...and other tales from the literary dark side.
Every time you think you’ve seen the ultimate in review abuse, something new comes along.
First I was amused by this article, which describes how a publicist dealt with the problem of a reviewer being too busy to read her client’s book. She sent some “mock reviews” that could be used instead. Two of those were “Great page-turner” and “Couldn’t put it down”.
Well, of course the reviewer would love her client’s book. And would express said love in the most tired and generic terms. Unfortunately the story had a less happy ending. As the reviewer described it,
So I turned back to her list of blurbs, which I had printed out. Unfortunately, they fell to the floor and were all mixed up. I tried to reconstruct them, but they got a bit garbled…
Here’s my best shot: “Don’t even think of page-turning anticipation!” ”Kept me up down.” “Filled with NY Times!” “Couldn’t put it near the water!”
Publicists should feel free to use them as needed.
That was funny, but the case of Robert Stanek is less so. Apparently he’s a self-published author who posted several hundred five-star reviews of his books on Amazon (and one-star reviews for some other writers).
Then a newsletter which mentioned Stanek received a vaguely threatening email from a lawyer claiming to represent him. Said lawyer sent it from a Hotmail account, “as used by the best attorneys” -- link. When a writer describes this as a “one-man PublishAmerica”, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration.
Mr Stanek’s view of the critics is:
Clearly the originators, and perpetuators, of all this nonsense are enormous fans of George RR Martin… In prison, people like them usually get shanked.
That’s just disturbing, so let’s move on to the last and latest in the tales of review revenge. This hit the news today (and inspired my post).
A Cambridge-based academic found a scathing online response to her book on Russian culture, an Amazon review calling it “the sort of book that makes you wonder why it was ever published". The reviewer, who took the handle Historian, also trashed other books, including two by a professor at Oxford University.
In contrast, Historian loved a book by another professor, Orlando Figes, and expressed disappointment that he hadn't won a certain prize. The book which had won was "not nearly as good as its many plaudits in the press and book prize judges think."
According to Historian, anyway.
But the problem with picking on academics is that they’re really fond of doing research and putting the pieces together. Soon emails filled with formal fury circulated and the lawyers were summoned. Then the news broke.
Never a dull moment in publishing, that’s for sure.