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The Dirty World of Publishing

Although I’m rarely serious, I came across an interesting article today over at MSN that I wanted to talk a little bit about.

Apparently, for a short-period of time on Amazon.com’s Canadian website, all the people who had written book reviews under an anonymous name… Well, their real names were revealed. And what people realized was that some authors were giving themselves five-star reviews while others were having their family and friends leave bad reviews for other author’s books. I actually had a similarly frustrating experience during the months leading up to the release of my book Consumer Joe.

And now, I can tell the story.

Basically, it came to my attention that another author who had self-published his own humor book over a year and a half ago decided it would be a smart idea to link my book with his in any way possible. How did he do this? By registering URL’s that would possibly bring people looking for my book to his site, where he would advertise his own “brand new humor book”… On Amazon.com, he made sure to go to the page for Consumer Joe and leave reviews hailing his book as the one customers should buy…

The worst, however, was a really sneaky move. On all of the websites he owned (he had also registered URL’s for a ton more humor books coming out) he would put white text on a white background at the bottom of each page. This text would include all the names of the books he thought might be successful, along with the author’s names. But since it was white text on a white background, normal people couldn’t see it. But the search engine’s could. So when some poor soul searched for my book, his page would come up as one of the search results.

Nevertheless, it was a frustrating experience in self-regulation for me. As a first-time author I wanted to strangle the guy, trying to divert sales of my book to his. But I slowly just ignored it and came to terms with the fact that in the long run, anyone who wanted to buy my book, would.

The Amazon.com thing, though, is interesting. It’s sort of an unregulated element to the site that people can definitely abuse. This unnamed author I’m talking about right now actually got his friends and family to go through the positive reviews I had garnered, and had them click an option that allows customers to decide “Was this review helpful?”. Reviews that are extremely helpful (i.e., lots of people click on it to say it was) end up getting routed to the top of the reviews as a Spotlight review. This fool was having his friends click on the one bad review, saying it was helpful. And what did it do? Shot right to the top.

What’s the moral to the story?

As an author, although the online book stores can be helpful — it’s nothing to obsess over. When you create something and put it out there, some people are bound to take stabs at it…it’s bound to happen. You just have to let it slide off your back and not let it bother you.

And that’s just what I did.

In other news — I found myself getting a little choked up at the end of 50 First Dates tonight. Maybe half a tear or so (I am a man, you know), but there was some. I think I may be allergic to Adam Sandler.

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