

Phone calls to Amazon’s customer service line (a top secret number, apparently only given out to people who’ve had the requisite number of unanswered emails) yielded much the same: “We’ve forwarded your information to the ‘customer review’ team … something should be done by tomorrow, yada, yada, yada…”

So far, the combined forces of two powerhouse corporations have been unable to figure out how to delete the approximately 600 irksome words from the book’s web site.

Like any novelist, I’ve had my share of bad reviews; it comes with the territory. But shouldn’t they at least be for a book that I’ve actually published? Or one that the critics have actually read? (Okay, I realize how naïve that sounds…).

I’m presently working on my sixth novel, which will most definitely not be submitted to the next Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. And I encourage anyone with experience in deleting a computer file to contact Amazon to offer their assistance.

No comments: