Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Author behaving badly

If responding defensively to a critical review is the Author's Big Mistake, responding while pretending to be someone else compounds that mistake by a factor of at least a hundred.

On Amazon, a reviewer called Caligirl08 wrote that she had read a Christopher Pike novel because it was set in her homeland of Turkey. Unfortunately she found several problems - the novel mentioned Istanbul as the capital city, called Turkey an Arabic country, placed a desert in Istanbul, etc. She gave the book a one-star review and said she was very disappointed.

Someone calling himself Michael Brite then responded, saying he was Christopher Pike's editor. I sat up a little straighter when I read that, because I couldn't imagine any editor intervening like that on an author's behalf, especially not to praise the author :

"Pike would be the first one to accept blame for any mistakes in his book... Pike deliberately made Sara realistic... Pike embraces fans of all types, especially the crazy ones."

That wasn't even getting into his claims that there were good reasons for the problems the reviewer pointed out (e.g. readers preferred a non-Turkish name for the Turkish hero). He concluded by asking, "If you found the Secret of Ka so offensive, why did you read it?"

Perhaps because the reviewer isn't precognitive and therefore doesn't know she'll dislike something before she actually reads it?

But then it came out. "Michael Brite" is actually Christopher Pike.

This is Pike,
This is the real Christopher Pike, ignore the name this response appears under. I use many names online.

I was wondering why an author would need to "use many names online". I use two - Marian Perera and "Queen of Swords", and it's nearly always obvious that the two are one and the same person. But apparently "Michael Brite" gave several glowing five-star reviews to Pike's books, so perhaps that's why.

It reminds me of the time I came across a vanity-printed novel that had well over a hundred reviews posted in a short space of time, which was surprising because of the book's lack of distribution. But most of those were by anonymous posters who praised the book as an "epic" which combined "romance, action, adventure, fantasy, and tragedy". They also stressed that the book should be made into a movie. I read through the entire collection and still don't know what the story is actually about.

But at least that author may have felt there was no other choice - the vanity press wasn't going to send her book to any reviewers, professional or otherwise. Christopher Pike had no such excuse for his sockpuppet(s).


fairyhedgehog said...

What very odd behaviour.

I'm surprised he felt he needed to reply to an amazon review, but if he did it's a shame he didn't do it straightforwardly the first time.

Mary Witzl said...


First of all, those mistakes make me cringe. Nowadays, we have the internet, for pity's sake -- you can research anything, go virtually anywhere. After living among Turks in KKTC (North Cyprus) for two years, I would still double check anything I wrote about Turks or Turkey, especially if I knew it was going to be published.

The 'Istanbul is the capital of Turkey' misapprehension is ubiquitous, though. A couple of my daughter's Cypriot Turkish classmates insisted that Istanbul was the capital of Turkey and moreover, that as semi-Turks who had been there, they ought to know better than she did. She never did manage to persuade them otherwise.

Maria Zannini said...

That is beyond crass.

And then to pretend to be the editor?

I'd understand if the review was off topic or baseless, but the reviewer picked on very specific instances.

All the author accomplished was making himself look foolish.

LM Preston said...

Oh no, say it isn't so. Wow. Now I must admit I've seen some authors respond to reviews on amazon, but I always figure - why bother? As a book buyer myself, I assess the overall book appearance, the subject and overall group of reviews. I automatically kick out the bad ones if it's not a large number of them. That's so sad that the author took the review so badly.

writtenwyrdd said...

Gah. How embarassingly arrogant and ignorant. I have a relative (a pompous, arrogant ass) who wrote a book on music (vanity press) and then listed it on amazon. It has three glowing reviews, and I am highly suspicious that the only 3 reviews are 5 stars and glowing...

Marian Perera said...

fairyhedgehog - Replying to Amazon reviews made Anne Rice and Candace Sams infamous too.

Mary - I know what you mean about the names of some capital cities. I would have to check whether to refer to the capital of Sri Lanka as Colombo or Sri Jayawardenapura.

But even under those circumstances, it's best for the author not to say anything. It's too easy to come off as defensive. And as you said, it's so easy to do research these days.

Maria - Plus, what editor would argue with readers on Amazon under those circumstances? (Or any circumstances, really.)

LM Preston - It is sad. On a LiveJournal thread, the reviewer said that if the reply had been something like, "you're right, I didn't check my facts, I apologize, and I hope that didn't prevent you from enjoying other parts of the story", she would have taken out any snark on her part and upgraded the review.

Instead, the author escalated it to this point.

writtenwyrdd - That's a great point. Even if authors don't see anything dishonest about using a fake name in that context, here's a great reason not to do so : If you're found out, every five-star review you have will be suspect.

I don't want people browsing the reviews of my book with skepticism.

Loren said...

In all fairness, there are several nations and territories whose capitals are not their biggest or best-known cities. So Turkey having Ankara and not Istanbul is not unprecedented.

Canada: not Toronto or Montreal but Ottawa
British Columbia: not Vancouver but Victoria
Australia: not Sydney but Canberra
Brazil: not Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro but Brasilia
West Germany had had Bonn
United States: not New York City, but Washington, DC
New York State: not New York City but Albany
Pennsylvania: not Philadelphia or Pittsburgh but Harrisburg
Illinois: not Chicago but Springfield
Texas: not Houston or Dallas but Austin
California: not Los Angeles or San Francisco but Sacramento
Oregon: not Portland but Salem
Washington State: not Seattle but Olympia

FantasticFiction said...

Wow. Just wow.

Randall said...

Well, you know. Pike just hasn't been the same since that Starship accident.

gypsyscarlett said...

I'm extremely careful with historical details in my stories that take place in the 19th century. But if I do make a mistake, (and that could certainly happen)and someone ever points it out to me, I would own up to my error and thank them for alerting me to it.